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Meet Our Staff: CCM’s “Force of Nature” Kavitha Rajagopalan

  • By Amy Dunkin
Matthew Young

Kavitha Rajagopalan joined the Center for Community Media to launch a biweekly newsletter in February 2020, but it quickly became apparent she had a lot more to offer CCM and the Newmark J-School. This was proven with the release May 24 of CCM’s eye-opening, 8,000-word report, “Asian Media on the Front Lines,” which was Kavitha’s doing from start to finish.

The child of immigrants from southern India who grew up mostly in the mountains of North Carolina, Kavitha said she has always been interested in the immigrant experience and who speaks on behalf of their communities. At age 24, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study “political identity formation in the Turkish community in Berlin.” She came back to the U.S. with a book idea about diversity among the Muslim people in Germany instead, and she was accepted to the master’s program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs to write it.

But her first day of class was Sept. 4, 2001, and soon after, she saw a much bigger story on how life in Muslim communities had changed in a post-9/11 world. Her 2008 book, “Muslims of Metropolis: The Stories of Three Immigrant Families of the West,” focused on a Bangledeshi family in New York, a Pakistani family in London, and a Kurdish family in Berlin.

After her book was published, Kavitha went on to write opinion columns for Newsday, PBS, The New York Times, and other media outlets. But just as she was preparing to write another book in 2014, family health crises intervened. First, her father became gravely ill, then her son Krishna was born in August 2016 with a rare, life-threatening immunodeficiency disorder. Kavitha, who wrote about her son’s plight for CNN, stopped working after he underwent a stem-cell transplant in 2017 where she was the donor. She currently lives with her son; daughter Leela, 9; and husband Matthew Young in Brooklyn. She says they enjoy cooking together as a family, especially south Indian, Tibetan, and Malaysian food.

Kavitha came to CCM after Executive Director Graciela Mochkofsky met her at a writer’s party and later reached out to her about the part-time newsletter gig. “She took up the challenge with joy and enthusiasm and soon created what I believe is one of the best newsletters in the industry,” Graciela said.

In September 2020, CCM hired her full-time as its first community engagement manager. “She has the most wonderful mind and is a constant storm of fabulous ideas,” Graciela said. “She has brought so much energy to CCM that I don’t know how it could exist without her. She is a true force of nature.”

Kavitha, who started only a month before the pandemic shutdown, looks forward to the fall when she can meet many more J-School colleagues in person. “I have never been in a place I felt was such a perfect fit,” she said. “The mission is something I’m passionate about and the people we work with are so inspiring every day.”