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Halifax councillor Lindell Smith is more than a symbol

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Photo via Lindell Smith campaign website

First, of course, there is the symbolism. Lindell Smith is Halifax's first Black city councillor since 2000.

But not just... Early in his race for District 8, a campaign worker warned the corn-rowed, goateed Smith he'd have to "deal with people looking at you like you're Snoop Dogg trying to be a politician." Rather than change, Smith made sure voters in white neighbourhoods also got to know bright-young-local-library-assistant-crime-prevention-advocate-inspirational-public-speaker Smith, too.

As Toronto community activist Andray Domise reflected admiringly after-the-electoral-fact in Maclean's: "there's Black and there's Black... This is the genuine, non-conforming, and natural Black aesthetic with which Smith is comfortable, and which he kept during the campaign."

By staying true to himself in a city with a sorry history of racial divide, Smith won 53 per cent of votes in a field of seven candidates, including another Black community worker and a former councillor.

Noted Canadian Press: "his supporters were of all races, ages, sexualities and genders."

No wonder the national media lined up for interviews.

And then, of course, there is Smith's age. At 26, he is at least 15 years younger than the previous council's youngest member.

In an election with the most dismal voter turnout since before the 1996 amalgamation, with female representation cut in half and no other minority candidates elected, Lindell Smith inevitably becomes our beacon of hope for change.

But to transform hope into positive reality that will encourage other young people, particularly those from racial and other minorities, to see city council as worth caring about and participating in, Smith must do more than be himself.

He's off to a good start. Earlier this month when The Coast polled candidates on what they'd Googled most recently, Smith's answer: "Vancouver's living wage policy."

Smith acknowledges there's lots of "unglamorous work" ahead to bring forward a successful living wage proposal, but he says he's ready to do that.

A reason for optimism that's more than just symbolic.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

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