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Wu launches Black Male initiative

Office part of effort to increase equity in city

Anna Lamb
Wu launches Black Male initiative
Frank Farrow is executive director of the Office of Black Male Advancement. PHOTO: ANNA LAMB

In the lobby of the Bruce C. Bolling municipal building last Thursday morning Mayor Michelle Wu announced the appointment of Frank Farrow, a former campaign staffer, to the position of executive director of the Office for Black Male Advancement.

Both Farrow and the office are new to City Hall — Wu has established the historic post as part of her goal to increase racial equity in Boston. The Office of Black Male Advancement (OBMA) will join the already established Equity and Inclusion Cabinet.

According to a press release, “the Mayor’s Office for Black Male Advancement will work to improve outcomes and reduce systemic barriers to advancement for Black men and boys living in the City of Boston.”

Wu’s office says OBMA will have a hand in creating new policy and programs, distributing resources and creating local and national partnerships.

Wu said its specific goals will be determined by the Black men of Boston — the new office will oversee the Black Men and Boys Commission signed into law under Mayor Kim Janey. The commission, which has remained unstaffed and in a sort of limbo during the change of mayors, will now be open for applications.

“It really will be following the lead and listening to the Black men whose vision this office is fulfilling,” Wu said Thursday. “And I will refer to our director and our commissioners on what those goals are and how to best empower that.”

Farrow shared on Thursday how he plans to incorporate his past and experiences in shaping the new office.

“As a Boston native, I understand the persistent social and economic inequities facing Black people,” he said.

Farrow spoke to his upbringing at the Academy Homes public housing development in Roxbury, and how as a youth he tried to utilize “every resource and opportunity to see what Boston had to offer.” He spoke about summer camps and basketball leagues he used to fill up his time.

“When I grew older, those same resources started to dwindle and those opportunities became out of reach,” he said. “The time is now to improve the outcomes and reduce systemic barriers to the advancement of Black men and boys living in the city of Boston. We must empower Black men and boys and ensure they have equitable access to opportunities.”

Professionally, Farrow made a name for himself when in 2012 he founded the Elevate Boston Foundation “which focuses on improving economic, education, criminal justice and health outcomes of youth and families living in communities of color throughout Boston.” He has also served as the family organizing director at School Facts Boston, an education advocacy group.

Most recently Farrow served on Mayor Wu’s campaign as the Roxbury organizing director.

The Black Men and Boys Commission, established through an ordinance sponsored by City Councilor At-Large Julia Mejia, calls for a 21-member body to study and advise on matters related to issues like violence, mental wellness, sexual health and employment.

The commission will be made up of seven appointees by the mayor, seven from the city council and seven drawn from an open application process. Applications will be live until February 28 and available on the city’s website.

“It’s time for us as a city to think intentionally about the policies and programs that impact Black men and boys on a daily basis,” Mejia said in a statement. “We are hopeful that the application process for commissioners will bring in a number of applicants with a variety of world views and lived experiences, united by an urgency to uplift the voices of Black men and boys.”

A similar commission was first proposed in 2014 by former District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson, which received support from the City Council but was ultimately shot down by former Mayor Walsh who cited overlap in his office’s ongoing work. 

Specifically, the former mayor’s office participated in President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative which put together an advisory board to come up with solutions to some of the overarching inequities faced by Black male Bostonians.

Jackson told those gathered Thursday that prior efforts have fallen apart due to the lack of a committed budget.

“Doing this work shouldn’t cost [commission members] out of their personal pocket,” he said.

As for the newest office Farrow said discussions are still being made about the finer details.

“As far as the budget, we’re in conversations now of what the budget’s going to look like, what the office is going to need to make sure we’re fully funded and fully resourced and make sure that we’re doing the work necessary to advance the lives of black men and boys in the city of Boston.”

Mayor Wu, in a statement, expressed her gratitude for all those involved in creating the new office and accompanying commission.

“I’m excited for Frank’s leadership in ensuring that our city’s policies and programs are truly connected with and supporting Black men and boys across each of our neighborhoods,” Wu said. “I am grateful to Councilor Mejia, former Councilor Tito Jackson, and so many community advocates for their work to establish the Black Men & Boys commission. As we work to make Boston a city for everyone, I encourage passionate, dedicated individuals to apply to serve on this critical commission.”

Black men, Office of Black Male Advancement