How One Poet Connects With Victims of Bullying


Sean Browne, Editor in Chief

Caress Russell was the victim of countless bullying attacks while growing up in Atlanta, Georgia.

She didn’t let those define who she was, though. Rather, she used them to fuel her poetry as she strove to make a difference.

“I have a voice,” said Russell, who shared her poetry on Wednesday during Happy Hour in the Bourdeau Lounge. “I stand up for other people in my poetry when it comes to different issues and topics. I fight for things that other people believe in.”

Bullying is one of the issues about which Russell writes. Her experiences as a child were painful then, but serve as inspiration now.

“Growing up, I talked proper, and I wore thick glasses,” Russell said, who added that she went to 13 schools in 12 years because of constant bullying. “So I did not really relate to the other kids, and that really made me feel alone.”

The tipping point came when she was in high school in Jacksonville, Florida.

“I was walking down a hallway and a guy yelled at me, ‘[explective] go home,’ and he threw a piece of glass at me and it cut my face,” Russell said. “It was the first time I dealt with racism, and it really took the bullying to a whole new level, I definitely became more reclusive.”

Feeling the emotions of that attack, Russell started to write about it in her diary in the form of poetry.

However, it was not until she transferred to a high school in Georgia a year later, where she did something with her writing.

“A teacher noticed that I like to write and do a lot of poetry, ” Russell said. “[The teacher] invited me to perform in front of an audience after school.”

Over the course of the next two years, Russell became more comfortable performing her poetry.

She eventually joined her school’s speech and debate team, which she said earned her a scholarship to attend Mercer University.

Russell now uses her abilities as a poet to help her audience, as she feels many other people went through the same struggles she did and they all need a voice.

“I talk about those who have been battered, and bullied because they have no voice,” Russell said. “I feel like I am kind of being their voice on stage.”

One instance that stands out to Russell involved a woman and her son.

“The son actually had to walk out during a poem where I talked about battery. The mom told me that she was battered and she did not realize how that could have affected him,” Russell said. “My piece about the battered woman really resonated with this mother, and that was so impactful for me.”

Russell hopes that her poetry can one day take her to Broadway were she can share her messages with the world.