Kevin Lunianga is a Senior Operations Officer in the Emergency Operations Branch at Global Affairs Canada. Prior to joining the public service, he worked as a flight attendant for two years with WestJet Airlines and had the opportunity to travel across the globe. Kevin is a graduate of the MA program at the Centre for Criminology and Socio-legal Studies at the University of Toronto. Born to a Rwandan mother and a Congolese father, he spent his years growing up in Canada (Ottawa) and Zimbabwe. In his spare time, Kevin likes to travel, meet new people and learn about their experiences, and dance to afrobeats, soca and hip-hop. You can follow him on Instagram at @luniank or on twitter at kekeluni1
How has your upbringing influenced you as an adult?
I grew up as the middle child of a house with two hardworking African parents. Like many Black folks, I was told that I had to work twice as hard to get half as much as my non-Black colleagues/classmates. I think that really pushed me to start thinking about my Blackness from a young age and pushed me to think critically about what it means to exist in Ottawa as a young, queer, African boy. I struggled to integrate myself in the broader community and had issues with self-love as a young boy. I had a hard time seeing my Blackness as beautiful, and I found it difficult to be comfortable in my skin. Thankfully, my mother caught on to the fact that I was struggling and made the decision to move our family to Zimbabwe – where I spent my final years of high school. Through that experience, I saw Black excellence all around me, and it allowed me to grow into my Blackness in healthy and constructive ways. These experiences have allowed me to be more aware of how to move about as an African queer man in Canada.
What led you to your current (career, art, activism)?
I work for the federal government doing emergency operations. I mostly fell into it by luck (applied online and was almost certain I was not going to be selected), but also because of my desire to engage with folks and help folks in crisis. My job requires me to help Canadians abroad who require emergency consular assistance so it allows me to connect with folks, help find solutions to various issues, and to constantly learn about foreign affairs. I studied criminology at the University of Toronto so it is a good fit! I get to put my investigative/question asking skills to use.
How would friends and acquaintances describe you?
My friends would probably say that I am more of a listener than a talker. I tend to prefer asking questions, listening to folks, and taking away from peoples’ experiences. My friends would probably mention that getting me to share my thoughts requires people to ask me questions directly. They would likely mention that I am free-spirited but a bit mysterious at times. Some folks would characterize me as “hard to read” unless you have gotten to know me quite well. That being said, I think (and hope) that the consensus would be positive things!
How have you been maintaining your physical health?
I have mostly been going to the gym and being intentional about what I am eating. I drink water regularly and make sure to have a home workout routine in case the gyms in Ottawa close down. I also find dancing to be very therapeutic – I am half-Rwandan and half-Congolese so I do have a special place in my heart for afrobeats… I work 24/7 shifts which means that my sleep can be compromised at times; I make sure that I rest as much as I can and get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.