Councilor Annissa Essaibi George – Boston, Massachusetts

“If I think about the city of Boston, my hope for the future is that everyone that wants to live in the city and be a part of the city’s success and growth and what’s so exciting to consider yourself a Bostonian, can do it. We have such gaps between – certainly income gaps, incredibly disparities among our races, we’ve got such pockets of poverty across the city, and when we look at the downtown and continue to ask ourselves ‘how do we help those who are experiencing such deep poverty to be a part of the city’s success?’”

“My other hope, which is a little bit more selfish, is that Boston can remain a place for families to call home and stay. Because we are, as that income gap widens, it’s becoming a city that sometimes doesn’t feel – the whole city doesn’t feel – welcoming for families. Meaning we’re not building family housing, we’re not creating more opportunities for kids to be here. We need to make sure our schools are good. We need to make sure that families can afford to stay in the city, because it is so expensive.”

“I think, as a local elected official, as a parent, it’s our job to protect, certainly our residents – it’s our duty – from things that are happening on a national scale that very directly impact them. But then it’s also our job to provide comfort and stability and positive messaging when it comes to how we deal with our residents that are afraid. It’s so important, I think, for us as elected officials on that local level, on that ground level, to do that – it’s a big part of our job. It’s part of why when we talk about ‘local elected’s that it’s so important to be present, to show up for your constituencies, because there is stability in that, some comfort in that. It’s almost as important as what we do, our actions – our presence in almost as important.”

“So the Boston City Council is 13 members. Nine are ‘districts,’ we represent different sections of the city. And then four of us are ‘at-large’ or ‘city wides,’ we represent the whole city. For election purposes, each district votes for their district councilor. For at-large, it’s the four highest vote-getters, regardless of where the votes come from, they can come from all across the city.”

“I’m first generation American. My dad is Tunisian and came from North Africa in his early-20s, came to the United States. My mother is Polish, she came as a child. She was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany after World War II. My grandfather was a Polish POW and my grandmother worked in a forced labor camp as a teenager. Post-World War II, they met, my grandparents, in a camp – not a refugee camp, but similar to what we talk about now as a refugee camp: a displaced persons camp…and that’s where my mom was born actually, in that camp in Germany. They came to the United States through the DP program when she was a toddler.”

“[I’m] Born and raised in Boston, basically in the house my mother grew up in. Eventually my grandparents found their way to Dorchester, I think my mother was probably eight or nine when they moved into the house I eventually grew up in myself. And now I live five blocks away from that house, my mom’s still there, my dad is passed on.”

“It’s certainly an interesting time to be involved in politics, both as a woman, as an Arab, as a first-generation American, it’s just the world has changed so much. And as crazy as it is, I remember as a kid being so interested in politics and my dad, in particular, because I have an Arabic first and last name, my dad just thought it was wild that I’d even think about running for office or being involved in politics in Boston. Because it was, and in some cases still is, dominated by white Irish Catholic guys. So, to come from a very different spot was very interesting for me, it’s been an interesting perspective

“My dad just thought I should set different goals for myself. I always joke when people say ‘why did you end up running for office?’ and I think I certainly felt I had something to contribute to local government, municipal government, but really when I get down to it, it’s because my dad told me I couldn’t. And I wanted to prove him wrong.”

“It’s certainly a fascinating time in Boston politics, both working with my male, white, Irish, Catholic colleagues, as well as…as we get into the new term, we’ll have six women on the council, which we’ve never had before. We have four right now, this current term, and we have previously had four, but never three of the four at-large candidates have been women – nevermind women of color, and all three of us are; the four that sit on the council now are, and the six will be.”

“It tells me a few things. One, and I actually hesitate a little bit to spend too much time celebrating about all the women on the council – it’s certainly an exciting time and it’s great. But we all worked really hard to win our seats and it took not just a lot of effort and a lot of money to run for office and to win our seats, but it took almost extra work to prove that you could. And I think being a woman is still an unusual gender when we talk about politics – for me, in my case, running for office and being the mother of four kids was challenging at times. There were always the questions about child care, and I don’t think you ever ask my male counterparts about child care issues when it comes to their children.”

“So we all had to work really hard to get to this position but, regardless of our gender, we have to work really hard to keep our seats, to keep our jobs – and that will be demonstrated not through our gender but through our work. The voters decide whether you’re good enough or not to keep representing them. So we can celebrate this moment, we should celebrate this moment, but we have to make sure that we get the work done because…it’s important for us to continue to lay the foundation for future women who want to run for office.”

“I also think, what’s interesting to me, is I have four boys. And we talk about being role models for younger women and young girls, and that’s incredibly important, that’s a role that we take, that’s a role I accept. But I think it’s also important to note the role that we play as role models for our sons and our young men and our young boys: The demonstration of ‘this should be nothing unusual to you.” When the council was nearly all men – we had one point when Ayanna [Pressley] was here by herself, twelve men and one woman, and it should not be unusual should the day come that there are twelve women and one man in the council chamber. When I think about our young boys, in particular my own children, I want my work to also be motivation for my children. So when I ask my boys what they’re interested in for their own career tracks later on in life…one of my boys has said that he’s interested in politics…and my husband’s not involved in politics beyond supporting me, so for me that’s exciting that I, as a woman, can be a role model for a man.”

“I was probably 12-years-old and I said something about going into politics. It was either Thanksgiving or Christmas, some sort of family dinner – my dad was a Muslim who celebrated Christmas with my Polish, Catholic grandparents. I said something about going into politics or running for office – young, I was very young – and he said to me ‘you’d make a great Vice President.’ And I remember thinking to myself ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ I was that mad. Why wouldn’t you just say to your daughter ‘President’? Like the fact that he said ‘Vice President,’ to me, just – and I remember it, obviously, you know, 30 years later. I thought to myself ‘why wouldn’t he just say ‘President’?’ And for his experience in life, growing up in an Arab country…and the role that women played in his family, and the role that women played in his growing up, in government, in business, in public life as opposed to just being at home raising children – for him, that was as if he had said ‘President of the World,’ never mind ‘Vice President of the United States.’ But to me as an American child, I was like ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ that that’s the ceiling you’ve set for your daughter.”

“Losing my first race but coming so close. So, at-large, the top four win – I placed fifth. And I was just so close to winning and thought – I had been predicted at one point, some polling had placed me overall, there were 19 candidates, had placed me overall at 12th – and to finish fifth just to me was such a huge accomplishment. Especially, I was a high school teacher at the time, and in Boston, teachers don’t go into politics, they stay in their classroom. So to me, that was really important that my work to date had resonated with enough voters that I had almost won. So I ran again in two years and beat an incumbent, an 18-year incumbent. And that victory just fulfilled all the work.”

“I chose to run – a little bit different than when women typically get into politics or decide to run for office. There’s a statistic that says that most women are asked seven times before they commit to running, whereas a man just runs. And nobody asked me to run, I decided to run on my own. It was something I’d always been interested in and had gotten away from. I started my family, I was teaching, and in 2013 the mayor had left, was retiring, so there was this big mayor’s race and there was a council race because some of the at-large councilors were running for mayor. And I was like “Why can’t I be a city councilor? Why wouldn’t my experience, because it’s so different than a typical politician’s, why wouldn’t my experience qualify me for that race?’ So I decided to run, of course with the support of my husband, and my family, and my friends, but at some point over the course of my first race (the one I lost), and I don’t know at what point it happened, but all of a sudden it wasn’t ‘I’ was running, it was a ‘We.’ You hear politicians sometimes talk about ‘we’ because it truly is a group effort. You can’t do it alone, you can’t succeed at it alone. You need to have a really good group of ‘we.’ All of a sudden I was running and wanting to win so I could do this work for so many other people than just myself.”

“Of course, nothing beats victory night. Nothing beats where we’re tallying the votes and with people calling in and it’s chaos. It was only a handful of people – a half dozen people – but it was chaos. And we’re trying to tally it, and we’ve got like results from one precinct and there’s 110 or something in the city, some results are really good, some results aren’t great, and we’re like ‘Do we have it? Don’t we have it?’ And my sister had covered a polling location, it was Roxbury – white, Irish Catholic – and there’s four voting precincts, and my sister had covered it. And She called with the results and I had placed first in three out of the four, and she said ‘You won.’ And I said ‘what do you mean I won? Like I placed fourth?’ Because there was only five of us the second time I ran, I was the only challenger. And she was ‘No, no, no. You won.’ I said ‘I don’t understand what that means, because if you’re in the top-4 you win.’ She says ‘You placed first.’ And the tears – for me it was such a big deal.”

“It’s one thing, being different, winning in a traditional community of color or in my own neighborhood where people know me. But to win in this different place in the city with people that I wouldn’t typically assume would rally around my candidacy, was really powerful for me, and then the tears came. And we had no idea though whether I had won overall and then the mayor called me, and my phone was open on the table and it starts ringing and I look and it says ‘Marty Walsh.’ Because I knew he was calling to tell me either I had won or I had lost, but we were feeling pretty good about it, and so that was a pretty incredible call.”

Limited edition print available (alpha edition):
Giclée (Archival Inkjet) print w/ quotes, in window cutout, typed on artist’s 1955 Olympia SM3 Typewriter.
1” Matte Black Frame, 2” Ivory Mat, Archival Hinge Mount, UV Glass.
12.25″ x 8.75″ (Framed: 18.25″ x 14.75″)
$999

Annissa - Limited Edition Print, Alpha Series
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