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History In the Making: Michelle Wu

On November 2, Michelle Wu became the first female POC mayor of Boston after Annissa Essaibi George officially conceded. Both Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George made history, as this was the first time in Boston that the two final candidates were women of color. Essabi George is the first-generation American daughter of Polish and Tunisian immigrants. Born and raised in Boston, Essaibi George is a graduate of Boston Tech, Boston University, and UMass Boston, and a former Boston Public School teacher. She was elected as an At-Large Boston City Councilor in November, 2015, where she served as the Chair of the Committee on Education. 

Some major policies that Essaibi George championed during her campaign centered around public education and equity. As an educator at East Boston High School for 13 years, Essaibi George prioritizes establishing school-wide safety precautions and  individualized special-learning programs for students with disabilities. Aside from being a proud Boston resident and educator, Essaibi George also advocated for policies regarding climate change and racial justice. 

While Essaibi George continued to emphasize her family roots and her more “old school” traditions throughout her campaign, Wu ran a progressive one. Wu continued to advocate for the Green New Deal, free transit systems, and rent control. Meanwhile, Essaibi George opposed the rent ideas and wanted to preserve many current aspects of Boston. Still, Essaibi George graciously celebrated Wu’s victory, commenting: “I want to offer a great big congratulations to Michelle Wu. She is the first woman, the first person of color and as an Asian American, the first to be elected mayor of Boston. I want her to show the city how mothers get it done.”

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Michelle Wu has quite an impressive background and set of qualifications for the mayoral position. A graduate of both Harvard University’s college and law school, Wu’s political career began when she became a city counselor in 2014. 

The more progressive of the two finalists for the mayoral race, Wu has embraced a set of bold plans designed to improve Boston’s public housing situation, close the city’s racial gap, and address environmental concerns among other issues. With these broad goals, Wu has created a plan entitled “Boston’s Green New Deal,” (GND), an initiative to make Boston carbon neutral by 2040, build affordable houses, and even make most forms of public transportation discounted or free. Zoe Vittori-Koch ‘24 did organizing work for Michelle Wu as a facilitator of Youth4Wu, a Twitter account that was initiated by Winsor alum Lilian Gibson ‘21. Vittori-Koch commented, “​​Wu’s Boston GND attracted support from young people not only because of the relevancy of climate change to our generation but also because of the level of detailed research and intersectional focus that made the plan stand out.” 

Throughout her campaign, Wu valued the support and ideas of young people. Vittori-Koch shared, “One of Youth4Wu’s most popular events was when Wu came into our zooms with teenagers for an hour and answered our questions on policy and what she would bring to the city as mayor. Even just the fact that Wu always remembered the names of the Youth volunteers and made sure to say hi revealed how she viewed young people as a valuable part of her campaign.”

Wu will officially become Boston’s first elected female and Asian-American to lead the city of Boston as mayor. Reflecting on the historic win, Hannah Mu ’24, a youth volunteer on Michelle Wu’s campaign, said, “I was initially drawn to volunteering for Michelle because she is the first Asian, specifically Chinese, woman that I’ve seen in Boston politics running for a position as high as mayor. Being Chinese myself, I feel hope that her being mayor will not only better represent the Asian American population in Boston, but also encourage more involvement from Asian kids and adults in local politics, especially given that political involvement is statistically low for Asians in America.” 

However, with this win comes a set of potential questions. Vittori-Koch commented, “Nobody can be 100% certain that our new mayor will follow through on everything that she promised during her campaign, but I do know that the policy Wu brings will have come from actually listening to all different people in the community.” Mu also said of the potential questions, “I feel concerned about how her being elected will be taken with the current political climate, given COVID-19 and the consequent rise in hate crimes against AAPI people. Will it positively shift the perception of Asians in America, or will it do kind of the opposite, and subject Michelle as a center for racist people to push their agendas? I also question how she will execute some of her goals, such as her campaign to ‘Free the T’ and how she would fund that plan.”

Regardless of these potential concerns, Wu’s historical win remains one to celebrate. Vittori-Koch commented, “I’m looking forward to seeing what Michelle brings to the city, and I hope that she will serve as a model for elected officials when it comes to recognizing the importance of young people in campaign/organizing spaces!”

Reiterating the inclusiveness and progressiveness that have represented key facets of her campaign, Wu began her victory speech Tuesday night by remarking, “We are ready to become a Boston for everyone. We’re ready to be a Boston that doesn’t push people out, but welcomes all who call our city home. We’re ready to be a Boston where all can afford to stay and to thrive. And, yes, Boston is ready to become a Green New Deal city.”

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