Writer Of The Week: Imaan Rajan
Updated: Feb 17, 2021
By Sarina Patel
Founder of NovelMinority
for our first edition of Writer Of The Week, we selected Imaan Rajan, founder and editor-of-chief of Rani Creative. We sat down with Rajan to talk making music, founding magazines, and building community among creatives of color.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
NovelMinority (NM): So what inspired you to found Rani Creative? What does Rani Creative mean to you?
Imaan Rajan (IR): I didn't find a space that I found was meant for me. I think this is something Eastern women go through a lot [even in BIPOC spaces]. And that was the reason for Rani Creative. Although we focus on intersectionality, we uphold that every pain, every micro-aggression should be met with equal importance.
NM: One thing I think a lot of people may not know is that 'rani' has special meaning in another language, which is queen. You're the Editor-in-Chief...that makes you the Rani of Rani Creative. So what has it been like to navigate the publication space and leadership? IR: [laughs] As much as I would love that title, I think the idea of a collective itself is that it's a roundtable of voices. What makes [Rani] what it is are the 50+ ranis that are a part of our organization. Although I like to oversee every facet of the collective, it would not be able to function without these incredible women that give me incredible hope for the future of our generation.
NM: It's so nice that you treat leadership as a collective, rather than a hierarchy. [That type of] inclusivity is not something you really see in these spaces. IR: Right.
NM: So something people may not know about you is that outside of being Editor-in-Chief, you're a poet and a musician. Like me! So how do you bring the creativity of those different mediums into RaniCreative?
IR: That idea alone of being interested in multiple creative spheres is what pushed me to create a collective. I wanted [being interdisciplinary] to be a positive thing. I think there's something beautiful about creating for the sake of creating, and so do a lot of our members, as they also dip into multiple spheres.
NM: And now I'm curious! What is your favorite medium to create?
IR: My parents want me to stick to music, and you know, as an immigrant child, you obviously care about what your parents think.
NM: I can definitely relate.
IR: [laughs] Yeah. And I'll always love music. It'll always be there for me. But currently, I think it's photography. It's just a lot of fun to be behind the camera and show someone how beautiful they are. It's like: yes, that person I just took a picture of? That's you!
NM: That's such an interesting take. I have a background in journalism, so whenever I do photography, I'm always looking for the angles, the subject, the lighting, the story you can tell. But you really approach it from a creative angle.
IR: We have very similar interests. I appreciate that.
NM: Yeah, we do! Might have to collaborate sometime!
NM: So Rani Creative operates on a message which I love, which is that: you should surround yourself with the creatives you want to be, and learn from them instead of envying them. How have you, the leader of RaniCreative, been inspired by your surroundings?
IR: I think today, you're able to track the creative progress of artists around you, almost to an unhealthy level. Social media makes productivity seem linear, when it never really is. Especially for artists, productivity is all over the place...it follows passion. And in a capitalist world, that's not always [shown] publicly. I've learned to normalize that productivity can stream from passion and you shouldn't compare yourself to someone else's creative journey. Once you run a platform with artists [you admire], you realize that our creative journeys are actually very similar. For me, it's been about not allowing social media to blind you, and creating my own space free of social media. I'm constantly working towards that.
NM: That's so valid! I think, with everyone forced inside by a pandemic, they're more prone to check social media. And when their favorite creatives post, "I won this!" or "I won that!", they think: What am I doing?
NM: So Rani Creative aims to form a community of minority and LGBTQ+ women through art, and each issue manifests that idea. What theme across all issues has been your favorite?
IR: Gosh! The issues are vastly different, but so incredible. "Pride and Prejudice" was my favorite...pride referring to Pride Month, and prejudice referring to the discrimination many were facing at that time as the BlackLivesMatter movement was gaining traction.
NM: Ooh, clever. IR: [laughs] Thank you! I was very proud of that title. Both issues had a variety of takes, which was so interesting to see. Our upcoming theme, called "Identity", is also great. Growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, I often struggled between hating my culture and overdoing it for white validation...you know, diaspora mango poems...
NM: Oh yes, we've all done those.
IR: Yeah, and spreading awareness about that has been increasingly challenging. A lot of members are not used to seeing their issues represented, or loving their culture despite the ridicule it often faces.
NM: What is one thing you wish BIPOC creatives knew about founding their own creative space? IR: It will very quickly become bigger than yourself. Your individual vision will fluctuate constantly. Rani has changed constantly...it's very easy to say we're a BIPOC collective, but what does that mean? How do we make our branding sensitive to all moral compasses? So you have to make sure it's a safe space for the members internally while not excluding anybody in the process. But I highly encourage it. I would like to see more collectives that reflect other voices!
NM: You're a college student, and I would consider you to be a young writer. Being a young writer, what is something you want more young BIPOC writers to do to establish solidarity within the writing community?
IR: Writing about issues outside of their cultural sphere, [and this is] especially for American minorities: to think internationally. I get that there's so much to be angry about, and it's difficult to focus your energy and advocacy on other issues. And I also get the apprehension about silencing that community's voices. Rani has Power Hours, where people get together for an hour and make a graphic, and it's great to see writers across backgrounds create information on issues that don't affect them.
NM: Okay, last question. It's a future Writer Of The Week series tradition, and something we are going to do at the end of every interview. Basically: you have one sentence of advice to offer young BIPOC writers. What will it be?
IR: What first comes to mind, honestly, is: write about what scares you. I know! [laughs] So brief, but so important to me. There's a lot of honesty in writing about what scares you, because first of all, it requires you to be honest with yourself as a writer. It's also, I think, where you find the most growth.