Image from Joanne S. Lawton. Andy Shallal, founder of Poets and Busboys.

You might not have heard of Andy Shallal, but odds are you’ve heard of his work. Andy Shallal is an Iraqi-American artist who has profoundly influenced the DC area in many ways. One of the most prominent ways he has affected our community is through founding the amazing establishment Poets and Busboys. A DC staple, this innovative chain of institutions boasts a combination of books, music, live speakers, drinks, food, and more! 

The entertainment hub, Poets and Busboys, is deeply rooted in Shallal’s own Iraqi artistry, culture, activism, and heritage. Shallal himself is well known for his vehement opposition of the Iraq War. Thus, Poets and Busboys devotes itself to serving as a gathering place for racial and cultural activists.

Although Shallal is best known for his founding role in Busboys and Poets, there is so much more to him. Shallal is a philanthropist, artist, and activist with a history of advocating for Arab rights in US foreign policy. He is also an aspiring politician — in fact, Shallal was once a candidate for the DC Mayoral office!

Shallal’s work in DC, both in the arts and in politics, has not gone unnoticed. In fact, he recently won the 2019 Mayor’s Arts Award for Distinguished Honorfrom DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. Shallal’s legacy, as an Iraqi artist and immigrant who moved on to become a prominent activist in DC, is admirable, and we would do well to learn from him.

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