“No ten-year-old wants to be ‘other’,” said Andy (Anas) Shallal, describing his first day at school upon moving to the U.S. The enrollment form demanded that he identify himself as “Black, White, or Other,” the Iraqi-born Shallal related. He was confused and soon learned that his classmates were, too. He watched White girls avoid him and heard Black girls giggling and guessing that he was “high yellow,” a term he did not then understand.
Over the years, the newly declared candidate for mayor of DC explained, he learned that race was not solely an issue of checking off a box, nor was it about giggling in hallways: “This race thing is serious business.”
Shallal went on to describe how he chose to open a business near U Street in the hope of creating a place that would help unite people across the many divides experienced in the District of Columbia. Busboys and Poets, named for Langston Hughes, and Eatonsville, named for Zora Neale Hurston, are just a few blocks from Ben’s Chili Bowl, where Shallal made his announcement on Nov. 12.
The city’s eight wards are too often identified by three things, Shallal declared: crime statistics, income, and race. Part of the way forward, he believes, is through the arts: Artists “are the people who take us out of the box we’re in.”
A key theme in Shallal’s campaign is making DC “great for everyone, not just for some.” Economic development cannot be about “counting cranes,” he said. “We’re gonna stand on Cedar Hill [in Historic Anacostia] and look out over the monuments, and we’re gonna see the possibilities.”
See also Shallal’s remarks on schools/education.