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Ward 13's Arielle Kayabaga is the first black female city councillor elected in London’s history. Arielle is passionate about community building, social justice and poverty alleviation. We had the chance to sit down with the self-described "resilient community contributor" and chat about her political journey, mental health and self care.
How did you get involved in politics?
I got involved in politics from a young age out of interest in social justice and eventually started taking interest in political parties and community work. The idea of contributing to make our lives, other’s lives better, feels like a duty to me.
You are the first black female councillor in London. What does that mean to you?
It is for sure a responsibility and I take it seriously but to me, this means that I’m paving the way for many more generations to come. It’s an honour and a privilege.
What’s important for people to know regarding mental health in the black community?
We need safe spaces to talk about mental health. Mental health is often tied with our livelihoods, securing good jobs, having safe and affordable housing and being able to enjoy community spaces and be safe is important. So mental health in the black community isn’t often talked about because there are layers of trauma that we’ve yet to solve.
As a black woman in the political sphere how do you deal with discrimination?
I always stand up for myself hoping that by doing so will help others as well. I also take it as a teaching and learning opportunity for others.
What advice do you have for young people of colour who want to get involved in the community/politics?
The first advice I’d give would be for everyone to recognize that this is their place too and they have to claim their space to live. I’ll add that it’s important to give more room to those who encourage you to overcome barriers and to never give up.
What does Black History Month mean to you? How can we celebrate the black culture and the black community throughout the year?
Well we get one month of 28 days to teach and learn about many cultures and people who have greatly contributed to our economy, our evolution the life as we know it today and it’s not enough. Our history should be taught throughout the year through positive representation, historical contributions to Canada and the world and highlighting the positive to inspire future generations.
Running for political office and representing your community as an elected official can be grueling. How do you take care of your mental health?
I haven’t been elected for a long time but in general I check out of emails, phone and social media once in a while to connect to my immediate space and recharge. To me that’s important.
What’s next for you?
Serve our community to the best of my ability for the next 4 years :-)
Photo by Kerry Ssemugenyi
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