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Meet Anjali Naik, Student Leader and Activist

Year: Senior

Major: Computing in the Arts

Minor: Women and Gender Studies

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You are from South Carolina, so what was it about the College and Charleston that brought you here?

Well, I could only really go in-state for school because I couldn’t afford anything else, which was kind of limiting in that regard. I wanted to go to an urban school, and being able to go to a big school that has a lot of students was also important to me because I came from a very rural town. I had been to Charleston with my family a couple of times. I had this vague image of Charleston, but I knew that it had some kind of community going on. I knew that people talked about Charleston in a really full sense. They gave a lot of meaning when they said ‘Charleston.’ It could mean a lot of different things. I wanted to be one of those people that knew all about this city.

Our students come to the College for a lot of different reasons. When you started at the College where did you find yourself as part of the college community, and how did that lead you to your cause-related work today?

I figured out quickly that there wasn’t diversity at the college, and if I wanted to be in a room of people that were non-white students then I would have to go to some meetings about it and look for the things that would call specifically for them, so that’s what I did. I did the Bonner Leader Program, which helped me tremendously. One of its main attributes is diversity and leadership, so we’re a very diverse bunch. That was where I received a lot of mentorship, and it also encouraged me to join different organizations during my time. I then got connected to Girls Rock Charleston, which is where I met a lot of awesome, young feminists and creatives. I think I was really active during my time at College of Charleston. I also started an Indian Cultural Dance Team, called Chuck de Raas. I went out looking for opportunities.

What was your experience like seeking out those opportunities, and how did you make opportunities for yourself? What were some of the challenges that you faced during your four years?

I guess it wasn’t that hard finding friends and like-minded people since there is encouragement here to create clubs and join clubs. I had some really great teachers. I signed up for a lot of great classes that introduced me to classmates who wanted to do things that I wanted to do, and so there was a lot offered but not a lot of interest. I think this is a challenge for the College of Charleston as a whole. I feel like there’s 11,000 students on campus but I only see a couple hundred of them consistently because those couple hundred of students do all of the things. Then I think, where is everyone else? Until I see them at something that is mandatory. I ran into that a lot. That was a prolonged challenge for me. To get students engaged is hard.

What do you think has been some of your most rewarding experiences engaging in causes in the Charleston community? Specifically, what has your experience with Girls Rock Charleston been like?

In Girls Rock Charleston there are so many beautiful, smart and talented individuals who love doing things, and it’s inspiring to be around them. Joining those communities and working together, you find yourself growing in so many ways and capacities. I learned about myself so much; I learned about how much I could do and learned where my boundaries are and how far I could push myself. I learned about skills I had never known that I had. I could practice things I knew I was good at in real time, like public speaking. I also found out what I wasn’t so good at. Sometimes I had roles like finance, or roles like outreach, which wasn’t my forte. That’s all to say there aren’t that many people doing the work, so when you’re doing activism in Charleston you find yourself doing multiple roles. It’s definitely overwhelming, but at the same time I’ve explored so many things that I would’ve never imagined possible in my four years in college.

During your college career, what has been a pivotal or defining moment for you?

I did this one thing called Black Brunch, which was a couple years ago. It wasn’t formally part of any organization, but rather a part of several organizations. We got our college student friends involved in it, and it was the first time a lot of people had done any kind of activism at all. There were also some people who were very well versed in it. The event was over the course of three different weekends towards the end of school. There was so much school work, but there were points where I thought, “What’s more important right now?” Walter Scott had just died. I was really trying to look at the bigger picture, and look beyond what’s good for me. That was a time where I was challenged and took some risks that I hadn’t ever had to do that before.

What does Charleston mean to you now?

I just know so much about Charleston now that my feelings about Charleston aren’t just black and white. They’re so gray. I used to have this really glossy image of Charleston. I feel very much a part of Charleston at this point, but at the same time, Charleston isn’t really glossy anymore, and I feel like I have a lot of things that are going on here now. Living in Charleston is complicated. I still don’t feel like I fit into what Charleston wants to be, but I do feel like I represent a lot of what Charleston is.

How do you bring your voice to your music, and what does that process mean to you?

I love working in the community and I think it shows up in my music. I don’t think I try as much. Whenever I actually try to do something, it just turns out bad. I feel like it naturally comes out and I think for a lot artists, art in Charleston has helped people move past things and draw their own conclusions. There is a lot of art and music in Charleston that isn’t necessarily good and happy and cheery and advertising, but we like it and we want it around. I just want to keep that tradition going where artists can say raw things that inspire people to be pushing back and moving forward, whatever that looks like. Moving forward not only in just a political sense, but freaking knowing you exist and you’re feelings are valid. I just want to keep that going and I want people to know it exists in Charleston.

[Interview by Megan Dunn and Meredith Wohl, The Bully Pulpit Student Capstone]

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