Boston’s new Office of Black Male Advancement announced Wednesday its first pilot program, an 8-week course aimed at cultivating Black male civic leaders across the city.

Called the Black Men Lead Boston initiative, it will take two dozen pre-selected men, ages 18 to 35, through weekly sessions developed by The Davis System, a local Black-owned political organizing outfit.

Mayor Michelle Wu, who established the Office of Black Male Advancement earlier this year, said in a press release the program will deepen the city’s efforts to empower Black men in Boston.

“We’re thrilled to launch the first cohort of this program as another critical step to truly connect with and serve Black men and boys across all of our neighborhoods,” Wu said.

Wu campaigned on a promise to increase racial equity within the city.

News of the program was met with mixed reaction among some of the city’s established Black male civic leaders. While some praised the effort, others questioned its potential for effectiveness.

“This idea that you can teach somebody to be civically engaged is ridiculous,” said Louis Elisa, a long-time community activist and member of the city’s Black Men and Boys Commission. “Civic engagement starts when you tell your kid to pick up the paper in front of the house.”

Conan Harris, husband to U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley and former director of the Black male achievement initiative My Brother’s Keeper Boston, pushed back on that idea.

“If you didn’t have parents that were civically engaged, it would be very difficult for one to learn about what they need to be doing around voting, organizing, engagement... ,” he told GBH News.

Frank Farrow, Director of the Office of Black Male Advancement also rejected the idea that adulthood is too late to learn by citing his own path to activism, which he said began after he cast his first election ballot in 2008.

“The first time I ever voted was for Obama,” said the former Roxbury organizer. “My start [in civic engagement] was around community violence, advocating for equitable resources and ensuring that our community had a voice.”

Farrow and others expressed hope that the program’s first graduates will trigger a longer-term impact, starting with representation.

“We're going to bring in different Black males in leadership positions within the City of Boston to show them… that there are Black men like them that come from our community that are in leadership roles,” Farrow said. “If they choose to not only advocate from the outside, there are opportunities and spaces for them, just like myself, to come inside [government] and continue to work to make a change.”

Harris also emphasized representation as key to the effort.

"It’s not that we don’t know how to vote, or we don’t know how to engage, it’s that we don’t believe in the systems that cause us to vote or to get engaged.” Harris said. "It's a sense that’s only reversed with candidates that are serious about equity, inclusion and better outcomes for all," he added.

Ron Bell, founder of the 30-year-old voter turnout organization Dunk the Vote, said beyond representation in politics, mentorship is key to engagement Black men.

“It does make a big difference,” said the Mission Hill native. “It gives you a sense of hope, it gives you a sense of pride, it gives you a sense of community seeing somebody that comes from where you come from rise into a position a power,” he continued. “I’m still disappointed we haven’t had a Black mayor yet.”

Elisa, who has held various roles within state and federal government, agreed with the importance of representation and gave a nod to Wu for appointing Black men to various positions within her administration.

“You want black males to be represented, then you have to have people with mentors and models that they can choose from,” Elisa said.

He also acknowledged seeing patterns of Black men confined to non-leadership roles in campaigns and executive cabinets, something that Black Men Lead Boston organizer Anthony Davis Jr. said requires attention.

“I’ve seen and studied grassroots movements that have been successful. However, I have also seen how information to make these movements successful is withheld from certain communities,” Davis said.

“Through the Black Men Lead Boston program, we aspire to equip Black men with knowledge, skills, and connections that there have been systemic barriers to accessing,” said Davis, who also worked on Wu’s mayoral campaign.

The first cohort of the Black Men Lead Boston program has already begun its 8-week course. According to the press release, an additional course for the Spring will be announced in the coming months.