Boston Mayor Michelle Wu followed through on her campaign promise to drive fairness in the city on Thursday, appointing Frank Farrow, her Roxbury campaign coordinator who has a background in community engagement, to lead a new office for the advancement of black men.
Farrow will simultaneously lead the city’s new Commission on Black Men and Boys, a separate initiative created last year by Acting Mayor Kim Janey who does not yet have his 21-member volunteer corps. Both initiatives will be housed within the Cabinet Équité et Inclusion.
On Wednesday, the city council began debating whether Farrow, as a paid city employee in the newly created office, could serve on the volunteer commission.
The Office of Black Men’s Advancement, according to the city, was created to “ensure that black men and boys are supported to thrive and share” in Boston’s prosperity.
“We are taking an important step forward in Boston in advancing racial equity,” Wu said, announcing Farrow’s appointment from the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Roxbury, the historic heart of Black Boston.
Farrow said: “As a native of Boston, I understand the persistent social and economic inequalities that black people face. As a black man raising two black boys in this city, I want my sons Christian and Kingston to have every the opportunities and all the resources available to them. , so the narrative is no longer about black men and boys who need to be resilient or strive to be better, but about them thriving and realizing their full potential, and included in Boston prosperity conversations.
Prior to Farrow’s nomination and his stint in the Wu campaign, Farrow founded Elevate Boston, a nonprofit dedicated to children and families. He also led the Foodcare Boston initiative, which distributed food, toiletries and personal protective equipment to local families throughout the pandemic.
Applications to serve on Farrow’s commission are now open and will remain open until the end of the month. Once the mayor appoints members to fully establish the commission, the panel will get to work holding meetings and launching a community inquiry to refine its agenda and focus on the issues, Farrow told GBH News.
The creation of the Office for the Advancement of Black Men and nominations to fill the Commission on Black Men and Boys comes 79 days into Wu’s term.
The idea for such an office percolated through the Boston bureaucracy for nearly a decade. In 2014, the city council unanimously passed the ordinance creating the commission, but the effort was vetoed by then-mayor Marty Walsh. The commission’s order passed again and Janey signed it last year.
Speaking at the Bolling Center event, former mayoral candidate Tito Jackson pointed out that the city has at least two other constituency-specific offices: the Office for the Advancement of Women and the Office of promotion of immigrants.
Jackson and other speakers have repeatedly highlighted the multiple challenges facing black people living in Boston: they are disproportionate victims of homicide; they enjoy a disproportionately small share of the city’s commercial contracts and they hold a disproportionately small share of the wealth.
Asked how non-black residents should see the new office and commission, which bears an explicit racial distinction, Wu said, “It’s the future and the success, and the prosperity of Boston tied to every one of we.” As she spoke, the mayor waved at the group of about two dozen black men standing behind her.
“The future of black men and boys in Boston,” Wu said, “is the future of Boston.”