The blog post below was written by our Fund Development Manager Danisha Bhaloo and was originally published on the Huffington Post Canada site.
One year ago, I publicly announced my decision to run in the byelection for Edmonton City Council. It wasn’t an easy decision, considering I had a job that I adored and a social life that I was pretty content with. I wasn’t stirring for anything new. I didn’t want any regrets. So when I was asked to consider running for city council in May 2015, I spent months learning about the work, shadowing existing members of council, and attended meetings during my lunch hours. Finally, I determined that this could be an opportunity to widen the difference I could make in my community.
The process was intense. But ultimately, rewarding. The days, weeks and months were long. I was stressed and had concerns about my mental health at various times. But I walked over 800,000 steps in four months (a once in a lifetime activity) as I spent hours knocking on doors. The outpouring of support from family and friends was overwhelming. Strangers read my story, understood my motivation, and stepped up and volunteered their time or donated…these people are now my lifelong friends.
One year later, with municipal elections looming near, I’ve been asked to run again. I understand the intent behind it. We need more women as elected officials. We need more cultural diversity and perspectives to bring to the table — to ensure that all peoples are represented. I agree with both.
But running for city council this year, and failing, was the best thing that ever happened to me… because I had the ultimate realization. Politics was not my thing. Now, I say this very intently knowing that I never want to close a door in the future. But that statement has put me so much at ease that I know it’s the right thing for me. While I care about my community and there are causes that drive my existence, it’s not the everyday things that citizens may care about — traffic, potholes etc.
The campaign experience did not come without faults. One being discrimination and racism from people (trolls). Most recently, a racist threatened me just a few weeks ago, six months after the election was over. Never having experienced this first-hand before, it shook me to my core.
I’ve been told that those people are few and I shouldn’t let them stop me from pursuing politics. But listen here: those people have no influence over my decisions or my life. The only thing they have influenced is my desire to step up and share my story and do something about it. I don’t know what that looks like but here’s my public statement saying that I’m here to do whatever I can to end racism in our community.
We know racism exists in our community. We’ve seen it recently with the postering at the University of Alberta and University of Calgary. And the incident that led to the #makeitaward campaign. It’s de-humanizing. It’s not who we are. It’s unacceptable.
And so, as a victim of racism in the context of running for public office, I’m stepping up to talk about the issue, with a sensitivity to those elected officials that face racist remarks every single day.
So running for city council this year has ignited a new passion, a new cause, in my life — ending racism and to #makeitawkward for anyone who thinks they have power over another. You don’t. And now that I’m not going to be busy running for city council in 2017, I’m going to spend my days proving it.