Reakash Walters is a doer. I met her on a beautiful September afternoon; sitting down in our seats and taking our first sips of coffee, I was captivated straightaway. When you talk to Reakash you can sense that she has drive and a wonderfully ambitious approach to life—she is one of those people who knows what she wants, and even better, she goes for it without apology.
Reakash is involved in politics. The thing is though, she doesn't fit the typical mould of what you’d expect from a politician—she’s a young, black woman and she ran one hell of a nomination campaign for a federal NDP seat this past August. She’s a communicator, an active worker towards social equality, and a secret poet.
As we sat outside District Coffee, Reakash shared bits and pieces of her story with me. She told me what it’s like to be a young woman of minority running a political campaign in central Edmonton. “It was an amazing experience,” said Reakash, who lost the nomination by only 30 votes to a well-known and influential candidate who threw his hat into the ring just two weeks before the election date. “I’ve had people from Calgary approach me and say that I ran an amazing campaign, even through I’m all the way in Edmonton and even though it was just the nomination campaign,” said Reakash with pride, “no, I didn’t win, but it was so worth it because of the amount of support I got and all the people that were watching who I didn't realize were watching. It really surprised me... it was such an amazing learning experience.”
Describing herself as “super community oriented,” Reakash has a particular interest in helping young people, people of minority, and those who usually find themselves “on the fringes” discover their voice.
Though she did not win the opportunity to run for the NDP in the federal election, Reakash is still rocking her orange pride. Currently working for the Provincial NDP party, Reakash is part of Premier Rachel Notley’s team in a communications role. “I really look up to Rachel,” remarked Reakash, reminiscing about meeting Notley a few years back when she was in her first year of university. Reakash was working on a school project about someone she looked up to and approached Notley, who was her local MLA at the time. The two women hit it off and kept in touch afterwards. The rest, as they say, is history.
Reakash admits that politics is a big part of her life, but it’s not her only love. Deeply passionate about the arts, she is also an ardent contributor to several local arts-focused events. She is the chair for the ‘Breath in Poetry Collective,’ a spoken-word poetry group. When asked if she herself braves the stage during the group’s weekly ‘Poetry Slam’ competitions, she said with a smile, “no, I consider myself to be a private poet…”
‘Five Artists One Love’ is another outlet for Reakash to put her heart behind the arts and her community. A celebration of local black artists living in Edmonton, Five Artists One Love is an event that occurs each year during black history month. The show highlights diversity that exists within Edmonton and showcases five visual artists from their community.
Not one to shy away from getting involved, Reakash also volunteers her time to be part of a yoga and self-discovery festival called It’s Time to Bloom.
Reflecting on the what if…
I asked Reakash, “how do you do it all—do you sleep at night?” She laughed and said that, in fact, she does still get in her eight hours each day. “You just gotta do it,” she says in reference to working on a goal, “just start.”
I asked her if she could present just one question to the world for people to consider, what would it be. She thought about it for a while and then held up her paper and joked, “I think this… I need to make up time somewhere.”