Growing up in a single-parent household in Florence, South Carolina, Anfernee Robinson didn’t have the luxury of turning a blind eye to life’s hardships.

“My entire life I’ve seen my mom fight super hard to try and get past the cliff,” he says. “She gets super close and then just tumbles down the mountain.”

Growing up amid economic instability and bouts of homelessness moved the marketing major to share his story through hip-hop and R&B. Robinson, also known as “Anfernee.” – has exploded onto the local music scene in the last year with his honest and infectious lyrics and beats that tell his story in a way that inspires the listener.

“Generational poverty is one of the hardest battles you’ll ever have to fight,” he says. “If there is anything I can do personally to help people understand what it is that causes these inequities, I would love to educate people…and do whatever I can, whether it be through music or any other avenue that I can.”

The most impressive thing about the senior is his determination to break the cycle of financial instability for himself and his family. By 13, Robinson says he knew he “needed to make the right decisions.”

That included going to college. He zeroed in on CofC because it offered him a chance to move away from home, but stay close enough to help his family if there was an emergency. And, he says many of the characteristics of the College mirrored his own.

“CofC fit the mold of who I was as a person,” Robinson says, noting the College’s inclusive and artistic environment. “It’s a liberal arts college in the conservative South.”

Since arriving on campus in 2013, Robinson has made the most of his time. He’s worked nearly all four years as an office assistant with the College’s Office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services, he completed a marketing internship with the North Charleston-based healthcare firm Equiscript, he twice served as a leader for the College’s SPECTRA program — which provides academic and transition support for minority students — and he spent the fall semester of his junior year studying in France.

And then there’s his music. In 2015 Robinson released his self-produced, full-length album Anfernee. followed up in 2016 by the EP The Conspiracy. Then he started performing live in music venues across the Holy City.

“I had to take advantage of every opportunity that I could,” Robinson says. “Circumstantially, I didn’t have a choice. I came from an environment where opportunities weren’t available. So, I came here and I had the mindset to make something out of it.”

As he prepares to exit Porters Lodge with his diploma on Saturday, May 13, 2017, Robinson remains focused on his future. In his final weeks at CofC, the 21-year-old has been busy juggling finals, music gigs and job interviews.

For those who have watched Robinson’s journey up close, they say his achievement is a testament to his determination to break the cycle of poverty.

“Anfernee isn’t your average college student,” says Ernest Brevard Jr., former campus outreach and student development coordinator at CofC who mentored Robinson. “He is very mature for his age and his warm personality attracts others. His humbleness allows others to see his true potential and offer him assistance along the way.”

Brevard, who is now the special assistant to the vice president for enrollment at Morgan State University, says Robinson’s commitment to being a better person every day is what drove him to excel.

“As a first-generation college student, he wants to make his family proud,” Brevard said.

Robinson stands in Cougar Mall. (Photo by Amanda Kerr)

“Anfernee has had some big challenges throughout his four years (at the College),” says Teresa Smith, director for the Office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services. “The staff in MSPS has cried with him, jumped for joy when he conquered giant hurdles, and laughed and joked with him. I believe his faith, passion for music and ‘village’ support has helped him push through his darkest moments. We are proud of him and all that he has accomplished.”

But graduating is just the beginning. In the short term, Robinson hopes to land a job in advertising or marketing. He is also determined to pursue his music and is finalizing a new musical collaboration with the French group Adamandy, whom he partnered with while studying abroad.

Putting his marketing skills to work, Robinson says he wants to fill a void in the musical market by creating a sound and message that will hold up across demographics and genres.

“It really is a perspective on growing up in the south and how I’ve seen how to come out of it,” he says of his new project, noting that he turned to writing rap and music lyrics as an outlet in his early teens.

He adds that hip-hop and R&B today are “missing the heart, missing the substance. I really, really, truly want to bring that back to music.”

For students who are facing hardships of their own, Robinson says the best advice he can offer is to develop a sense of self-reliance. That, along with building a strong network of friends (both college-age and adult), he says is what got him to the graduation stage.

“No one’s going to do anything for you,” he says. “You have to help yourself before anyone else can be willing to help you. So, start making those efforts to take care of yourself and you’ll start to see other things begin to unfold that you never thought possible.”

Featured photo by Amanda Kerr.