EVRYMAN with Ashanti Branch, Touré, and Sascha Lewis

Jul 02, 2020

It's time we changed the paradigm of what it means to be a man in our society. For so long, the ideal man was someone who suppressed his emotions. Being stoic was being strong. But what has perpetuating these lessons led to? A loneliness epidemic, addiction, grief, and suffering. In this podcast episode, we explore the archetypal characteristics of maleness, mass incarceration, and how the Black Lives Matter movement is different from past civil rights movements. Listen in to learn how EVRYMAN is bringing men together and giving them permission to be vulnerable.

Ashanti: So Ashanti Branch from Oakland, California. I was raised by a single mother. And the journey of fatherlessness adds a lot of flavor to my life. I think the journey of trying to figure out what it means to be a man when there was no man there helping you to figure those things out, has always been one of those things I constantly reflect back to in my life.

Ashanti: I went off to ... I'm trying to think of how many layers I give you. So I'm going to try ... So I went to college to be an engineer. And then as an engineer working in the Bay area, making really good money, like amazing money. Something in my gut said, "Yeah, this is ... you can do this engineering thing, but you're actually supposed to be a teacher." And I was like, "Teacher? Teachers don't make money." Like I already did my poor time on earth. It's time for me to be rich, you know?

Ashanti: And the engineering wasn't cutting it. Like it was ... I could do the work. It wasn't that the work was not that I could do, but it wasn't like what I was working so hard for through high school, into college. Instead it was like, you study hard, get a good job, make a lot of money live happily ever after. I was searching for happy ever after, and all I was doing was finding happy at happy hour, starting on Friday, about 5:00 PM ending around Sunday around 7:00 PM. And then I'm like, "Oh, I'm back to the work thing again."

Ashanti: And so I really, my life just kind of grew into figuring out I didn't work with all this hard, sacrifice all that fun to just have happiness on the weekends. Like what's going on?

Ashanti: And teaching called me. And so I took the answer, I answered the call. Even though it was a fight of you know, financial wellbeing and success. And long story short, I [inaudible 00:18:54] this program as a first year teacher called Ever Forward because I saw young men in my class who were really smart, but they were failing my class. I was an algebra teacher.

Ashanti: And that journey took me to being a part of this documentary called The Mask You Live In which was about American masculinity. And currently we do work all over the world with a campaign called, which is actually launching now, called the Million Mask Movement. Collected a million masks from around the world. And really the mask is a representation of like what we let the world see. Like what are the things we let people see about us? And then the stuff that's behind the mask that we don't talk about, we don't let people see. And I think that that idea of loneliness and that, "No one understands me, no one gets me," is causing a lot of challenges in our world.

Ashanti: And so our work has focused primarily on the young people. We do work with teachers, parents, some corporate companies. And then there's the global work we do with the hundred thousand masks.

Ashanti: Or actually, it was called Hundred Thousand Masks in the beginning. It launches right now this Friday, a million masks. So I'm still saying the old name, but same work.

Jeff: Yeah. You upped it 10x, to a million this year.

Ashanti: That's right. I only added one zero. All we did was add a zero, and now it's a whole 'nother world, you know?

Jeff: Yeah. Thank you man. And I watched the documentary last night. And it was so moving. Couldn't get to sleep, but because my brain was going and going. And I want to know ... and there's a bunch of things I want to ask you about your process. And there's a scene in the middle of the documentary when you're working with a bunch of kids in a circle.

Jeff: But let's ... maybe we'll go around this circle first, and then we can come back to that. So I guess we'll bring it to Brooklyn. I assume that's where you are Touré?

Touré: Well, Sascha lives to the West of me, so.

Jeff: Ah, yeah. Okay, fair enough.

Sascha: I'm upstate right now. So I'm not sure where I land, but I probably am still West of you.

Sascha: All right, so I'll jump in. Yeah, I'm Sascha Lewis and I am a New York native. I'm a Brooklynite currently. I am the co-founder of Everyman, which is sort of the glue that's brought Ashanti and Touré together with me.

Sascha: We're an organization that's about giving men permission to share and feel emotions in ways that we haven't been taught and modeled previous to now. And it's a men's emotional wellness platform, if you will. And it's been a real honor for me, you know, to some ways as Ashanti's talking about purpose in our work, being able to now be a 50 year old man and had a career in digital media and in kind of cultural experiential event space, running a company called Flavorpill, which I sold back in 2018.

Sascha: And being able to now fully invest in purpose driven businesses, and in projects and communities like Everyman, definitely doesn't feel like work in the way that the Ashanti was talking about where I'm just trying to finish the day so I can go have some fun. Not to say it's not full of challenges, but I'm grateful that I'm doing work that I think has real meaning in the world.

Sascha: And I am committed to kind of bringing ... part of the name, is the namesake of Everyman is that we're bringing men from all different races and creeds and socioeconomic backgrounds and political philosophies. And it's been fascinating to do this work, and to see how much similar we are than we think. You know, with so much otherness and so much of this idea of especially men in the masculine sort of culture, right, of like one-upping each other. Trying to out-duel each other, trying to be more successful, or have a more attractive wife or a house. Or whatever it is that we can sort of measure up against each other.

Sascha: And a part of the work that we've been able to I think sort of allow for us to do, is that we recognize that we're all humans, right? And we're all just struggling. And, you know, these masks that Ashanti talks about, like we all have them. And sort of being able to unarmor ourselves and to be more authentically who we are, gives us permission to actually be a full spectrum human right? Be someone who has emotional intelligence and intellectual intelligence and physical attributes, and whatever sort of a formula that comes up with for each of us.

Sascha: So yeah, it's an honor to be a part of Everyman, and to be doing the work out in the world that's so necessary right now. And I'm excited for the rest of our conversation, and I think we'll probably do a little bit of our work through this as well. So we can kind of show people what this is all about, and hopefully model some vulnerability and some authenticity that probably is a welcome sort of moment for people to hear and see from men.

Sascha: And obviously you also be talking about things like race, right? This is a big thing for men. It's an uncomfortable space for me, I know. And I'm excited that we're ... and glad that we're open to having that conversation together.

Jeff: Yeah. Thanks man. And I might also add that you celebrated Father's Day for the last time as a fatherless human being. Or as a progenyless human being. You're about to be a dad, which I suppose brings us work and to give even greater importance and relief. And you know, you should feel free as a newbie for me, because I've never been to a meeting. You know, you can ... I'm happy to be kind of like a pledge or a Guinea pig in this process. And if you want to take me through some of the kind of rites and rituals of the process here-

Sascha: Absolutely.

Jeff: ... I'd be really interested in that.

Touré: I mean, one thing is that they don't demarcate a hierarchy of like, "You're new so you're lower." You know, the first time I started coming to this group and doing the work, it was, "Everybody's equal," you know? And that's really important. I think that the best practices were modeled by a certain group of men, but it wasn't like, "Well, you have to go through six ... a certain number of meetings before you get to be a certain level." Or there's a different word for the new people.

Touré: And I mean the first exercise that we did was really powerful and equalizing, in terms of 50 men sitting around in a singular circle. So like we're not in rows, right? Everybody's equal, nobody can hide. And everybody go around the room and say how you're feeling in your physical body and your emotional body, in about 30 seconds.

Touré: And the equalizing nature of that was really powerful, because there was definitely people who I was like, "He looks nothing like me. I don't trust him. I don't know him. Oh my God. He said the same things as me, like physically and emotionally." And like, "Oh, we do share a lot." And if you peel back the mask we are connected, or we could be connected, you know? So I mean we can get into some of that today, which is really powerful and interesting.

Touré: You know, I'm Touré, I live in Brooklyn. I had two kids and a wife. I had worked in media for a long time. I've written six books. I've done a bunch of podcasts and doing two podcasts now. I've hosted a bunch of television shows at MSNBC, MTV, The Fuse, other places. You know, I work in media and producing media around culture, politics, blackness, all sorts of things.

Touré: So if you want to start in terms of understanding the Everyman way, we could start by doing a check-in and you start to see how it goes. And part of the exercise too, is sharing your feelings with other men. Because we typically will share our feelings, if we do, with women, right? Because that is safe. But sharing your feelings with other men, I feel like, you know, even when with your friends, you put on a mask where you're like, "Yeah, I'm cool." Like, "I can handle everything. Like nothing bothered me. Like I'm good."

Touré: Like women will get with their friends, they'll talk about their problems. They talk about their bodies, what's going on, how they're ... We're like, "Yeah, I'm strong. I can handle anything." But if we were in a meeting, and maybe we could go around and model it, and then you could go [inaudible 00:28:03].

Touré: And maybe we could go around and model it and then you could go last. I might say, "I feel very light and relaxed. I feel a little heaviness in my stomach because I just ate a bunch of fried chicken for lunch. I feel a little warm, because it's warm here at my house and in Brooklyn it's getting hotter. I feel emotionally light and welcome because I'm with two guys I know really well who are very emotionally open. So I feel comfortable being vulnerable. And I feel happy to be doing this because what I'm really supposed to be doing is my taxes, so I'd rather be doing this than that." So, that's sort of where I am. [Sascha 00:28:58] , where are you?

Sascha: Yeah, I'll check in. So, I'm feeling tingling in my toes. My throat is scratchy. My nose is dry. My belly is swirling. Emotionally, I'm feeling calm and anxious. I'm feeling fear just around saying the right thing and representing this conversation in the right way, noticing that. And I'm feeling a lot of gratitude just for where I am in my life. The future baby in the family coming and for being healthy and having a smile on my face every day, even through all this challenging times. And then yeah, I'm here and I'm in.

Ashanti: Thank you. I'm feeling some tightness in my back. I'm feeling some rumbling in my stomach. I didn't have my bulletproof coffee this morning. So, I think my body's like, "Where's the fuel? We need some fuel." So I'm dragging on reserves. I mean I got a lot of reserves to drag from, but still I can feel that presence. I think I'm feeling a little like a [inaudible 00:30:22] coming on, like a fucking some head stuff going on. I think emotionally I'm feeling just kind of excited about this launch this week, but also tense and stressed about all the things that have to go into it. We've had a couple of launches before and just knowing that, I mean all the things I've committed to doing that, I got to keep my commitments, and then that's not including the [Million Mask Movement 00:00:30:49] that's launching.

Ashanti: So I just feel a lot of pressure and anxiousness, anxiety to like, "Okay, what's next?" And trying to be as much present as I can with these new men here. And also my brain is like, "Oh my goodness, what are the five things I got to do?" So, is it on the to-do list? Or if I'm going to forget it, should I write a note to myself? So, I'm just having some stirrings in my mind around getting stuff done. So, I'm here and I'm in.

Sascha: All right, Jeff. Your turn, It's been modeled. Body and emotion, how are you feeling?

Jeff: Yeah, I'm feeling a little nervous and I suppose just a little bit shaky, little bit, with that nervousness. I think partially that's due to just not getting a lot of sleep these days. And so my energy has maybe been a little serrated, jagged and not even. And I feel a lot of pressure right now to really do good work. I've been writing a tremendous amount. And searching for words as kind of vessels for emotions and feelings in the hopes of being able to stimulate conversations by being able to give feelings, words.

Jeff: And then feeling a bit torn because I'm so preoccupied with the work that, "Am I undercutting really..." Kind of what Ashanti was maybe talking about at the beginning. Am I undercutting the true... Or undermining a certain kind of authenticity of just being there for my children, being like a strong and present husband. Am I so just preoccupied out here that I'm not there. And I guess the last thing is just been, really trying to... I mean I'm certainly far from alone in this regard. But doing a lot of moral inventory and a lot of trying to unpack my identity a little bit and yeah. But I'm feeling blessed, feeling also just so grateful for everything that's been given to me. So I'm here. I'm in. I picked up on that last bit. The "I'm here, I'm in" thing.

Touré: Well, after that we, the rest of the group goes, ["Ahoe!" 00:00:34:09]. So you get a nice resonance and response to your call when you feel even more connected.

Jeff: Beautiful. Yeah, the mask feels like such a metaphor for the work that's being done. And I feel like maybe that'd be an interesting thing to unpack for people that kind of haven't been connected to that metaphor. And Ashanti, I mean, you know as I referred to specifically before it's like, that work that you're doing with, I suppose mostly kids, you know, young adults. But what I saw in the documentary where, you're really unpacking that metaphor of the mask, but really doing it very directly with even like a piece of paper with a mask on it. I wonder if you could kind of describe that exercise and that work to kind of help maybe just unpack that metaphor a bit.

Ashanti: Yeah, thank you. So when they invited us to be a part of this documentary, they wanted to film me in the work ever forward. And I said, "Well, our best club, a club that's doing the best is over here at this other school, [Arise High School 00:00:35:42]." And they were like, "Well, where are you at?" I said, "Well, I'm at Fremont High School." Which is actually, I was a Dean and it was my alma mater. And I said, "Well, this club's not going so well." We're still in that building stages you know, those first couple of weeks or months together. The young men weren't checking in, they weren't actually opening up to the real stuff that was going on with them.

Ashanti: And because I was a Dean, I knew more about them than they were telling each other. But all I could do in a circle is just to hold whatever they had told me in my office confidential. But in front of each other they were like, "I'm good, I'm good, I'm fine, I'm cool." And I think that what I knew that I had to try and do is get them to talk about it without talking about it, because they would, they refuse to talk about it. Especially, imagine we got cameras now, right? So the activity was like, "Well, [inaudible 00:36:24] I have to just write it."

Ashanti: And the idea of the mask was, "Well, how about we just use the mask as a metaphor for what I'm letting people see." The front of the mask is, here's what I'm letting people see about me, right? And then I think about what's on the back of the mask. There are things that I'm not letting people see, things that I don't talk about. I don't let people see. And so that was when we originally did it with the pieces of paper and we threw them at each other.

Ashanti: So the campaign from that has evolved, right? So I have masks all over [inaudible 00:08:53]. We have over 44,000 masks from 16 countries. So, the campaign is growing. So now that this, we're moving into this Million Mass Movement, which is launching this Friday. I'm going to just show you a mask. Hopefully your screen will see it, but I'm going to do my best to make it in a right angle. So this is a mask, actually this is a 13 year old male from Jacksonville. And then you see the front, can you read a couple of words from the front of the mask, the left side?

Jeff: My eyesight's not that good. [crosstalk 00:37:24]

Ashanti: It says happy, outgoing, funny, athletic, loving, smart, talented. Somebody would just do three words, but this person felt really passionate. And then if you look in the back, it says sad, PTSD, scared, depressed. This is a 13 year old, right? And so what we see is whether people are 13 or they're 53, right? Here's a 53 year old man right, from Oakland, right. And so on the front it says, everything's okay. Mr. Normal, funny, clever, upbeat. Then the back says stress, concern, awkward, uncomfortable, issues tied in knots. And so even though they have more sophisticated language over your 53 than your 13, it's similar stuff. Same stuff we were dealing with. And who do we talk to about it? In our campaign we're not saying, "You should not have a mask." That's not what we're trying to do. We're trying to say to people, do you have a place that you can go like every man, like other men circles around the world. But can you can go and take it off? So you're not walking around everyday pretending that everything is fine, even though it's not.

Ashanti: And if it were, if it serves you just pretend everything's fine, than great. But what we see as our jails are full of men, 94% of people in jail are men. We see that it's not working. It's not working in all the ways that we hope it will work. It usually ended up coming back to domestic violence in a situation. You think about all these factors are where men are hurting and you can see it in the actions and the results. And so, that's some of our work. And so what we've been doing is asking people, inviting people to make a mask and they draw a picture and six words and they submit it. They could submit it on our website. They can mail it in to us. This next movement is going to ask people to take a picture of themselves with a mask, whether there's one of these [inaudible 00:39:26] masks or whether they're using a bandana as a mask. Whatever mask they're wearing, physically now, because right now we're physically seeing masks all the time, right. And before we were seeing them, we just didn't know we were seeing them.


Jeff: I wonder if what you feel... Because you mentioned it, the relationship between mass incarceration and the Criminal Justice System and these kind of typical male archetype behaviors. What is your observation on the relationship between those things, especially in African American community? Do you feel like young men are having to adopt certain kinds of behaviors to be tough or... I mean, I guess that's an obvious question or observation, but I wonder what you see, how you think those things conform each other?

Ashanti: Well, I think the system is broken first. So I think it's easy to become a victim of the system when the system is broken. So, when you think about the way incarceration happens... And I'm in Oakland, so I've seen a lot of people arrested, I've seen a lot of people come back from jail. And I think the challenge is, it's sometimes harder for people to come back from jail than it is when they go, right. When you come back, they're like, "Here's 20 bucks, go get them." Let me drop you back off into the community you just got arrested from it, and now you're going to figure out how to mix. So I think the system has a lot of broken parts and...

Jeff: You can't get a job, right. Good luck.

Ashanti: That's right. And therefore the challenges become now, I'm like... Let's say I never went, I never went to jail. And I think that the challenge is that is still, when I walk into a store, when I walk into a business. Now, I don't want to just walk in as this black man who's big, 6'1", 300 pound black man who already has to be modifying my presence so I don't make people feel uncomfortable. Now, I'm wearing a mask on top of that. So imagine now all the stress I got to think. I mean, I can't just walk into a store thinking about what I'm buying. I'm like, "Okay, who's looking at me. Who's worried about me?"

Ashanti: I think that those stresses constantly... When we talk about how, if you're in the woods and a bear started chasing you, right. You run. That's just your automatic pressure, right? The stress hormone. What if you're always feeling like something's chasing you? What if every time you see flashing lights in your rear-view mirror, down the street, wherever you live, you are constantly feeling you're being chased by a bear. Like your life is in danger. People are doing research on people, doctors, people who was way smarter than me have done research on how that causes stress in the body and how that stress in the body causes health disparities. And I think that there's something to be said about that.

Touré: I mean, well, one of the reasons why people commit crime, habitual crime. Most of us commit a crime everyday, be it some sort of misdemeanor or whatever. But more serious crimes... If your network of people is, I read a study that talked about if your network of people is about 75% habitual crime committers or more, you are more likely to become a person who's going to commit crime habitually. And what we do when we send folks to prison... Because the inner city, the black and brown neighborhoods are overpoliced. What you do, is your bonds with people who don't commit crime all the time are broken.

Touré: Temporarily, you must spend time around people who commit crimes, who have been caught committing crimes. You cannot see the other people. We have laws where you cannot live in public housing if you've been convicted of a felony. So that separates you from your family. It becomes harder to get a job. So the way the war on drugs and mass incarceration works, we are pushing especially young black men away from being in familial and professional structures that would lead them to not be incentivized to commit crime.

Touré: And as long as you have things like the box, where you have to check off a box on your job application if you've been convicted of a felony? Yes, I have. Until we get rid of something like that, then once you start to get into that system, it becomes very hard to get out of it. This is separate and apart from the over-prevalence of guns in our society, which a lot of people don't want to talk about as part of the problem. If we had guns become contagious, if one [inaudible 00:45:10] crew in the neighborhood has a gun or two, then your crew needs to get guns, to be able to protect and be on the same level as them. So now we're in a sort of arms race, right, which doesn't stop. And now you're competing with the cops on firepower.

Touré: And so until we can start to address these sorts of things... I mean the future that would be positive for me involves not only less policing, but less illegality. So things like making drugs legal, right? Putting far fewer people in prison. Making it easier, if you do go to prison, to return from that. Because we don't talk about how policing and prison are in and of themselves criminogenic. They create criminals and criminality. So there's a lot of things that we need to do to help people, which is not just their own pathology, but the structures we're putting around it.

Jeff: Yeah, I mean... The the culture of criminality, I think the points that you bring up are really poignant and prescient and interesting. I mean, and I'm curious about how you guys feel about, sort of defund the police. Obviously, I mean what you're touched on was that what the policy actually, or what the slogan actually represents are a lot of the things that you just talked about or enumerated which is taking police, not only decriminalizing certain kinds of activities, but taking police out of the militarization of domestic disputes and other forms of things where they really have no training and they really just shouldn't be involved in. These are mental health issues or other kinds of things.

Touré: I mean, one thing you have to think about is that the police are not incentivized to create public safety. They are incentivized to make arrests and to claw money from the public. There's no reason why the police need to be involved in parking. Why is that even part of their responsibility? Because that helps claw money from the people for the city and the state. And one movement we've seen over the last 20 years is that people consistently, people want less taxes, but they want the same amount of public services. So how does the city make up the difference? By clawing money from the citizens by charging them with small offenses.

Touré: But more than that, police officers are incentivized to make arrests. Every time an officer makes an arrest or a citation, they must go to court to speak on that. Every time they set foot in court, they are getting overtime pay. So they are being literally paid a bonus for every arrest and citation they make, even if they get to court and it gets knocked off. And in a lot of areas you have things like, if you set foot in court, you get the first three hours are guaranteed, or the first four hours, the first eight hours are guaranteed overtime, no matter how much actual time you spend there.

Touré: Also, there're things like quotas in terms of you, can't say, "Sascha, you have to make 20 arrests a month." But if Sascha is bringing in 15 collars a month, the commanding officer's looking at a Ashanti, like you got to be in the ballpark or you're not doing your job. Why is he getting so many more than you? But also when you want to move up, they look at how many arrests have you made. You can't say, "I didn't see anything because I was on my post being visible, and nobody did anything." No, you were not doing your job if you're not making collars.

Touré: So just to begin with, and a recent New York Times study, only 4% of what they're doing with their time is actually dealing with violent crime. So the notion that we need armed warrior mentality, no responsibility, no transparency, people who lie all the time, traveling through our cities, looking to make arrests, that is insane. [crosstalk 00:49:41] And I can outline more clearly a vision of what a post police world looks like. But for the people who say a world without police would be chaos. I would move that, at least for me and Ashanti, the current world is chaos. And the notion that I should walk around my community as the taxpaying a parent, and be afraid every time I see a cop... When many cops say, "Hey [Torin 00:47:25], what's up? Nice to see you" But I'm still afraid when I see them, that's insane and that should not exist.

Ashanti: Thank you Tori for that, I appreciate that. One of the things I experienced and I've seen here in San Francisco. A man with a mental health issue had a knife, he was on the sidewalk and he got shot by more than 10 officers, like with a knife. Just a couple of months, a couple of weeks ago, a man in Walmart... In Walmart, a man having a mental health issue, obviously two officers, this man gets shot inside Walmart. The idea that officers who have, supposedly have been trained, who have such a little tolerance for stress, there needs to be better training and there need to be better whatever, but also why are we sending a person with a gun to help a person with a mental disability.

Ashanti: We're criminalizing mental disabilities. So we criminalize drugs, right. Drug addiction. Right? So I think that if we don't begin to... When people hear defund they think, you're just talking about take all their money away. Well, we need to put money in the right places. When somebody has a flat tire on the side of the road, why are we sending a police officer to engage a person who's already in fear? In fear.Ashanti: When I saw the Philando Castile murder, I was in Starbucks. I literally didn't think what, I thought it was a [inaudible 00:51:35] car stops and people yell. And I thought it was that. And when I saw what I saw, literally I couldn't breathe. And immediately, right after I watched this, two police officers walked in Starbucks. Do you know, I could not... I was like, "I need to run." I haven't done anything. I'm sitting in Starbucks trying to do work, but I can't breathe. I don't even... I'm thinking, if I leave quickly, they're going to think I'm doing something. I was like, I had all the thoughts in my mind like, "I'm about to die."

Ashanti: And I think that what happens is we send police in all the time and they have no skills. They have no heat. They don't work. They don't live in the communities they work in, most of them. Oakland, we have so many white police officers. There ain't nothing wrong with white police officers, but they don't live in Oakland. They live in Pleasanton, Dublin, Concord. They live out of here. So they are connected to this community. When they walk around in this community, they're already watching you like you're a suspect. So they're not even saying "Hi" or if they even do that.

Ashanti: I saw two police officers on horses Yesterday in [inaudible 00:52:33] district. This is a Latino community in Oakland. They were on two horses. They literally startled me. I was like, "What is this sound I'm hearing coming up behind me?" Two horses. I can't, I don't have any more words for that. But just the fact that what's happening is this idea that we have a community that we're supposed to have people that are there to protect and serve. And even when people are going through trauma, they didn't want to call them because they're afraid of how they're going to escalate things and make it even worse.

Touré: No, exactly. The first time somebody talked to me about police abolition, I was like, "Well, what would you do in a world without police? And they said to me, "Think about how many times the police show up and make the situation worse."

Touré: That is generally my expectation, especially if it's an ongoing situation, they're going to make the situation worse. Probably what Ashanti is referring to is the notion of having a specialists come out who have lots of different training and thoughts on many different ways to deescalate and handle a situation. The police arrive and the questions really come down to, "Who do I arrest, who do I shoot?" Which is certainly not helpful in a mental health situation, in a domestic violence situation, in a homeless situation. To say nothing of the situations where cops are being aggressive to people who have done nothing wrong and are not threatening anybody. But generally folks think authority must have some reason why it's behaving this way. When quite often as black people, we don't know quite often. I mean, how many times in the last three weeks have we seen officers be aggressive and violent and offensive toward peaceful protestors? Many times.

Sascha: Hey, Ashanti and Tori, just to kind of drop into a little bit of the every man work. Can we go a layer deeper and Ashanti, when you're talking about what's happening in Oakland and what you're feeling. I'll say for myself I feel fear, I feel shame, I feel anger and I feel love for you. I feel like I want to support you and love you. And I'm not sure how to do that. So yeah, can you kind of step back into that space and kind of move into the emotional space of where you're coming from there, because you're both highly intelligent and you're so knowledgeable in the space. And I also think it's really helpful. I'll just say it for me as a white man to witness that from you too, right. To see like, what's that emotion, what's behind all of that passion and that knowledge and wisdom of what the situation is and what needs to change.

Ashanti: Well, I think the first thing for me is fear. I mean, I have a brother who has schizophrenia, paranoid schizophrenia. My brother don't even answer my questions directly. So I'm always afraid of him walking around Oakland. My brother doesn't want to hurt nobody, he has challenges. He irritates me and I love him. You know what I'm saying? So it's like, I'm worried about him encountering a police officer who asks him a question and my brother never answers a direct question. So the police who get irritated, we don't answer their question. Well, he's not going to answer your question. He only answers my mom's questions to him.

Ashanti: Well, he's not going to answer your question. He'll only answer Imam's questions to him directly. He always goes to the East and then back, and he comes back and then you ask him again. If police don't know how to navigate people who are just struggling, I feel fear.

Ashanti: Every day, my brother will call me. If I promise him, "I'm going to take you to get a burrito," He will call me 18 times to make sure I don't forget. Now, I haven't forgotten, but he thinks I'm going to forget. So his paranoia is that he needs to keep calling, and I'm like, dude, I'm at work. You can't keep calling me. But what happens if I don't answer his call, he gets more worried and he calls even more. So I have to keep answering the call.

Ashanti: I'm stressed about him out there in the world, dealing with these officers. I constantly think about it. Some things you can't turn off. If you're a parent and you have kids, they go out to a date or a movie, you're maybe thinking about them from the time they leave to the time they get back. Sometimes, there's things you can't turn off.

Ashanti: And so I think that what I feel is fear. I feel fear for him. I feel fear for myself. I feel fear for myself because I think I'm a little smart. So when I get pulled over... When I was 18, I would always talk back to police. I talked back more to police when I was 18 than I do now because, back then, they weren't regularly just shooting us in the middle of the street. Now I feel like, okay, just give me the ticket. Here. Whatever you want to write the ticket for, write it. I have nothing to say because I feel like I'm not going to make it home.

Touré: They were. You just were less aware of it because it was not the era of ubiquitous cameras. The murder rate was not any less.

Ashanti: There you go. 

Touré: I definitely feel the anger because if we had not had video of Rodney King getting his ass beat, and he said, yeah, 15 cops just sat there and beat my ass for half an hour. Would you have believed him?

Touré: I would've believed him, but most White people would have been like, yeah right. What did you do? I feel fear, but the fear has been constant throughout my life. I feel exasperated and unapologetic about the anger that I feel now. And I'm no longer thinking about what is politically viable in terms of the solution. I'm thinking about, this is what's right. And I no longer care about what can we get done, which is a few moderate reforms, but what do we actually need? Which is a complete, fundamental change in the approach to public safety. I think that a previous younger me would have said, well, that's not politically viable. Now I'm like, just punch through the wall, or just yell about this is what needs to happen. I don't really care.

Touré: I see a lot of people, when you talk about this stuff on Twitter, they say, oh, this is activating people who are fence sitters to go for Trump. And I'm like, I'm not modulating my demand to stop killing us to make it more palatable to suburban Midwestern White women who are like, oh, what did George Lloyd really do wrong? Really? No, I'm not doing that anymore. Especially now when I am seeing this movement where more White people are coming into the movement and talking about it and thinking about it and taking these messages more seriously than I've ever seen. I start to wonder if there's a chance that this time will be different where we have pushed the rock up the hill to a new place.

Touré: There are reasons to be hopeful that we are on the precipice of real change, but there's still a lot of work to be done. There's a lot of rage that needs to be accessed, and a lot of rejection of shame and rejection of the White gains that you need to have to be able to push forward and demand what you believe really needs to happen.

Jeff: Yeah. That's really interesting because it sounds like you are willing just to kind of eschew political pragmatism for the right thing, on some level. Because, for example, with defund the police... I think that's a good example. You're a wordsmith, and I think you can probably appreciate that kind of electoral politics has a long history of kind of a law and order prevailing. And that notion of defund the police, if you don't properly unpack it and you just become sort of a vector for that message, that slogan on social media, like you say, White suburban voters will be kind of like, Oh, I don't know. What can we do without the police or whatever?

Touré: People are quite clear what is meant when they say defund Planned Parenthood, when they say defund schools. Those things are clear. Only when we say defund the police are they like, oh, my brain froze. I don't understand what that means.

Touré: But yeah, the demand is stop killing us. So I'm no longer talking about, well, can you kill us a little less? I mean, I'm even saying, why are we asking politely? People want to go to like, why are people looting and rioting? And we're like, no, no. We're peaceful protestors. Why should we be peaceful protesters? Why should we not be rowdy? Why should we not be aggressive? Because our demand is stop killing us. Why do we have to be polite in asking for that? I mean, somebody pointed out that the whole peaceful protester paradigm is respectability politics. If we ask nicely, you'll get respect from the powers that be. Not necessarily. Not necessarily. Perhaps we need to be louder or more aggressive about it.

Jeff: Yeah. One thing I've been thinking about, in terms of kind of maleness and male leaders, is that it feels like this movement right now is slightly different from historic movements in so far that... The sixties Civil Rights Movement was so, at least historically, it was very dominated by these incredibly charismatic men who were able to deliver kind of like soaring oratory and inspire and move tons of people. And that this movement now, at least Black Lives Matter, was founded by three women who I have rarely seen on television. It's feels more decentralized. I don't know if that's actually true, but do you feel that this movement has, I guess, maybe a more feminine quality to it? A more all encompassing, cooperative nature to it? Or is that just kind of over intellectualizing it?

Touré: I mean, I think overall that's kind of fair. It is definitely more... I mean, it also functions in the era of occupy and in the millennial era of let's be... They need a leader less, which is what you're talking about. They say leader full. They want to have a nationalized movement that can function in the way it needs to in different places. What they can do in Los Angeles is not what they can do in Birmingham. They want to be supportive for the folks in Birmingham or Baltimore, but not necessarily telling them what to do. They don't want to have a situation where the leaders of the sixties were killed, and the movement died out. They were targeted, and thus disempowered. If you have 10,000 leaders, you can't easily just sort of suck the power out of us by lying about or shooting one person.

Touré: There's also, I think, a more complex community now, a broader community now that would be harder to have a couple of charismatic savior-type epic figures who could sort of speak to what the entire nation needs, and combine what we in New York need with what people in the Bay need with what... I think what we need is more decentralized, but Patrisse and Alicia and Opal and them have done some media. I've had Patrisse on my show. She's a genius. She is powerful and media savvy in her own way. DeRay Mckesson has gotten the lion's share of the media of BLM folks, for whatever reason.

Touré: I mean, also in this media time, they have been very effective at using social media, right? DeRay, Brittany Packnett, and some of them have used Twitter and Instagram in very powerful ways where you, Jeff, may be like, well, I don't see them on TV. Well, what would that mean? Like being on Rachel Maddow's show? And they may have been on there, but you wouldn't have seen it. Television is more decentralized, but they are extremely loud on Twitter and Instagram to where, if you're following them, you are hearing their voice all the time.

Jeff: Yeah. I wonder Sascha, if this is kind of to Evryman. And Toure, I started reading some of your book, Who's Afraid of Post Blackness. I'm not sure if I got the title right. And I wonder if some of what you talk about there can be applied to manhood or maleness? Is there sort of post maleness almost where we can be sort of rooted in some of the, I suppose, kind of archetypal traits of manhood, but not defined by them?

Touré: Well, yeah. I mean, I think that's definitely very Evryman. I mean, what I try to talk about in Who's Afraid of Post Blackness is a notion of blackness as infinite, and that it can be performed or embodied in any way imaginable and all performances or embodiments of blackness are of equal value.

Touré: And yeah, I think part of what Evryman does so well is it breaks down what we have been taught manhood means and tries to push us in a different way. The weekend event that I went to, the prompt at dinner, before we even started the actual programming, was who taught you how to be a man. Right. And so we're having dinner conversation talking about, for me, my father, and some of the older guys in school who I was very inspired by, which sort of got sort of the operating system out. It's typically buried, and now I'm thinking very consciously about the manhood that the specific people who taught me how to be a man were teaching me.

Touré: Then, you go into these exercises, which are meant to get you to be aware of your emotional body and able to talk about it with other men and able to hear other men talk about theirs, which is completely revolutionary. Part of what they did, too, was that I was always taught by society, by men, that the emotional body or the emotional life is for women to talk about and think about. And what these guys were saying was, there is an emotional body in all of us, and there is a masculine way of talking about and thinking about your own. We don't have to do it the way that women do, but ignoring our emotional body is insane.

Sascha: Toure, thanks for that. And to build on the way we think about it with Evryman is we talk about a full spectrum human, right? And for so long, the ideal man was carving out their emotions and keeping that hidden from everyday connection with people, right? And that has led us down this path to so much of the troubles we have as a society, right? The loneliness epidemic, addiction to porn, addiction to drugs, video games, mass shootings. All these things, at their core, is that men are not in a place where they can, in a healthy way, express their emotions.

Sascha: Just what we did before, and we modeled this a little bit. It seems pretty simple. It's probably fourth grade sort of level of emotional communication, but, to Toure's point, for most men, it's revolutionary to just say like, Hey man, I feel scared. And then to be able to have Ashanti say, I feel fear too. And then all of a sudden, it deescalates all of this sensation that we have in our body that we're constantly in fight or flight mode because that's what we're taught as men, right? Is to either win or to retreat. It's one or the other, and don't retreat because we know what that will make you. Right? It'll categorize you as soft or other words that I'm not going to use on this show because I want to be appropriate.

Sascha: And I think the way in which Me Too really outed men and said, Hey, this isn't going to work anymore. Right? That watershed moment, especially with Harvey Weinstein, when it was like, this is broken. There's no longer an acceptable way for this to move forward. We have to change this paradigm of what it means to be a man in our society.

Sascha: And that's an incredible time for all of us to sort of reflect back at. And the reality was for most men, it's still like, okay, well, what do I do? Do I go read some book? Do I take a class? How do I do this? How do I train myself? How do I develop that muscle? And that's a place because it hasn't been modeled for us. For most men, it hasn't been modeled from our fathers or our teachers or our coaches. The opposite was modeled, right? We don't see it in our media. We don't see it in any of our day-to-day lives. So now we're really recalibrating what it means to be a man.

Sascha: And it's this amazing opportunity. The fact that here we are, the four of us, in our own way, moving into this space and being vulnerable and being willing to show our softer side, if you will. Right? And actually recognizing that, for me, speaking from my own experience, I actually feel better about who I am. I feel like I can be more honest. I can have more empathy. I can actually go out and be the person I'm supposed to be. I can have that purposeful work and life that I want because I don't have to hide. To Ashanti's work, I don't have to hide behind all these masks of being Mr. Cool, or having my shit together, or always knowing what's up and always having the right answer. I can actually feel okay and be supported by other men to say, hey, I'm struggling right now. And I don't have all the answers, especially in this world and this moment, right?

Sascha: The work we see with the groups that we do, we have ongoing groups. Toure's talked a lot about our retreats, but we also have these ongoing groups that are support. And there are ways to get feedback and be challenged to sort of say, hey, how do I up-level who I am? How do I express my emotions in my relationships in a healthy way? And it's really training, right? It's practice and training so that when we go out in the real world, we can be more authentic to ourselves. We can be more authentic to our families and our loved ones, and then to our community.

Sascha: And so it's essential. And I think a lot of what we're talking about with race and politics and all these things, if you go deeper to these deeper levels, a lot of it is because of the way in which men have perceived from power and from greed, right? That's the mark of success, right. And it's broken, and here we are. We're facing it, right? We're facing it full on with the way our systems are broken, the way we treat each other based on the different colors of our skin. We feel like this is part of the work for us to restore our humanity and to really understand that we are far more similar than we are different.

Ashanti: So I just want to speak to that point around. And I think what we see in the work with not only just this idea of masculinity of men, but also with our boys, is that it starts at a very young age. It starts at a very young age where boys pick up what it means to be a real man and what it means not. I think one of the lines in the documentary, Dr. Judy Hsu says, if you go into any playground in America... It was Dr. Kimball from New York, said, if you go to any playground in America, you can start a fight by asking one question: who's a sissy around here? And the boys will have to have a decision because they know at early ages, what that means and what you have to do to be in that category.

Ashanti: And how do we cause that behavior to be showing up, and what do we do? Where do we get our messages? Who taught us to be a man? What if you're a 15 year old and you learn from a 17 year old, and that 17 year old learned from another when he was 15, learned from another. So you got teenagers teaching other young people about what it means to be a man because, sometimes, there's no men there. That's how it was for me. My father wasn't in my home. Even though I had a grandfather around, he was a pastor of my church. So anything I'll ask him about when I'm getting bullied, he would say something that I didn't really want to hear. He told me some really good things that he believed, but for me, it was like, I just need it to stop. And the forgiving them part is not working because the lunch money gets taken every day.

Ashanti: And so I think I learned from people around me in my neighborhood, here's how you make it stop. Here's what you're going to have to do, is you're going to be harder [inaudible 01:17:52]. And unfortunately, it required violence. The other option was go tell the teacher, and in my community, you know the result of that. Although, as I look at it back, I'm like, yeah, you could tell. But you think there's consequences for any actions. There's consequences for me to hit this person. There's consequences for me to go tell the teacher. There's consequences for me to ignore it. And when you're eight and you're ten years old and you're trying to figure it out, you may not have the best thought process in terms of the results that are the longterm effects of what you're going to do.

Ashanti: But I think that those behaviors and how what men have thought of their role as in the world, some men are hurt by the fact that they are no longer expected to have all the power and have all the money and be the breadwinner. The men have their feelings hurt when their spouse makes more money than them. I don't understand that thinking, but okay. But for some, that's a problem. They'll feel insulted. They feel like they're less than, and I think that's problematic in community and family.

Ashanti: So I think the definition of roles are different now. I mean, women don't need us to have a child anymore. They can go have their own child and raise their child by themself. You know what I'm saying? The way the world works is different now, so we have to adjust with that, the way the world works now. And I think that some men are able to handle that, and some are struggling to try and keep it the way it was. I'm complete with that.

Sascha: I think the idea is that we're creating a new language, right? We're creating a new paradigm of what it means to be a man. And so that, to your Ashanti, around being a young boy, we hear again and again, guys that come to our retreats and guys that are in our groups and do this work, that one of their most powerful things that they get from the work is that they're able to then go teach this to their boys. They're able to say, it's okay to be scared. It's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to not have all the answers, and like that lineage, right? And retraining us in our society to all of the toxic stuff that we learned as men, right? And the macho-ness of what it means to be a man in our society is getting broken down.

Sascha: We're just at the tip of the iceberg here because we're in a bubble, right? You go out into other places in this country and other communities, and we see it when we do our work with Evryman, there's times when we've gotten press on sort of major news channels like Yahoo and other sort of more wide-reaching press outlets. And we get hate comments left, right, and center. You guys are what's all wrong about being a man. This is why we're losing to China. These types of conversations and comments are coming at us. This is real, right?

Sascha: And part of the reason that we call this Evryman is because we don't want this just to be talking to progressive, liberal, educated people. Right? We want to be able to use this as a language to bridge the gap between the red and the blue and everything else. Right? I mean, we have to come together, and as men, particularly, we have to be part of the solution, right? We have to figure out ways where we can harmonize and have empathy and compassion for each other, and settle our disputes through compassion and through wisdom instead of violence and hatred. And that's oversimplifying it, but I think part of what we're doing here is we're giving guys permission to slow down, to feel their feelings, and to share those feelings with each other and then see each other more as equals.

Jeff: So I have sort of a question, and it's kind of nuanced. I'll likely step in a bucket of shit along the way on it. But I think like many, many people right now, folks are doing kind of a personal moral inventory and kind of maybe a deep dive into their own identity. And for me, I've always tried to be aware and recognize both the obvious kind of and more insidious forms of racism, structural and systemic, and in what ways have benefited from those systems, and I suppose kind of what ways I've been complicit in that systems. But I've also just always assumed that there was sort of a, kind of put in the right words, but like a fluidity to my own identity because my cultural and political and literary and athletic personhood was so massively influenced by black culture, to the point where, I mean, I spent my entire teens and first part of my twenties transcribing every significant African-American musician. Name one, from Waller to Ellington to Monk to Benson to West...

Jeff: ...to Ellington, to Monk, to Benson, to West, to Herbie. My whole life was consumed in that. And from a kind of literary or political perspective, it was memorizing passages of Baldwin and King and later, Obama, verbatim, and practicing that shit in front of the mirror.

Jeff: And of course my whole 20s were spent in Brooklyn, in New York, literally mimicking every single post move down to the last little nuance of Mike, everyone wanted to be like Mike, I was no different, like little lean-ins to create just enough space to get, whatever. My whole cultural personhood was essentially informed by black men.

Jeff: As I've, now, I'm almost 50, in the last month, taken a step back and tried to look at that more critically and ask myself if I can really, truly, authentically claim that part of myself. And it's like is that just some twisted, white hero worship that is some form of inverted oppression? Or is it actually beautiful and the celebration of one person's just appreciation for the great expression of another person? And I just don't know how to answer that question.

Touré: To really answer the question, I'd have to go deeper. Do you seem to have a significant reverence for these people? I mean, if you love music, you have to have reverence for black music because that is the root of the tree of American music. I mean, we have danced circles around other cultures in American music.

Touré: Look, I think that there is something unique and special about black people in that not are we just another ethnic group, when we talk about culture, we are the global drivers of culture. We are the creators of what is considered cool. We are the innovators, we are the ones who are just often driving culture. Globally, we are the early adopters who decide what is cool and send it around the world.

Touré: I mean, his struggle that we have created throughout the centuries in America has been the one that has demanded and forced America to try to be more American. All the time America's like, "Yeah, look, we're a shining country on a hill for the world." And the slaves are like, "What?" And America's finally is like, "Okay, fine. We'll liberate you all, we don't want to have slaves. But look, we're the greatest country in the world." And the segregated people are like, "What?" But finally, we allow them to vote, we get past that. And we're like, "Look, we're the greatest country in the world." And black people are fighting for liberation, Black Panthers, Malcolm X, Dr. King, now BLM.

Touré: We're like "What?" We're constantly pushing America to be better, to be truly American. So I mean, to have a reverence and an understanding for what that is, I mean, I welcome that. It doesn't sound to me like you're fetishizing, it's like you're recognizing what's really dope.

Ashanti: Yeah, thank you Torre, I'm going to leave that answer as the best I could have given myself.

Sascha: Yeah, if there's anyone who's going to answer that question well, it would be [Torre 00:04:37], you built a career on that.

Jeff: Yeah. Well, I thank you for that answer. I used to have this little tape recorder, it was called a Marantz and it slowed everything down to half speed. So, I had tapes, well, I really started with all the country blues stuff. So like Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Reverend Gary Davis, all that kind of stuff.

Jeff: And you can put it on half speed setting so you can slow it up and that's how you could figure out and transcribe all this stuff note for note. And I would just remember sitting in my dad's attic and it'd be like 102 degrees up there. Just sweating, sweating, sweating, sweating, sweating, rewind, rewind, rewind, rewind until almost getting it right. But those are some good memories of growing up. So Sascha, where do you take this Evryman Movement?

Sascha: Our mission and vision for ourselves has always been to get millions of guys into this work. We are getting started really in some ways where we've just been doing this for a few years. And as I mentioned before, prior to Me Too, this was very esoteric, kind of new agey, the idea that men would get together and have these conversations about their emotions, something that only, maybe in your neck of the woods and between you and Ashanti and Esolen and places like that, that that was normalized.

Sascha: I think the fact that you see Millennials now and Gen Z, asking, demanding from us as men to up level who we are, to share and show emotion in a more authentic way is a huge sign that this work needs to get out into the world. And so part of what we're doing with Ashanti and Torre is we're hosting weekly groups for just black men. It's an open conversation and- an open call for anybody who wants to join, who is black. And I think just owning the fact that we are still predominantly a white organization and our name is what we want to be, we want to be available for Evryman.

Sascha: And so we have a lot of work to do on that end, as many of us do. I think the fact that over the last weeks you've seen so many companies come out and make these big statements and say how they're going to change and sometimes I feel like I'm not really trusting all of that. And so we have to do this, not when it's the cool thing to do or the right thing to do, but because it's part of what we really believe. And so I'm super grateful that Ashanti and Torre are part of our community and we're growing our black community and our men of color community, it's an important piece of it.

Sascha: And we're just launching our membership platform over the last few weeks, much like yours on commune. We're really bringing guys together so that they can have a place to be supported, be challenged, to have a place to have real conversations about not just sports and business and the weather and politics, but to talk about how they're doing, what they're feeling, feel like they can have a safe place to go deeper in some of the ways we did here. And the goal is to have millions of men in these groups on an ongoing basis, continuing to build this muscle and build this emotional capacity and then go out in the world and act and be from that place. So it's a big movement, it's a big mission. There's other men's organizations that are out there as well.

Sascha: We support all of them. We're really trying to also, as somebody who's part of the yoga community, learn from the yoga community where I think they made some missteps where everybody became pretty territorial about what they were doing and very sort of brand centric and trying to control certain places and spaces that they were experts in or their domains. We see this as a movement so we're supporting ManKind Project and Sacred Sons and all the other organizations that are out there, we're all being allies.

Sascha: And for us, it's about, we all rise, right, with the tide in that sense. And there's so much work to be done because again, we're reaching thousands of guys. There's millions of guys, there's tens of millions of men. We already have groups in Australia and in Europe and we want and see this as a global movement. So it's a big, ambitious, audacious goal that we've set ourselves for. And it's exciting to see. And it's heartwarming to see the transformation that happens with men. And I use that word carefully because that's a word that gets thrown around a lot, but Torre can speak to that too.

Sascha: I had to drag Torre to the first retreat and within 24 hours, I feel like Torre, you had shed a lot of masks, right? And you had really seen yourself in a different way. And I know your wife well, and she's thanked me many times, just in terms of how you've been able to progress and evolve. And that's what we all want. Right? As men, as women, as humans, we all want to feel that sense of personal growth and getting closer to our inner selves and connected to who we really are. So we want to be part of that process.

Touré: Yeah. I mean, I think you see in this situation, Sascha and the leadership responded to those of us who were saying, "This is a bunch of white guys and it needs to be broader," and like, "Okay, how can we do that?" And it was interesting because their initial conception was how can get black and white people together having a conversation? And I was like, "Okay, so we're teaching white guys how to talk to us [inaudible 01:35:18], for me." And Sascha and them were willing to listen. I was like, "That's not really very exciting for me. What's exciting for me is a all black group that excludes white people."

Touré: And he's like, "You mean people of color?" I'm like, "No, I said black people." [inaudible 01:35:40] just black people. And he was like, "Ok. Cool. Let's facilitate that and step out of the way and let you do that." And I think that was really powerful. And the events that we've done black men are like, "Oh, my God, just black men. This is so great." And not even like we sit around and philosophize on what blackness means, but just being alone in community with black men alone is just powerful.

Ashanti: And that's the piece that I've been really excited to be a part of this with Torre and the other men. I did my retreat this year, so February. I was at the last retreat before the world changed, before the world turned, and it was amazing. And [inaudible 01:36:57] been doing my men's work, I've been doing work since 2010. And a lot of the organizations that Sascha spoke to, I've done work with those organizations and growing. So I'm just excited to be a part of this. And thank you for highlighting the work. I think there's more men need to know that it exists and they need to hopefully take the courage and put their foot in the room. Whether it's a virtual room for the time being or it's a physical room, I think [inaudible 01:37:25] critical to our [inaudible 01:37:25] our survival.

Jeff: Yeah, man. Thank you the work that you're doing. It's beautiful, beautiful work, heart wrenching work. I think just watching the film and watching your Ted Talks assisted, it speaks that you're just doing work. Your work is coming from the heart and from the soul and just, that's palpable, just watching it. So thank you, man. And it's an honor to be here with you, with all you guys. And I just am very grateful. I hope we can kind of harness our collective energy in this time to really instantiate the world that our hearts know it is possible.

Jeff: It is possible. And it's been strange just like swinging on this kind of emotional pendulum and of, kind of with even within the same minute, being hopeful and then full of despair and looking around and seeing people just doing unbelievable, soulful work and then turning around and just seeing the like vitriol and hate, it's like I started thinking about it the other day, it's like pulling the edges of a frayed shoelace in both directions.

Jeff: It's like there's so much love and beauty and hope happening. And then there's, at the same time, so much vitriol. And I hope we can all work together to pull it in a direction of love and hope.

Sascha: I'm on your team. Let's do it, right? It's possible. We all know it and feel it. And there's a lot of work to be done.

Jeff: So much work. I mean, to be honest, as hard as it is, and this can be off the record, but I've started following with a dummy account just some crazy right wing shit, just because I don't want to live just in my echo chamber. And it's weird because I don't want to be that arrogant guy that just looks down my nose and thinks that I know what's better for someone that lives in middle America, and that I'm sitting there kind of lecturing. Like, you're voting against your own best interest and blah, blah. All basically the stereotypical things that people think about kind of a feat coastalism.

Jeff: And so I really want to have those conversations with people that don't share my political beliefs or whatever, and I'm committed to that. But then sometimes I get on social media and it is just, it's so discouraging because there's no way to have conversation when there's no social cohesion and no centralized fact.

Touré: Yeah. I mean, it's not a symmetrical conversation and it's not symmetrical problem. And it's not that there's a lack of centralized fact. In most of the arguments you're talking about, people on the left are generally dealing with fact, and many people in the right are not dealing with facts.

Touré: And so many of the issues that are central to the right are based on a complete lack of facts. Just quickly, immigration is a huge animating issue on the right, based on the notion that they are streaming across the border, taking our jobs, creating crime. None of that is true. They don't believe that coronavirus is real. There's not another side. 120,000 people have died in four months and counting there's no argument for why you shouldn't be wearing a mask and social distancing. They don't believe that climate change is real. There's not another side to that argument. So I mean, it's not that the notion that we, as lefties, as coastal people are in bubbles, I rebel against that notion because there's nothing that I believe as a lefty that there's a community of experts saying that's just not true.

Touré: And many, many of the things that the right holds dear to the community of experts is like, "Nope, that's not reality," and "It's based on straw, man, and it's based on a slippery slopes." And I don't even believe that what we need at this moment in history is to be able to talk to them or to be able to understand them because the problem is not that we lack an interpersonal relationship with them. If your friend went off the intellectual deep end and started believing all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories and wanted to argue with you about whether or not there was a community of people on the moon, would you be like, "We just need to sit down over a beer and come to communion."

Touré: Or you'd be like, "That dude is crazy. There's a fuse that has gone off in his mind. I cannot deal with him anymore." I mean, they are the toxic friend that we cannot really relate to anymore. We don't need to save them. We need to vote them out of office and make their issues seem as ridiculous and dinosauras as they actually are.

Sascha: I will say one thing without getting too political because that's not my space. One of the things I've seen with the work we're doing with Evryman is, for example, I'm a New York city, liberal guy I didn't know anybody who ever went into the military. I never really interacted with military people before. When we started to do this work, we actually had a connection and continue to have a connection to the military community.

Sascha: And so there were guys that were Navy seals and guys that had seen a serious time on the front lines. And my first impression, much like Torre talked about, when you size up the guy a physical way, in an energetic way, I was like, "These guys are heathens and they're killers." And then as soon as I started to have conversations with them and started to do the work that we do, quickly realize these are incredibly loving, compassionate people and they're hurt and they're dealing with PTSD and they've sacrificed so much for the greater good for all of us in some ways.

Sascha: You can argue against that or for it but at the end of the day, they're the ones on the front lines protecting us in so many ways. And so it broke down a lot of those stereotypes, a lot of that attitude that I had, that these people are uneducated or, not well-informed or ignorant or whatever it may be. And I think that's part of what we have to do. I don't think we have to placate to everybody. To Torre's point, there's stuff on the far left and there's stuff on the far right that are extremes and are ludicrous. We do need to find some sort of middle ground. And I think seeing each other as men and as humans and connecting at a level where it's not about left or right. Politics right now, it's sports, right? You either win or you lose. So you're either on this team or you're on that team.

Sascha: And that's not how humanity and society really is going to elevate and work the way we all hope and dream of it to be. So we do need to find some more middle ground and we have to be able to learn to have compassion and respect one another. And I've experienced that through the work that I've done. And we have guys that definitely are right leaning and conservative and police, officers, and guys that I probably wouldn't hang out with on a day to day basis, but I've sat there and cried with them and hugged them and told them I appreciate who they are and I respect them and they've done the same. And that's very healing and it's the same thing with race, right? It's the same thing to be able to have those conversations and to be able to see each other as equals as opposed to otherness.

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