By Salimah Kassam
The first time I heard my name coming out of my tv speakers, I freaked out. It’s only happened once. In a slightly strange movie from 2015 called Rock the Kasbah with Bill Murray and a Palestinian actress Leem Lubany, who plays a character named Salima. I don’t think I would have watched the whole movie due to its immature take on life in Afghanistan if it wasn’t just so fun to hear Bill Murray say my name.
It’s important to see people who look like you on tv, the big screen and to hear names like your own in news feeds that make positive headlines. It’s important because representation signals safety and safety builds courage and widens dreams.
A couple of weeks ago, I was attending an event near the Genesis Centre. I stopped to chat with a Muslim dad and his toddler-aged daughter. We were standing by a campaign sign with Jyoti’s image on it and the young woman exclaimed “I want her!”, I exclaimed back, “me too!”. I believe on Oct 18th Calgarians made a strong decision based on evidence and merit, and, perhaps inadvertently, they also told every little brown girl in town that she matters and that they can be anything they want, right here in Calgary, Alberta. Hate lives in pockets in Calgary, however, with this win, those pockets shrunk and we got closer to eliminating hate from our communities. It’s time to double down and make serious commitments on defining, auditing and measuring our progress on diversity, inclusion, representation and belonging in all sectors of Calgary.
I trust Jyoti Gondek. I don’t know Mayor Gondek on a personal level but her first week in office has proven, I can trust her. Like those of us in the nonprofit sector, community actualization is in her heart. In her first acts as Mayor, she met with social sector organizations and advocacy groups. Like our previous Mayor, Naheed Nenshi, Mayor Gondek has demonstrated she is committed to our sector and to solving social problems permanently and with the dignity of the human behind the circumstance at the centre of our solutions. The problems we are trying to solve are entrenched and complicated, and we know to truly get from point A to point C, to truly end rooted social problems, we need all of us working together systemically and culturally. I believe Mayor Gondek will call on us to be bold, to stand up for our values, to be ‘anti’ when we need to be, and she will call on us to collaborate with courage to enact systemic, evidence-based solutions.
I’m deeply excited by our new city council and it’s leadership. When strong women lead, things become more empathetic, more collaborative and more pyramids become circles. The Blackfoot people teach us that wealth is better measured not by what you have but by what you can give. I believe Mayor Gondek will give away more power than she takes and will share the space she has been given with many others. As women, we know that when we are afforded leadership, it is due to the will and the might of many women who have come before us. We know we must serve with the finest moral compass so we can intentionally set down stones in the path for all the women that will come after us.
We need traits of courage, conviction, extensive perspective and intergenerational thinking, to get us through the next few years. Our current landscape, from my viewpoint, is rough. Poverty is deepening, winter is coming, debt levels are rising and basic supports are being clawed back. I’m grateful Calgarians showed up and voted well. Mayor Gondek’s early leadership has me feeling refreshed and ready to work harder on securing a basic, dignified quality of life for every person in our city.
About the Author: Salimah Kassam
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this post belong solely to the author and do not represent those of The Nonprofit Vote or its Partner Organizations. Interested in publishing a guest post on our blog? Connect with us today at [email protected].