In his mid-twenties, Warren Radebe moved from his native Johannesburg, South Africa, to attend Johnson C. Smith University. He’d come out as gay to friends at home before moving to Charlotte, but found a community here unlike he had at home. Now 29, he’s a junior at JCSU and a student leader there. He’s helped to organize the campus LGBT student organization and worked with Campus Pride, the Charlotte-based non-profit working toward safer college campuses for LGBT students. Warren is interviewed in our back-to-school cover story. Click here to learn more about his work. Here, though, let’s take a moment to learn a bit more about Warren.

Matt Comer: What is your favorite part or event of the year? What were your initial perceptions of new events and experiences when you moved here?

Warren Radebe: My favorite season of the year has to be the CIAA, it is packed with college sports excitement and for me getting closer to understand the game and the excitement of the city Charlotte since it hosted the CIAA. Moreover, my school, Johnson C Smith University “shines” all through the season with fabulous young sports men and women competing for the pride of the Golden Bull. I must say I love it and will continue supporting the program and most of all my school. At first it was a strange culture to adapt into since I am a soccer game fan; as it is usual in South Africa and in the rest of the eastern part of the world compared to the western part of the world “America,” after all I had to make friends who could interpret to me the season, and what they meant for them and can mean for me. Still I was excited to move into the United States and I am open as I was to learn, exchange and practice the culture locally and nationally and I believe in that manner I survive easily adapting as a student for opportunities, entertainment and personal growth.

What is your favorite neighborhood in Charlotte?

There is no place better than West Trade St. and Uptown. I mean, Uptown is filled with many activities I have not seen before in South Africa. I love when they block Tryon St. and make it a colorful exhibition center with different types of food and promotions to try, and yes I do take some at home and enjoy watching a movie. West Trade St. is rich with history and I am proud to dwell within a precinct important in Charlotte around the Johnson C Smith campus community and Mosaic Village not long opened, as it is positioned on the West Trade St., and a walking distance to uptown.

What is your favorite genre of music? Why? What is so special or cool about it? 

Jazz is the most chilling and exciting music, made for people that understand music and likely want to mature. Jazz helps to me to think especially when I study, or write thick assignments/papers, and it has been my preferred music even when I am chilling with my friends, though we will rep up the day with a little bit of African House music that has been my young boy dance music. Jazz is cool when you spent time with a special one, family and charting. In most cases, I find myself tuning to music when me and my friends in political science major will prepare to debate and become a little bit grownup and the environment has to set the standard; Jazz will do it for us.

On a night of fun, would you prefer: (a) going out to a bar with friends, (b) staying in and watching a movie or (c) video games?

Let me start here, at first I was a room prisoner; I would stay in my room and fear to go out and try to justify that I had a lot of work to do for my courses. Now, I am a new perspective person about going out, I have tried going out it great and I meet new people necessary for the LGBTQA work I do in Charlotte. Yes, I would prefer going out to a bar with my friends, but be responsible and remember I am a student.

What is a quote or message you find meaningful or inspiring?

Matt, a quote that has moved me beyond a measure, and fearless in life to contribute change in this world, has been Dr. Mahatma Gandhi. He said “Be the change you want to see in the world” and it represents every political, lifestyle and attitude we as human beings, but cherish in order to see a better world. These are the principles that have shaped my social and political beliefs on my journey to becoming a leader, and LGBTQA leader especially in the world. As I continue my work, Shane Windmeyer, the founder and director of Campus Pride is a close example to me, and inspires me and is a living testimony to this quote of a change I claim to see around me, and it starts with me.

Do you have a nickname? Who gave it to you? Does it have any special meaning?

My nickname has been the “President.” Well, I tried to ignore it since I was young, but it seemed as I grew up I understood why my friends at school at lower grade, and high school until now at college and sometimes in my work experience they called me “Mr. President,” because I have carried myself fearless to lead, help people in my community and where ever I go I have been a representative to social change, and in the manner I speak, greet and network. I am composed with a stature that some time scares me — “Am I destined to be a president?” Hence, I do political science. When I look and my increasing credentials I have traced that all I have been doing has been the cause of helping people, initiating programs that better my community, and so everyone I knew mentored me to who I am today. I thank all who have been the greatest character artist of me. They all must continue doing this to me, and other,s and the world will be a better place : :.

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.