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 Mayor Murray that aims to address the disproportionate impact of institutional racism on Black people, and particularly young Black men. Ensuring that all Seattle residents have access to opportunity requires focused approaches to dismantling racial disparities, removing barriers and transforming systems that have hurt our most marginalized communities. By investing in a staff position and structure around Our Best, Mayor Murray seeks to ensure the mission becomes embedded in our City’s DNA and becomes a lasting model.
Mayor Murray launched the Youth Opportunity Initiative to ensure that every young person in Seattle has access to opportunities and resources that allow them to transition successfully to adulthood.
Rooted in the key pillars of the Youth Opportunity Initiative, Our Best is an explicit commitment to programmatic and systems changes the ensure young Black men have access to opportunity. Specific goals include:
- Close opportunity gaps in Seattle Public Schools by increasing the percentage of black male high school graduates and post-secondary attainment.
- Advance economic mobility by increasing the number of Black males gaining access to and engaging in meaningful employment opportunities.
- Increase the percentage of young Black men experiencing good health.
- Reduce the percentage young Black men entering the criminal justice system.
- Close mentoring gaps for young Black men and boys by recruiting more Black men to service as mentors for young Black men.
Mayor Murray commits $300,000 to launch Our Best initiative
In mid May 2017, Mayor Ed Murray signed legislation to authorize $300,000 to support the launch of the Our Best initiative, saying:
“Mentoring has been shown to improve emotional well-being, high-school graduation rates, college enrollment, and other positive long-term outcomes. In Seattle, there are not enough Black men mentors, leaving many mentor programs ill-equipped to support young Black men in culturally responsive ways. And, there is significant interest among local organizations to recruit more. Our goal with this new commitment of the Our Best program is to double the number of black men mentors. Our Best is all of ours. And the fight for young Black men is a fight for Seattle, and our region.”
The mentorship pilot program will run for one year starting in July 2017. Additionally, the Our Best initiative involves the creation of an advisory Mayor’s Council on Black Male Achievement to include members of local academic, governmental, business, and faith communities.
Through the Youth Opportunity Initiative, the City has already invested in several strategies aimed at supporting young black men to be their best for themselves, their families and their community, including Career Bridge, the Zero Detention Program, My Brother’s Keeper and more.
With the launch of Our Best, the City is also committing to:
- A robust new mentoring recruiting and training campaign for black men. In Seattle, there are not enough black men mentors, leaving many mentor programs ill-equipped to support young black men in culturally responsive ways. Our goal with this new commitment of the Our Best program is to double the number of black men mentors.
- Convening the Our Best Advisory Council to advise the Mayor and City leaders on a long-term strategy to support young black male achievement.
- Creating 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.
Our Best is all of ours. And the fight for young black men is a fight for Seattle, and our region.
Aligned with the Race & Social Justice Initiative (RSJI), Our Best builds on the administration’s existing investments in and record of addressing life outcomes for young Black men and represents the culmination of a series of actions by Mayor Murray, including:
- Establishing a Youth Opportunity Cabinet which includes Dwayne Chapelle (Department of Education and Early Learning), Catherine Lester (Human Services Department) and Brian Surratt (Office of Economic Development) in 2016 to ensure coordination and alignment across the numerous City departments to maximize impact of City investments.
- Mayor Murray signing onto Cities United (2013), a collective of mayors across America who united to end violence in their cities.
- Mayor Murray signing onto President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (2014), a national call to action for cities to address opportunity gaps faced by boys and men of color.
- The Mayor’s Youth Opportunity Summit (2015), an all-day convening with youth and young adults that specifically focused improving outcomes for young men of color.
- A series of community listening sessions with young Black men led by the Mayor’s Bloomberg-funded Innovation Team (I-Team).