Looking Forward

In the first installment of my interview with Ward 13 Councillor Arielle Kayabaga, we looked back at her beginnings and at who and what pushed her to participate in the political arena.

London City Councillor Arielle Kayabaga smiles in front of Canada's provincial flags.
“I think there’s going to be a ripple effect from me being elected in London, its already started!” – Arielle Kayabaga

In this segment, we look to the future. Where is she going? What is she doing? And what does she have to say to London as she does so? Once again, join me as I continue my afternoon speaking with one of the most impressive people in our Forest City, Arielle Kayabaga.

As someone who now provides ample representation, who provided that for you?

Right now, my strongest political force is Harriet Tubman. She’s someone who I had a conflict with growing up. I hated the way her story was told every Black History Month. They framed her to be this little old woman who freed like five or ten people. No, she was a force to be reckoned with.

Two photographs of Harriet Tubman. On the left, her in her old age. On the right, her in her youth
The typical depictions of Harriet Tubman (left) vs. her in her youth (right).

She’s now my role model, a person who I look up to. I relate to her. She also had a spirituality about what she did. She did it from a place of “this is my calling” and “this is what I have to do to free my people.” I’ve always felt that way. Some people do careers and not their callings, some people have a career and then a calling. I think mine is two combined in one.

We all know London, ON has a particular allure. What made London home for you?

It was my mother’s choice to come to London at first when I was younger. It wasn’t until I had finished school after I went travelling and then I came back here — that was my choice. Then I got a job with the Prime Minister and I still chose to come back to London.

As Councillor for downtown London, Arielle Kayabaga has been instrumental in the development of Dundas Place. Image via Instagram @iamaykay.

And I felt more at home in this city than any other city. I lived in Toronto; it wasn’t for me. Ottawa was cool, being so big and still having that small-town feel to it, but again, never felt home — I would always tell people I was from London. And I came back and I just made a decision that London was going to be what I make of it, and it really is that way in London! Everyone lives in London very differently, and there’s that room to make it what you want to be. It’s versatile.

If London were a person sitting across the table from you, what would you say to them?

I want you to know the faith I have in you, the love and care I have for this city and community altogether. The amount of energy I’ve put into really working at it. I really am trying to do good for you, and I want you to see it – and you will see it because I will continue to prove to it through my commitment and my work.

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London City Councillor Arielle Kayabaga smiles while out in London, Ontario
Arielle out in the downtown core of our Forest city. Image via Instagram @iamaykay

I didn’t get involved in this with the intention of harming people, I got involved because people were being harmed and I wanted to make sure that stopped. I’m committed, and I hope you know how much I care and how much I am willing to give. I’ve had to alter my life and sacrifice so much to continue to do the work I truly enjoy doing, and I do truly enjoy serving my community.

What does a beautiful future London look like to you? How can we get there together?

We’ve got to rely on our strength and our resilience as a community. We’ve got to honour the past, heal the past, and connect to the roots of this city, which is to honour the Indigenous Peoples. We’ve got to respect the land we’re on.

We have to start embracing everyone’s experience, and connecting, to build a future together. To go back to what municipalism was about to begin with, it was about fighting for social and environmental health for everyone, making sure that everyone’s voice was being heard.

“When you know something is coming from a higher place, you can shift your mindset. Something may be leaving, but something else is taking its place. It’s a flow” – Arielle Kayabaga

I think it encourages people when there is positivity. I try to balance it out, because I don’t want anybody to despair. At the same time, I don’t want people to sit in a place where it’s like “Oh, everything is perfect,” because it’s not! We have a lot of work to do. I want something to run towards, not fear to run from.

And finally, what is something you think the world is woefully short on?

Love! What else? If we loved each other, we wouldn’t kill each other and we wouldn’t be able to agree that some people sleep outside, some people sleep inside. We wouldn’t vote for people who are running on agendas that are very harmful for a larger part of our population. We just wouldn’t.


What’s in a Name?

There’s a psychological theory known as nominative determinism. This theory posits that people gravitate toward careers or lifestyles that fit their names — think of a Dr. Pain or a judge with the last name Laws.

When we apply this to Arielle Miranda Kayabaga, we are given lion of God, she who is admired, and youth, respectively. A fierce and outspoken advocate? An admirable and fiery spirit? With the gumption to rebel against an established-yet-unfair system? I can’t think of a better example for this theory.

Onward and Upward!

With the recent news of Arielle’s bid to represent London on the federal level, every piece of what I learned, and now share with you, feels especially apt. I look forward to seeing how far this passionate, powerful woman will go.

Feature photo courtesy of Arielle Kayabaga.

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