Political aspirations have always been in Leslyn Joseph’s sight.
In 2003, she walked out of class to show solidarity with her teachers on strike. Seventeen years later, she started the defund movement in Calgary.
But now, her activism has a clear direction.
“I guess it runs in my genes,” she said.
“That’s what my mom was trying to tell me.”
Her grandfather held public office in the Caribbean island of Nevis in the 1930s. Now, she’s hoping to follow suit right here in Calgary.
Joseph is running for city council in Ward 10 with hopes of bringing more diversity and trust to local politics. She also wants to build a sense of pride for the area and the people she hopes to represent.
“I feel like I know this ward like the back of my hand,” she said.
“I just wander the whole neighborhood all the time.”
She constantly studies the city’s citizen satisfaction surveys to get a clearer and better picture of what Calgarians are looking for.
“That’s essentially how I got to where I got,” she said.
“I love those citizen surveys.”
‘City council needs an overhaul’
Since 1993, Joseph has lived in the community of Pineridge. That was the same year that recently-retired former Coun. Ray Jones was first elected to council.
“City council kind of needs an overhaul,” said Joseph.
“The city’s young, but the demographics are changing.”
She believes that the people representing their constituents should be present and reflect the community needs.
“I didn’t know (Ray Jones) actually lived in this area,” said Joseph.
“I’ve never seen or bumped into him.”
Joseph believes that while Jones has done several positive things for the city, Ward 10 itself has been overlooked by both him and others on council for far too long.
“I know there’s only so much one person can really do,” she said.
Simple changes for safety in east Calgary
Joseph recalled being at a friend’s house in the northeast community of Marlborough when she noticed how dark everything was.
While she was there at night, she didn’t notice there was a house across the street from her friend’s place. In the morning, Joseph was shocked when she realized there was a house across the street.
“That’s one of the issues of safety right there, there needs to be more lighting,” said Joseph.
“The trees just never get cut back so it’s really dark along Rundlehorn. It’s crazy, I wouldn’t walk alone there at night.”
She added that there needs to be more bus shelters around the area.
They’re often the target of vandals, Joseph said. She’s concerned that’s why they haven’t been rebuilt.
She’s not certain if residents have asked for those kinds of improvements.
But, it’s those small things she hopes to bring to build a better Ward 10.
There’s a northeast Calgary narrative Joseph is hoping to change.
“I feel like some of us are just like ‘this is what we deserve, this is the northeast, no one’s going to help us, so we’re not going to ask for anything.’”
Still, it’s a area of the city she grew up in, lived in and knows well. Her heart is in ward 10.
“I feel more comfortable in this community than I do in others,” said Joseph.
“I say that because it’s more diverse.”
Diversity is a pillar of both Joseph’s character and her political campaign.
As an activist, a Black woman, a millennial, and a local small business owner, she believes she has what it takes to bring a strong and inclusive voice to council. She said it’s needed to deal with the problems and challenges many Calgarians are facing.
“I feel like there hasn’t been a lot of diversity on city council,” she said.
“So, it’s like, who’s speaking up for those people?”