I’ve always thought of myself as a creative person, but you wouldn’t know that if you’ve encountered me during my undergraduate years. My time spent at UNC-Chapel Hill has been consumed by a deep dive into service, student organizing, and becoming involved with various political and civic engagement-related initiatives. Over the past three years, any impulse to write a story or poem was pushed down for the sake of “productivity” — with studying, work, or meetings always taking precedent. As I head into my final year as an undergraduate, I’m realizing what a misstep ignoring my creative impulses was. Storytelling provides so much opportunity for both expression and advocacy.
Learning about and participating in the iNCite Storytelling Workshop series feels like the best avenue for the reclamation of my creative self. Participating in this unique experience has allowed me to reconfigure the ways I approach storytelling and how it can be utilized — both in service of my community and the people I care about and also as a very personal method of healing and exploration. The latter in particular is something that I, and likely many other young creatives, tend to neglect in pursuit of more “selfless” endeavors. My pivot into community work was born from a deep love, kinship, and feeling of personal responsibility for the people around me. Oftentimes, I forget to factor myself into that equation. iNCite has been instrumental in helping me remember and prioritize myself and my life experiences in every storytelling avenue I pursue.
iNCite is a digital storytelling workshop and mentorship experience that is co-hosted by NCAAT, Migrant Roots Media, and Amplified Voices and catered specifically for BIPOC creatives and changemakers. Heading into my first set of Zoom workshops, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what I encountered elated and affirmed my love for this work. The iNCite cohort is a uniquely intergenerational group of people from varying backgrounds and identities. In all of my time with this cohort so far, I was surprised at the level of warmth, camaraderie, and genuine support that could be felt within a virtual space. Since we went into quarantine in March, I’ve had my doubts about the limitations of fostering connection and community through mediums such as Zoom. After experiencing iNCite, I have no doubt that with the right group of people, it’s always possible. This revelation gives me hope and comfort in the future prospects of community building as we near a fall with no end to COVID-19 in sight.
Our discussions so far within the iNCite space have included topics from self-care and trauma response to white supremacy and understanding radical consent. I’ve spent every session eagerly taking notes and looking over them afterwards. The takeaways from this workshop series are principles and areas of knowledge that I want to apply to my own life and share with the people I care about. We have also been assigned mentors to guide us through our personal project — each of our incredible mentors come from varied disciplines and bring many different skills to the table. Along with my mentor, Alejandra Mejia, I’ve created a plan for a personal project that centers around the South Asian experience and falling in love. I hope for it to be an affirming and powerful experience of understanding what romance looks like beyond the confines of culturally imposed narratives and constructs — whether it’s the reality of arranged marriage and its many manifestations or the fantasies of romance perpetuated by Bollywood cinema. Both of these cultural phenomena have shaped the way South Asians relate to, engage in, and perceive romantic love. Through my project, my hope is to move beyond the confines that these forces impose to find the core of what love really means to Desi people here and now. I want this to be both a narrative exploration and a space for personal reflection on life experiences I care deeply about.
Now that our workshops are over, I’m looking forward to seeing the final products of my fellow cohort members on August 22nd. There is such a wide range of skill and brilliance among the group that will surely result in a set of incredible projects. Most of all, I’m excited to harness these skills in pursuit of storytelling: the most fundamental means of cultivating empathy that we all share.
Please register below to see the culmination of the iNCite NC workshop at our public presentations on August 22nd! ncaatogether.org/incite-stories
Veda Patil (she/her) is a rising senior from Charlotte, NC attending UNC-Chapel Hill. She studies Political Science with minors in English and Education. Some of her organizational involvement prior to joining NCAAT includes: the Campus Y, UNC’s historic hub for social justice and innovation, where she currently serves as one of the 2020-2021 Co-Presidents. Veda is part of the first cohort of Blue Sky Scholars and the Bonner Leaders Program.