Before shaking up Queens politics with his upset victory in NYS Assembly District 31’s primary election, Khaleel Anderson (BA/MA Urban Affairs, 2019), was already well known at QC for his tireless advocacy work on library issues affecting students.
During Summer 2019, in the beginning stages of his campaign, I had the privilege of interviewing Khaleel. Our wide-ranging conversation covered his college selection process, his experiences in the SEEK program, and his burgeoning political career.
Hi Khaleel, thanks for talking to us! I’d like to start by asking about your first experiences with QC.
My family moved to Queens from Brooklyn when I was 9. In 11th grade, I lived on campus for about 3 weeks, as it was an evacuation site for families like mine who were displaced by Hurricane Sandy. We were in the dining hall, then Fitzgerald Gym. It was the first college I’d visited, and I got to know it that way. We were eating the emergency MREs the first couple weeks, but later, the food improved!
How did you decide to come to Queens College? What other schools were you considering?
I thought Stony Brook was beautiful, and I also thought of going to SUNY-Albany but I didn’t get in. I had heard Baruch was the ‘poor man’s Harvard,’ and I was student body president of my class in high school and thought that might be a good fit. But Queens offered me a place in the SEEK program, and I decided to come here.
You found the SEEK Program to be very intense at first. Can you tell me about it?
I thought I was going to have my whole summer off before beginning my freshman year,, but SEEK had other plans! We started June 30th, getting help with reading, writing and math. We took a crash course in how to use the library over the summer, and then all SEEK students are required to take Library 100 as freshman.
Were you already a big library user before coming to QC?
In my neighborhood, the public libraries are more like community centers, and they have a lot to offer. I used the public library, but using the school library was difficult–if you stayed late at school to use the library, the limited transit options made it harder to get home. And the classes were easier in high school, so I didn’t have to use the library as much to do my work.
What did you learn in the Library 100 course?
The crash course got me familiar with the library. We thought the library was just a building with books. Getting help from the people there was new. A culture shock was that you had to learn to find the books yourself!
What about finding articles and other resources online?
That was also new! Library 100 helped me a lot with learning to find articles and information online. It was like a crash course in how to do research. Every assignment required you to come to the library to research it-you couldn’t just use Google for your research, like I could for my high school work.
We also learned about the history of the library, and QC’s connections to civil rights activism. I remember learning about the history of Andrew Goodman and Freedom Summer.
You also got involved with Student Association.
Yes. I volunteered at a few events with Caribbean Students Association and BSU my sophomore and junior years, and then got more involved and ran for Chair of Lobby and Advising Committee my senior year.
And then you ended up serving on your local Community Board?
I was appointed to Queens Community Board 14 because Donovan Richards, my city councilman, knew of work I was doing in the neighborhood and thought I should apply.
One of the projects I’m most proud of was voting to allocate $118M on storm mitigation projects. It’s called the Resilient Edgemere plan.
Now you’re running for NYS Assembly. Tell us about that!
Yes, I am running now for NYS Assembly now in the 31st Assembly District. (Note: Khaleel won the June 23 Democratic Primary!)
What’s the status of your campaign now?
We’ve raised about $10,000 in individual contributions, and are talking to my neighbors and waiting to see what the structure of the next election is.
The other thing I’m working on now is a big Community Board vote for a big rezoning project for Peninsula Hospital. We are working on affordable housing, an urgent care center and grocery and laundry amenities for that neighborhood.
Thanks so much for talking with us, Khaleel. Do you have any other words of advice for Queens College students?
Besides, use that library? Don’t be a church mouse, make as many connections and friends as you can here. I have gotten help from so many people I met here. You meet people here from all around the world.