Since high school, Ayomi Obuseh has had a vision for the city she calls home. She developed a close relationship with a Madison West after-school care worker who fostered her passion as an activist and community advocate.
“I used to talk about my vision for Madison when I was organizing in high school [with her],” said Obuseh. “I know that she would want me to do something fearless; I knew that the act of running would be something she would want to see.”
Ultimately, the passing of that after-school care worker at Madison West is what inspired Obuseh to “throw [her] hat in the ring” for District 8 Alder.
Obuseh is running for the District 8 position on the Madison Common Council — representing the UW-Madison campus and some of its surrounding neighborhoods — against a fellow UW-Madison student and woman of color, Juliana Bennett.
Her platform is committed to social, racial and environmental justice, as well as campus safety, education and COVID-19 relief. She supports policies that range from the implementation of lights on Lakeshore Path, to an alternative crisis intervention program, to increased sustainability at UW-Madison, among many others.
That after-school care worker, as well as Michelle Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Obuseh’s mother are all inspirations to the alder candidate.
“These powerful women of color who are fearless, who are brave — I hope to emulate in myself and give off to others,” Obuseh said.
She has seen many endorsements from community leaders, including four MMSD School Board members, CEO and founder of Urban Triage, Brandi Grayson, and the Civilian Oversight Board Vice-Chair, Shadayra Kilfoy-Flores, among others. Her work as a volunteer coordinator for Democrat Tom Palzewicz’s congressional campaign, as well as in the office of Wisconsin State Senator LaTonya Johnson, in conjunction with her activism work relating to racial justice and youth involvement in Madison has sparked great support for her political ambitions.
“I felt like I had the capabilities to do the job effectively,” reiterated Obuseh. “And I have connections with the community and that’s something we need more of.”
Obuseh describes herself as an activist as well as an organizer and has expressed disappointment with the lack of progressive legislation in Madison.
The city’s definition of progress is often not “holistic” in her point of view — it does not encapsulate the entire Madison community and their experiences. This, according to Obuseh, is indicated through the actions of local allies, groups and peoples that “have the best intentions, but the efforts that they are making are not as effective as they could be.”
“It’s very short-sighted in many ways and was frustrating to realize,” said Obuseh.
Understanding how to initiate progressive conversations while inviting more people to said conversations is key, but making a concrete effort to write and pass more comprehensive legislation is equally important, said Obuseh, who has experience passing legislation at a state level.
Obuseh also looks to approach issues through an intersectional lens. She underscored her hope for Madison to become the “epicenter” of this shift.
Community is also central to Obuseh’s advocacy and campaign.
“I have never seen Madison come together in the way it has,” Obuseh said, referencing the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement — emphasizing that it is the role of the alder to ensure that this sense of community continues.
Additionally, Obuseh hopes to facilitate and encourage strong connections between UW students and the broader Madison area.
“I really want to make sure that students find a home here in Madison,” Obuseh said. “I do think we need to talk about ways in which we can help students produce more innovative and creative products that could work here in Madison.”
Relationships between students and community members are integral because, according to Obuseh, the university does not promote enough engagement with the community despite equipping students with the skills to solve problems and be innovative.
“As alder, I would continue to be a resource for many students, to connect them with community members — which can help them in their endeavors,” she said.
When asked what she would like voters to know about her, Obuseh highlighted her deep bonds with Madison.
“I am fighting for my home,” said Obuseh. “I went to school at Madison West, my friends are here, my family is here — my future is here.”
“So every effort that I have made to help the community is because this is my home and these are my people,” continued Obuseh. “As an organizer, you do not organize people you do not love.”
Voting for the District 8 Alder Seat will take place during the Madison Common Council election on April 6. Find out more about how to vote for Common Council positions at the city’s election website.