We were assigned to the task of examining the unique economic and social barriers that young Black men face in Seattle. We worked with the community and key stakeholders to understand these issues and asked questions like “as a community member, what’s important to hear from city government?”. We heard the following:
- “You’re not the ‘other thing’, a problem to be fixed.”
- “You’re fathers, sons, brothers.”
- “We see you. We value you. We need you.”
As we dug deeper we discovered a shared belief that informed much of what we were hearing. Simply put, “the health of Black men is essential to the health of society” and “at our best, Seattle benefits”. “Our best” told the story of the value we place on young men of color, as well as the City’s efforts.
The Our Best initiative was one of several initiatives that the i-team shaped and implemented in collaboration with City partners. Our Best is the City of Seattle’s first ever initiative focusing specifically on improving life outcomes for young Black men. The initiative represents a focused investment by the Mayor that focuses on improving life outcomes for young Black men aged 14-24, working across all City departments and with community partners in the areas of education, employment, health, safety and positive relationships. The Our Best initiative aims to accomplish the following:
- A robust new mentoring campaign aimed at doubling the number of black men serving as mentors and spreading mentoring best practices that speak to life experiences of young black men and boys (African-centered wellness circles and group mentoring).
- Convening of the Our Best Advisory Council to advise the Mayor and City leaders on a long-term strategy to support young black male achievement.
- Creation of a new Special Advisor to the Mayor focused on black male achievement to work full time across departments, with the Advisory Council and with the many community leaders who have already been working in this area.
In addition, through the Mayor’s Youth Opportunity Initiative, Our Best builds off the suite of systems-change and programmatic investments the City has already made to support young black men and boys to be their best for themselves, their families and their community—to name some:
- Career Bridge;
- Zero Detention Program; and
- My Brother’s Keeper mentoring program (SPS).