The Masks We All Wear

Can we share our authentic selves while negotiating the often rigid pressure of cultural roles? There is surprising power in unveiling what we often hide, deny, repress or ignore. What if we showed the world what’s behind our masks?

Ashanti Branch

Founder and Executive Director, The Ever Forward Club

The Ever Forward Club and Ashanti were featured last year in the documentary, “The Mask You Live In,” which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Ashanti Branch works to change how young men of color interact with their education and how their schools interact with them. Raised in Oakland by a single mother on welfare, Ashanti left the inner city to study civil engineering at Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo. A construction project manager in his first career, his life changed after he tutored struggling students and realized his passion for teaching. During Ashanti’s first year teaching high school math, in 2004, he started The Ever Forward Club to provide support for African American and Latino males who were not achieving to their potential. Since then, Ever Forward has helped all of its more than 150 members graduate from high school, and 93% of them have gone on to attend two- or four-year colleges, military or trade school.

Ashanti has been accepted as an Education Fellow at the at Stanford University fellowship. During his fellowship Ashanti will be working full-time on Ever Forward for the first time, in an effort to grow the organization to serve thousands of Bay Area students.

“When my students aren’t learning, it’s not usually because they can’t: it’s because they have deep-seated barriers that are holding them back. We can’t change their past, but we can teach them to hold safe space, add to their emotional toolbox and to help each other.”