Durham City Council Candidate Khalilah Karim Values Community Above All

City Council candidate Khalilah Karim

By Holland Bodner, October 2nd 2023

As election season continues in Durham, one candidate is doing the work in hopes of securing a seat on the city council. Khalilah Karim amplifies the voice of the city by advocating for voters. 

Karim started in her hometown of Decatur, Georgia and has a track record of 13 years in public service. In a recent interview with the city council candidate, Karim talked about building the future of Durham through her platform of affordable housing, environmentalism, and community.  

Coming to North Carolina in 2014, Karim is reminded of her hometown and takes inspiration from the Black Power Movement. Black citizens feeling empowered has created a strong familiarity and connection to Durham’s rich history, as it inspires Karim today.  

Before getting involved in politics, Karim made an impact as a community organizer in both Durham and Georgia.

 Karim worked and lead the way for affordable housing projects in the Durham area and since 2018, conservation efforts. By partnering with companies like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Service Employees International Union, Karim has implemented a network of unions for the working class. 

Many of us are often called to step into a leadership role. For Karim, this means bringing communities together and uplifting one another.

“All of us are leaders. It’s about communities coming together. What it takes to be a leader is the people who believe in me to do it,” said Karim. 

Through Karim’s platform, she has taken her core values of community and grace to connect with her voters.  

“You are not defined by your record; you are not defined by your past. You are defined by you, and what you what you want to bring to that table. I want to give grace and see past all those things and see you as a person because that is what you are,” said Karim.  

It starts by recognizing voters and identifying who they are on a personal level for Karim. Karim empathizes with voters by noting, “I understand what it feels like to be overlooked and not heard,” said Karim. 

One of the proposed changes Karim would make in the Bull City if elected is to focus more attention on the HEART program, a crisis-response initiative for Durham citizens in need. 

The HEART program is aimed at combating over-policing and serving the public by answering calls and providing resources to address non-violent emergencies. According to ABC 11, a report from the Durham Police Department has shown a 9% decrease in violent crime since the launch of the HEART program.

Karim wants to shed light on mental health by focusing on the HEART program, as she recognizes its importance in the citizens of Durham’s lives. 

Karim also discussed how she handles setbacks. 

When asked about dealing with her campaign and not getting an endorsement from the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People Karim said, “I think they picked the right people who have been a part of their organization to represent their organization.” 

Karim said that she wants “to make sure I volunteer with all the organizations around Durham that are making a difference.” 

Throughout Karim’s career, the candidate has dealt with criticism both in the political and environmental space. She “takes it with a grain of salt,” Karim said, by sticking true to herself and her morals.  

Karim also discussed what needs to be done to create change in Durham and how she is showing this in her platform. 

To Karim, it’s fundamental in our communities to look at a company’s policies and make sure they “have good hiring practices,” Karim said. She asks voters to think about what they want Durham to look like by stating, “are we trying to build Durham for the people, or are we trying to build for corporations?” 

If companies are building houses, Karim believes “it needs to be affordable. We need to make this city livable for the people who made this city great,” Karim said. 

Affordable housing has been a vital part of Karim’s campaign, as she continues to advocate for voters. 

Karim also discussed her passion for environmentalism and stepping into a leadership role to help Durham conservation. 

Karim has held the position as Regional Field Director for PowerUp in Raleigh and has worked to bring awareness to Durham. 

By partnering with organizations focused on helping the environment, Karim continues to show support. 

“The organizations you’re looking into, you have to make sure their platform is broad. It’s about realizing environmental justice now is part of taking lead to make a healthy world for all of us,” said Karim. 

When she’s not campaigning, you’ll find Karim listening to music. 

Story Edited By: Allie Schreiber