A Look Behind the Masks of Teenage Boys
What if every teenage boy could tell you what he’s thinking, and what he fears when he leaves the house to walk to go to school? Oakland educator and youth advocate Ashanti Branch has spent more than a decade trying to provide young men with a place to do just that. In 2004 he founded the Ever Forward Club, gathering a small group of young men together in his classroom to offer them a safe space to share their concerns about life and establish a brotherhood with other teenagers from all over the San Francisco Bay Area.
Born and raised in Oakland, Branch never knew his father and grew up with only a single mother in charge of their house. At times his family was on welfare and he struggled to learn some of the traditional skills men are supposed to have - how to throw a punch, how to talk to a girl - but he excelled in school and eventually became a civil engineer. But education pulled him back to Oakland and to working with kids who needed his help, mostly boys struggling with their grades, their futures and their identities as men. Branch and his students were featured in the 2015 documentary The Mask You Live In, and he's also been profiled on NPR and given a TEDx talk about his personal life and work.
On this episode of Paternal, Branch discusses his childhood in Oakland, how his father’s death fueled his drive to give back to young men, and how he founded the Ever Forward Club with a group of boys who, as it turned out, just wanted to share what was on their mind.
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