“Revealing our Hidden Humanity” with Ashanti Branch

Ashanti Branch

Ashanti Branch

Ashanti Branch is the Founder and Executive Director of The Ever Forward Club - Siempre Adelante and creator of the Taking Off The Mask workshop.

The Ever Forward Club is a mentoring program for young men in grades 6-12. As an organization Ever Forward Serves all genders through their Taking Off The Mask Workshops and the #100kMasks Challenge. The Ever Forward Club has helped 100% of its members graduate high school and 93% of them have gone on to attend college, military or trade school.

In this conversation, we talk about the importance of working with young men to help them navigate the complex and confusing messages from adults in their life telling them to be a "good man" at times and "to be a real man" at others. We discuss the challenges that young people face when they face the pressure needing to be “cool.” And we reflect on how as adults we also have a similar version of this concept that prevents us from showing up with our authentic self in relationships, in the workplace, and in life.

Ashanti talks about the transformative potential of creating safe spaces for people to be vulnerable and the power of trusting they will do their best. We talk about, and experience, the truth that we are not alone in our vulnerability. That in fact, it is an essential part of being a human in relationships.

Ashanti is famous for creating a workshop called “The Taking Off the Mask.” It asks participants to create a mask and write down on the front what they show the world, and, on the back, what they hide from the world. The workshop has helped ten of thousands of youth and adults to engage in honest conversations and vulnerable experiences that give them a deeper understanding of themselves and just how much we have in common.

The Ever Forward Club has launched a campaign called 100 Thousand Masks (#100kMasks) which makes the workshop available for educators and facilitators to use all over the world.  You can get your masks and find out more information at 100kmasks.com.

Ashanti Branch & Ever Forward Club Resources

The Ever Forward Club believes that all young men have the desire to be fully alive – to be loved, respected, held in high regard, held to high expectations, held accountable for their actions and supported to help achieve their goals. The Club uses a 4-fold approach to developing dynamic club communities: Academic Development, Community Development, Family Development, and Personal Development.

100K Masks Challenge: the goal is to engage people from all over the world in self-reflection by Taking OFF Your Mask. This challenge helps young people, adults, and the community to gain a deeper understanding of how much people have in common.

100 Thousand Masks Project #100KMasks

100 Thousand Masks Project #100KMasks

Ashanti’s “Taking Off the Mask” work was featured in a documentary by the Representation Project called “The Mask You Live In” that premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

Ashanti spoke at Wisdom 2.0 in 2017 about Understanding Our Youth. It was recorded and you can watch the video here. Ashanti also spoke at a TEDx Marin event on “The Masks We All Wear”

Other Resources

In this episode, we discuss my new business venture with past guest Alla Weinberg: Spoke and Wheel. Check out the episode with Alla here: "Transforming Workplace Cultures" with Alla Weinberg

We talk about the Soul Shoppe’s goal of supporting schools and students by creating learning environments that eliminate the roots of bullying.


"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."


Frederick Douglass

Showing up at school, and showing up at work have a lot of parallels. “Bringing Your Whole Self to Work: What Does That Mean” by Thad Peterson.

We also discuss this article: “Many Ways to Be a Girl, but One Way to Be a Boy: The New Gender” by Claire Cain Miller (New York Times)

Michael Kimmel is a sociologist and expert on masculinity. He points out that society has two contradictory messages about what it means to be a good man and what it means to be a "real" man.


“100 Thousand Masks” - The Song

This song is the campaign song for the #100kMasks Challenge and was recorded by 4RCE Records at the High School of the Recording Arts Los Angeles. This song was created by High School Students in LA after they experienced a “Behind the Mask” workshop.

This song is the campaign song for the #100kMasks Challenge. The Ever Forward Club is working with Educators, Community Builders, Youth Workers, Social Workers, Parents, Corporate Culture Builders and anyone working with teams of people to build community.