The cheers, claps, and amens of more than 40 Black men and allies filled Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Roxbury Thursday morning as Mayor Michelle Wu unveiled the Office for Black Male Advancement, a new entity aimed at addressing the challenges Black men and boys face.
“We’re taking an important step forward in Boston towards advancing racial equity,” Wu said.
The new office plans to advise Wu on creating policies to improve educational, economic, and health outcomes for the city’s Black men and boys.
Frank Farrow, executive director of Elevate Boston Foundation, a nonprofit assisting local families facing hardships, will serve as the office’s executive director. He joins Wu’s Equity and Inclusion cabinet.
In 2014, then-City Councilor Tito Jackson introduced legislation calling for the creation of a 21-member panel to advise the mayor on issues affecting Boston’s Black and Latino men and boys. The City Council passed the ordinance unanimously, but then-Mayor Martin J. Walsh vetoed it, saying the commission would “duplicate and complicate efforts that my administration is already engaged in.”
Wu said the city will “pick up the mantle” under Farrow’s leadership.
“Since we’ve introduced this legislation, we’ve continued to see reminders of the disproportionate impact of so many of our policies, and gaps, on Black men and boys,” Wu said. Across the country, she said, they experience “police brutality, health outcomes deepened by COVID, education and economic opportunity gaps.”
Farrow said it’s crucial that resources, programs, and policies exist for Black men “to realize their full potential.” A Roxbury native, he said opportunities through summer jobs and local community centers have dwindled over time.
“As a Black man raising two Black boys in this city, I want my sons to have every opportunity and every resource available to them,” Farrow said to applause. “So the narrative’s no longer needed for Black men and boys to be resilient, or strive to be better.”
Jackson said Boston should lead the nation in improving Black men’s lives. He noted statistics that show the glaring racial divide: the 33-year life expectancy gap between Back Bay and Roxbury residents; and the $8 average net worth for Black families in Boston, compared to $247,500 for their white counterparts.
“Yes, Boston is a great city,” Jackson said. “But the greatest days of Boston are contingent upon what we do for its Black men.”
As speakers acknowledged the many late Black men who’ve led before them, Rufus J. Faulk, director of the city’s Office of Public Safety, said it’s important to recognize those who never had a chance.
“I’m carrying the brothers who never made it before you [here today],” Faulk said. “We can’t progress when we’re just trying to survive.”
Former acting mayor Kim Janey signed an ordinance last September establishing the city’s first Black Men and Boys Commission.
At-large City Councilor Julia Mejia, who revived Jackson’s original idea in legislation she filed last year, said the entity has evolved to address gender identity, sexual orientation, and mental wellness among the group.
“This isn’t just a commission for some Black men and boys,” Mejia said. “It’s a commission for all Black men and boys.”
The new office will house the commission, Wu said. Applications to join the commission close at the end of February, she said.
Farrow said the office will select seven applicants for the 21-member commission. Wu and City Council will also each nominate seven people to serve on the panel, he said.
Tiana Woodard is a Report for America corps member covering Black neighborhoods. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @tianarochon.