Mayor Keith James is the fourth African-American mayor of West Palm Beach in 125 years. The city is diverse, but its inequities are stark. While the overall poverty rate is 17%, around 40% of Black residents and 25% of Latinx residents experience poverty. The median hourly pay of a white woman in West Palm beach is more than double that of Black and Latina women.
“Many of the people who fall below that poverty line look like me,” James says.
James was determined to make West Palm Beach a “community of opportunity for all.” He became an E Pluribus Unum Fellow and used some of the Fellowship’s frameworks to launch a “Mayor’s Task Force on Racial Equity” and hold a Racial and Ethnic Equality Action summit. Hundreds of community members shared their ideas. One of their recommendations was to increase financial literacy across their community.
James decided he’d not only address financial literacy, but build a “new entrepreneurial class for West Palm Beach.” He decided to create the Mayor’s Jumpstart Academy, a program through which residents could both improve their credit and launch or grow a small business.