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To Be a Man 

New film explores pitfalls faced by young males

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I volunteer at San Quentin State Prison in a restorative justice program. Many of the men there are lifers, long-term prisoners without much hope of getting out any time soon. I have listened to many stories, many tales of pain and regret. A common thread for all these guys has been "if I only knew then what I know now, maybe things would have turned out differently." If this is true, then it is up to us to try and make it happen.

What does it mean to be a man? I am sure if I was a young male these days and was bombarded by images on TV, social media and movies, I would be confused and perhaps dangerously misinformed. It's a time of false bravado and lack of experience combined with the incessant marketing of products promising to make you popular and successful. Peer pressure, poor education, lack of opportunity, few positive role models and generational poverty all conspire against young men. That is the reality faced by many of them today.

I hope you can join me on Saturday, March 19, at Congregation Shomrei Torah (2600 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa) at 7:30pm for a free screening of The Mask You Live In. It is a powerful film that follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America's narrow definition of masculinity. The film and follow-up panel explain how we as a society can raise a healthier generation of young males.

The panel includes Oakland schoolteacher Ashanti Branch, founder of the Ever Forward Club, which provides support for African American and Latino males who are not achieving their potential. Also on the panel will be Karlot Canto from Men Evolving Nonviolently, a local group that addresses issues of male anger against family members. A number of community organizations involved in mental health will be on hand to provide information and support.

Bruce Berkowitz is co-chair of Shomrei Torah's social action committee.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the 'Bohemian.' We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write openmic@bohemian.com.

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