Boston Mayoral Race: Get to Know Annissa Essaibi George

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From her Boston campaign headquarters at the corner of Dorchester Avenue and Taft Street, Annissa Essaibi George feels right at home — literally.

It's where she grew up. Her mother still lives on the third floor. It's where her grandfather opened his TV and radio repair shop shortly after emigrating from Poland with his wife, who had been taken from her home in Poland to work in a labor camp during World War II.

"My grandfather was in the Polish army and became a prisoner of war," Essaibi George said. "They met in a displaced persons camp in Germany, post-World War II. That's where my mother was born."

But Essaibi George's Polish roots are only half of her immigrant story. Her father is from Tunisia, an Arab country in Northern Africa.

"People look at me and they don't know what they're looking at. Am I Polish? Am I Arab?" she said. "I worked in East Boston, so I often get 'You must be Italian or Latina,' like, 'What are you?"

Essaibi George said grappling with her family's cultural and religious differences — her mother is Catholic, her father was a Muslim — has "always been an issue."

With most of her father's relatives still living in Tunisia, Essaibi George has always looked at the world through a unique lens.

She was asked if the Trump administration's 2017 ban on immigration from several Muslim-majority countries impacted her differently than most people.

Annissa Essaibi George currently serves as an at-large member of the Boston City Council. The former Boston Public School teacher joined Kwani A. Lunis to share why she’s running for mayor.

"It most certainly did," she said. "It's just heartbreaking to think that that's how the world is, a whole community of people who — that's half my family. That's half my story, that's my father, my aunts and uncles."

Essaibi George and her husband have four sons, including a set of triplets. She won her first seat on the Boston City Council in 2015 after a 13-year career teaching in East Boston.

She says she found her political voice while at Boston Technical High School, in student government.

"And I remember expressing to my father, 'You know, someday, I'm going to run, run for office," she recalled. "My father said to me, very plainly, 'An Arab girl with an Arab name will win nothing in the city.'"

Ezzedine Essaibi did not live to see his daughter win her first City Council election. But Essaibi George is confident he's smiling down as she runs for mayor of Boston.

Preliminary day, Sept. 14, is his birthday.

"That's spectacular, to me," she said.

Sue O’Connell sits down with Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George to discuss her mayoral campaign.
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