Charlie Kramer was diagnosed with a rare eye disease at age 5. Ten years later, he was declared legally blind.
Kramer says he hid from his reality. He didn’t want to be labeled “the blind musician.”
“I was running away from my blindness,” said Kramer, founder of “Singing in the Dark,” a blindfolded singing experience designed to be healing.
“What I have found is that there is no escaping who we are, and there is actually great joy in self-acceptance,” he said.
The 28-year-old Los Angeles resident will join four other Americans on April 20, sharing true, personal stories about growing up as part of the USA TODAY Network’s Storytellers Project show.
Watch the show at 4 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. ET. Register in advance to receive a reminder at https://www.storytellersproject.com/all-events and watch on the Storytellers Project’s Facebook page, YouTube channel or website.
Kramer will be joined by:
- Kendra Wagner of Seattle.
- Brittney K. Walsh of Phoenix.
- John B. Johnson of Seattle.
- Ankur Har of Dallas.
Johnson, who has roots in Cleveland, will talk about how hard it was to leave his hometown to pursue his dreams in the Pacific Northwest.
Johnson, 32, felt guilty about leaving because when he’d been growing up, his dad wasn’t around, and his brother was incarcerated. He felt pressure to stay, to be a male role model to his nieces and nephews. But he also wanted to grow and make a life of his own.
“I never knew that leaving (would be) an emotional roller coaster …,” he said, adding that growing up requires courage and strength to set your own path.
Har, 52, will reflect on an incident in his childhood when he unintentionally became part of a mob that threatened a group of people, including his best friend and his friend’s family. He felt ashamed and his friendship was broken until a special event and song brought them back together.
Through his story, Har said he hopes to convey that we are all created equal and love, compassion and generosity prevail over intolerance, violence and division.
Wagner’s story reflects on the complexities of interracial friendship.
“Desegregation in my school in Chicago helped me see past skin color, and yet the joy couldn’t last since our lives were so different,” she said. “Desegregation had great intentions and formed bonds between Black and white children, but didn’t cut to the heart of systemic and historical racism.”
Walsh will tell a story about how watching her parents fight, sometimes violently, impacted her own relationships.
“Because I learned to love like my parents love, I struggled to love and respect myself,” she said. “Learning self-love allowed me to grow in beautiful ways I never could have imagined.”
“Being able to get out of my head and feel into my feelings saved my life.”
“Growing Up” is part of the Storytellers Project’s 2021 storytelling season, which includes 43 national and regional shows. The series features stories from across the United States told by people coached by USA TODAY Network journalists and professional storytelling experts.
Learn more about the Storytellers Project and apply to tell a story at https://www.storytellersproject.com/.
Need to know
- What: “Growing Up”
- Where: The Storytellers Project’s Facebook Page, YouTube channel and website.
- When: April 20, 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET
- More: Watch past virtual shows on YouTube and recorded in-person shows on the Storytellers Project’s website.
- May 4: Motherhood
- May 18: Entrepreneurship and Hustle
- June 8: Fashion and Culture
- June 15: Fatherhood
- July 13: Stories about Stories
- Aug. 17: Travel and Overseas Adventures