When Titania Kumeh dropped out of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts drama program at 19, she wanted to quit acting, but not leave the storytelling behind.
Ms. Kumeh, now 29, grew up in the Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles with her mother, an immigrant from the Bahamas. The family relied on public assistance for support, but after her mother finished nursing school, they moved to Fullerton, Calif., an affluent suburb of Orange County, seeking a higher quality of life and better employment opportunities.
“It was a very privileged place where people didn’t know what it was like to be without,” Ms. Kumeh said.
The clash of culture and class left her always struggling to explain different cultures and communities to her high school classmates, which whet her appetite for journalism.
“Just by communicating my experiences, I could help bridge misconceptions,” she said. But she shied away from writing in high school because she was self-conscious about her abilities.
“I didn’t come from a literary family,” she said. “We didn’t read newspapers.”
After leaving the drama program, however, she decided to give journalism a try and joined the Pasadena Weekly to cover arts and entertainment. To her, it was still storytelling, just with a pen instead of her body. She also had more creative freedom. “With journalism you’re the director,” she said.
Ms. Kumeh then took undergraduate classes at San Francisco State University to study journalism full-time and worked as a freelancer at The Oakland Tribune.
After graduation, she went to Ghana for six weeks and wrote about H.I.V. treatment and misconceptions about H.I.V. in West Africa for The Ghanaian Times.
When Ms. Kumeh returned to the United States in 2009, she joined Mother Jones magazine as a fact-checker. She left after a year and a half to pursue a master’s in journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, which she received this year. “I wanted to explore writing more personal narratives and connect my personal experiences with larger issues like immigration and poverty,” she said.
Last summer, Ms. Kumeh was a Kaiser intern at The Los Angeles Times, where she covered racial disparities in the health care system. She graduated in May and wants to “take all the things I’ve learned and test them out in the real world,” she said. She hopes to keep writing, telling important stories and finding “innovative ways to get people to care.”