Eight years after it was first proposed, and eight months after it was signed into law, Boston’s Commission on Black Men & Boys on Thursday announced its 21 members, capping the long effort with a celebratory news conference at City Hall.
Selected from over 300 hopefuls, the commission members are students, attorneys, community and neighborhood leaders, former elected officials, and higher education administrators. Seven were appointed by Mayor Michelle Wu, seven were selected from City Council recommendations, and seven were chosen from a pool of applicants.
City leaders celebrated the commission finally coming to fruition, and nodded to the legacy of Malcolm X, whose birthday was May 19.
Former city councilor Tito Jackson, who first proposed the commission in 2014 and will serve on it now, said the city has come a long way, but lamented that the moment had taken so long to arrive.
“As goes Black men — as goes the length of their lives, the outcomes, the education, the health of Black men — will go the city of Boston,” Jackson said. “Why Black men? Because we are the men who built this country, built this city, and we will be the men who are restored back into our neighborhoods, back into our communities, and back into our families, to uplift them.”
Starting June 1, the commission will meet in Nubian Square on the first Wednesday of every month, and it will soon kick off a community listening tour, Wu said. It is charged with engaging with communities through public meetings and ensuring city policies and programs are equitable.
“This commission will first and foremost be community-grounded and community-oriented, to ensure Black men and boys have a voice throughout our government,” Wu said during the news conference. “They’ll collaborate with every city agency and department, as well as with our partners at the state and federal levels. They’ll design and promote programs that supplement the city’s existing work — which we will fund.”
Creating and filling the commission has been a yearslong effort.
In 2014, 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.”
The effort was later revived by City Councilor Julia Mejia, and former acting mayor Kim Janey signed an ordinance last September establishing the city’s first Black Men and Boys Commission. The commission now operates within the city’s Office for Black Male Advancement, a new entity created under Wu. Wu has proposed $1.2 million in funding for the office in the city’s operating budget, which still requires council approval.
Frank Farrow, the director of that office, also announced $75,000 in grant funding for community organizations.
The commission includes:
- Tito Jackson - Former District 7 city councilor and original sponsor of the ordinance
- Louis Elisa - Chair of Garrison-Trotter Neighborhood Association
- Jeff Similien - Founder of Kings Amongst Kings
- Devin Morris - Founder of the Teacher’s Lounge
- James Mackey - Founder of Brother’s Building
- James Hills - Host of Java with Jimmy
- Kurt Faustin - Founder of Dropout Academy
- James Morton - CEO of the YMCA of Greater Boston
- Joseph Feaster Jr. - Of-counsel at McKenzie & Associates, former president of the Boston branch of the NAACP
- Sean Perryman-Futrell - TechBoston Academy student
- Abdullah Beckett- UMass Boston student, chair of MBK-UMass Boston
- Tony Brewer- Community advocate, Black Men’s Committee member
- Piter Brandao - Cofounder of MBK617
- Matt Parker- Executive director, Union of Minority Neighborhoods
- Maddrey Goode - Director, MassHire Boston
- Tony Richards - Vice president of equitable business development, MassHousing
- André Barbour - Director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, NEI and WORC2
- Richard Harris- Associate dean of diversity programs and director of multicultural engineering at Northeastern, chair of Concerned Black Men
- Darien Johnson - Policy lead, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts
- Imari Jeffries - Executive director, King Boston
- Charlie Titus - Former vice chancellor, UMass Boston
Tiana Woodard of the Globe staff contributed to this report.