Presidents, Networking, and Roland Martin — My First NABJ Convention

There’s something to be said about being in a room, in a convention, heck in any space where you truly belong. I don’t mean you have friends there, or that you have your bosses on your side. That’s great of course. What I’m speaking about is something much deeper. This past week, I experienced something I had no idea I would be so grateful for a community of people where every single person can relate to your challenges in your career or passion and actively do whatever they can to ensure your success.

This past week, I had the privilege and opportunity of attending this year’s NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists) Convention in Miami. As a part of the high school JSHOP program, I did a few reporting stories while also having the chance to go around and explore the convention.

Everything about this convention was special. This week, I met some of my biggest journalism heroes and mentors. From Stan Verrett to Roland Martin and seemingly everyone in between, I cannot reiterate how passionate and eager such kind people were in hearing about your work. But beyond that, journalists would reach out and ask about how they could support you in such an enthusiastic way, even I was startled at times at their generosity. This opportunity to meet my mentors in journalism for the first time also was incredibly eye-opening. Celebrities in journalism were so kind just from saying “Hi!” or “What’s up?,” and those small interactions just uplifted me in ways I will always remember.

To know that other journalists may deal with the same frustrations you may be facing in your work is humbling. I won’t deny that at times, it’s just hard as a black journalist to have to constantly reiterate the importance of writing certain stories or why you care so much about certain issues. But, when people who share your similar experiences can just congregate all in one place to not only share out stories but collectively work together to ensure that we can be better prepared for those circumstances is powerful.

I would be remised though if I didn’t just take a moment to say rest in power to Toni Morrison, who passed away my first day at the convention this past Tuesday. Her influence on myself, but all black writers, specifically black female writers, has been nothing short of groundbreaking. Thank you, Ms. Morrison, for everything you’ve done.

During my HS program, I got the chance to have mentors who pushed me to continue my growth as a journalist. Although I may have had a bit more writing experience than some of my peers, they taught me new ways to think about stories. My classmates were also some of the kindest students I’ve seen in this field. Everyone wanted to teach each other new skills and ways to further our learning. I want to just thank my mentors and fellow students for being such a joy to work with.

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the convention was when I had the opportunity to sit front row at the NABJ Presidential Panel. I haven’t ever seen Bernie, Booker, or Buttigieg ever, so hearing their platforms in person, particularly explaining their agenda for black people, in front of black journalists, was incredible. The room was intensely listening and not applauding for almost anything other than their introduction and closing remarks. There was this one moment where someone yelled at Bernie to “Answer the damn question,” and at that point, he responded quickly and said he was answering the question, before further proceeding on message. The whole room was just shocked when it happened, but a few young journalists applauded Bernie’s response to her challenge quickly.

Aside from not getting into the Bryan Stevenson/Michael B. Jordan/Van Jones session, of which I could go on about, I have to just simply say this whole trip has been truly inspiring. I’m leaving NABJ this year as not only a better journalist, but I’m leaving with future relationships with people I hope to learn from and share my stories with. Best believe I will be back next year hopefully in DC for NABJ 2020. This is an experience unlike any other and I will be looking forward to making this an annual trip to become a better journalist, writer, and human being. To everyone I met this week, thank you and I cannot wait to see everything you all continue to achieve.

Being Noah Tesfaye #93: Presidents, Networking, and Roland Martin — My First NABJ Convention

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The Second Democratic Primary Debates — The Progressives Take Charge

This past Tuesday and Wednesday, twenty candidates took part in the second round of Democratic Primary Debates, hosted in Detroit. And as per usual, I recorded and watched through every minute of both nights, looking to see how the candidates performed in what, for many of them, will be their last moment on the debate stage.

Without question, the biggest winners of both nights were Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. On nearly every single policy, they were able to articulate their policy proposals on a level that stood far above the rest of the field not just on the first night, but even in comparison to the second. Yes, they are more progressive and have plans that I support far more than anyone else. However, when it came to the competition, most of the other top tier candidates stumbled in making their cases for their arguments, which further pushed the case for the two progressive candidates.

Night one was the battle of the progressives versus the moderates.

Rather than seeing what I had anticipated the Bernie vs Warren’s head to head challenge, the two teamed up against all the moderates. All night, the two just landed punch after punch against a more middle ground policy platform. On healthcare, they continued to push for Medicare-for-all (M4A). The line of the night for me was when Bernie was explaining the senior citizen benefits in his M4A bill, and as Tim Ryan interjected questioning that Bernie didn’t know it would include those things, this was Bernie’s response:

The night for only continued to go stronger. Aside from Bernie starting his first debate question stating in response to Delaney’s policy “You’re wrong,” Warren got into several challenges, or shall we say the one-sided dismantling of moderate policies, with Delaney. This was her strongest moment of the night:

Warren here makes one of the most direct pushes against the preconception that going moderate is the only way to defeat Donald Trump. And she’s right. It’s not just about defeating a candidate the majority of Americans are in consensus to not like; it’s about ensuring that when we do that, we can ensure that we have a candidate in place that will truly advocate for all Americans and not be ambitious with policy. What is the point of running on keeping the status quo when Americans are nowhere near satisfied with corporations running everything in their lives? That doesn’t even go into the premise that many of the progressive policies being put forth are standards in every other developed nation that exists. These ideas are nowhere near novel; free public colleges and universities, health care for all, progressive wealth and corporate tax codes are the cornerstones of social democracies across the globe. These ideas are feasible.

This first night had other decent performers with Marianne Williamson and Pete Buttigieg had some good moments to make their cases, yet the tag-team duo of longtime friends Bernie and Warren just stood far above the rest of the field, with Delaney performing by far the worst.

The second night was far messier and unclear.

The candidates all flowed throughout the night between good moments and bad moments. That being said, the two candidates who I saw had consistently the best night was Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard for two completely different reasons. Yang chose to not attack anyone at throughout the night and stuck to repeatedly going to push his UBI proposal known as the Freedom Dividend. Yang also took a very strong stance arguing for M4A on the behalf of businesses, which I believe should be near the center of the M4A argument. My favorite moment he had that night was his closing statement, where he went right at the whole premise of the debates themselves:

Yang broke the 4th wall there. He spoke directly to the frustrations Americans have with the debates and the fact that this whole system has become all theatrics. He honed in on what many of his supporters want to hear from him, and he executed on throughout the night on that.

Gabbard, by contrast, went directly to go after the positions and records of the moderate front runners Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. Most notably of that night, she went right after Harris’s abysmal record as a prosecutor, much of which I wrote about in this blog post:

This was the first time where a candidate has had the chance to press Harris, and Tulsi took advantage of every moment of it. America needs to hear about who Harris is, and I couldn’t have been happier to see how those exchanges went between the two of them. Other candidates also had decent moments that night, like Booker, Castro, Gillibrand, and DeBlasio, but it was Yang and Gabbard that had the best performances of night two, with Harris, Biden, and Bennett doing the worst.

This round of debates, as did the first, fundamentally did not change any opinions I have on my preferences this upcoming election. Granted, I do spend a significant amount of time reading and writing about this campaign has contributed to that sentiment. But for those who have not been as active as I have been when it has come to following this election, this map recently made by the New York Times is indicative of a lot.

Now, yes Biden is still polling in the mid to low thirties while Bernie is polling close to 20%. Yet, that Biden number has been falling since he formally announced his run, and his debate performances are showing Americans the true concerns we should have with a candidate who can’t even debate his party members, let alone in the general against Trump. Time will only tell now how things will shake up, but with the last two-night debates behind us, September’s debate will be the beginning of where the true fight will occur. And, of course, I’ll be back here to break it all down. Till then…

Being Noah Tesfaye #92: The Second Democratic Primary Debates — The Progressives Take Charge

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The Death Penalty is Un-American

The Eighth Amendment in our Bill of Rights states that US citizens have these protections:

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

The crucial part of this amendment is the idea of “cruel and unusual punishment.” It is one of the most discussed clauses in our Constitution, constantly being put to the test.

This past week, Attorney General William Barr announced that the federal government will resume executing people for the first time since 2003. Up until now, only state governments utilized the death penalty for the past sixteen years. He made this comment in his statement on Thursday:

“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President. The Justice Department upholds the rule of law — and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

I want to ask you this: if 4% of air travelers die flying, would we fly commercial planes? If 1 in 25 people would get cancer from driving a gas car, would we stick with gas cars and not rapidly transition to electric?

4%, 1 in 25 people sentenced to death are innocent. I will say it again. 1 in 25 people that are given the death penalty did not commit the crime they are being executed for.

The death penalty is un-American. I believe it truly goes against our eighth amendment. Yes, the Supreme Court has taken steps to ensure its enforcement does not include anyone under 18 and those with mental illness (insanity or other intellectual disability). SCOTUS ultimately has stated their stance on capital punishment is that it should only be sentenced for those “whose extreme culpability makes them the most deserving of execution.” Yet that itself isn’t even justifiable.

Clint Smith III, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard, wrote this essay following the announcement in 2016 that the federal government would seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, the man who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charlotte. In his piece, he accurately points to the many reasons for even in such an extreme case, the death penalty should never be implemented. From how racist and classist its enforcement is, to how capital punishment does not deter Americans from committing such severe crimes, he ultimately concludes his piece with the true question of executing citizens: should the state have the right to sentence people to die?


On its own, in an ideal world, if sentencing were enforced fairly across race and class, if someone lacked any sort of prior abuse or did not suffer from any mental challenges, if there was 0% doubt about a crime’s perpetrator, if it deterred people from committing heinous acts, more people would be inclined to support the death penalty. Although I believe no matter how morally reprehensible a crime is death should never be a form of punishment, I could at least begin to understand why someone could support the death penalty.

But we do not live in an ideal world. So long as we continue to allow the death penalty to exist, innocent people will die, people with mental disabilities and trauma will die, and people of color (predominately black people) and poor people will continue to be executed at a far higher rate than white or wealthier people.

We must abolish the death penalty. I can never put myself in the shoes of a family who had a loved one killed or in the shoes of someone on death row. That would be a disservice to them. But I can tell you that we cannot let the death penalty continue to exist because a system that will forever be enforced unequally is not only against the idea of “cruel and unusual punishment,” but because the state should never have been given this power in the first place.

Being Noah Tesfaye #91: The Death Penalty is Un-American

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



The History of “Go back to where you came from”

This past week will go down as one of the most remembered weeks in the Trump presidency. Seemingly everywhere you looked, everyone from sportscasters to YouTubers was talking about his statements this past week. And for the right reason.

To be blunt, this attack on Representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley started with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Earlier the previous week, House Democrats and the speaker went after these Democrats, primarily AOC, after she spoke out against the Speaker voting a spending bill that in part would fund ICE. Pelosi later dismissed their influence in Congress, noting they “didn’t have any following.” This, combined with a tweet from House Democrats that cooked up a storm, opened the gates for what ensued.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted in short succession this tweet referencing indirectly the four congresswomen Pelosi called out.

These words are not only blatantly racist but echo levels of racism that have existed throughout American history.

The racist sentiment “Go back to where you came from” is about as old as this nation. Thomas Jefferson, who owned many slaves throughout his life (that nearly merits its own post), was strongly in favor of colonizing parts of Africa and sending back slaves in part of his plan for emancipation. Furthermore, with the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the US government purposefully made it more difficult for new immigrants to have any significant voting rights in America.

But it goes beyond that. The fundamental idea of “go back to where you came from” goes against the 14th Amendment. Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, explained in this thread about how we don’t write white or born here, but “all person born or naturalized” are entitled to equal protection under the law.

The history of this idea naturally leads to the hypocrisy of racists today. Trump doesn’t target his attacks on white immigrants or even undocumented immigrants as a whole. In his world of ignorance, he attacks only those who are not white. The problem is that today, there are too many pundits, politicians, and everyday citizens that are trying to justify racism when you cannot justify it. You cannot justify why with facts or logic why racism is not just an effective political strategy (it isn’t as seen with his recent polling), but more importantly, racism just is wrong.

The hypocrisy of this whole tirade that began with these tweets, and later continued with the “send her back chants” directed at Representative Ilhan Omar at a rally in North Carolina, is that he is criticizing them for being un-American because they want to change American policy. They are attempting to enact policy that benefits more Americans than sticking to the status quo. The whole Trump candidacy in 2016 was predicated on the idea that he wanted to get rid of corporate influence, end wars, establish policies that benefitted Americans. He criticized America for decades and religiously called out politicians for taking on positions that he disliked. In short, he is going after politicians who are attempting to do what he has done for years.

But as the deficit is projected at over a trillion dollars, as tax cuts continue to hurt average Americans, as medical and student debt continue to cripple our citizens, Trump refuses to fight on the policy. Instead, he resorts to using racist remarks and personal attacks on representatives because he knows the true merits of what he wants in policy only hurt the people he is trying to take advantage of their conditioning to believe in racist rhetoric.

The irony of all of this is that Trump is attempting to run from the political dissent that he in part got elected for. These women are American. For three of them, this is their first and only home. For Omar, this country gave her the freedom to no longer live in a war-torn environment and pursue an education.

They are attempting to do something that is about as patriotic as anything you can politically in this nation: fight for a vision of America they want to see in the law.

The racist tirade that Donald Trump has gone on throughout this past week, but really for his whole life, is showing signs of cracking. More and more people who may not have been as politically engaged are at least now starting to understand who this president is. Granted, you should have seen this since the jump, but this is a better late than never situation. Yes, he is a racist, and yes, his tweets and comments are racist, but it goes further than that. The way he runs away from political discussion, from policy discourse, is not what America is about. We should be about debating the issues, the merits of what people want in their vision for America. Fortunately, in 2020, both presidentially and throughout Congress, we have the chance to say with our mouth and with our vote that these are not ideals we should stand for. We have a chance to at least begin to dismantle all the problems and distrust in ourselves that has sprung up because of his presidency.

That duty, that right that I have to exercise in November of 2020, is something I am ready for.

Being Noah Tesfaye #90: The History of “Go back to where you came from”

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



My Mixed Thoughts on Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren is the single major presidential candidate I didn’t completely know where I stood with.

When she launched her campaign for president, I hadn’t anticipated the race starting so early, December of 2018 (exploratory committee, but nonetheless still, two years before inauguration)! The first things I read or knew about Warren before the campaign was her populist, left-leaning CFPB history.

As I started my preliminary research into Warren’s candidacy, I stumbled across her controversial Native American heritage story. For decades, she claimed she was Native American. In 1986, on her Texas state bar registration card, she identified herself as Native American. She never participated in cultural activities or did much more to acknowledge her heritage except when just stating herself as native. When people began reinvestigating and learning about this situation over the past year and when she launched her campaign, she took a DNA test, which proved a tiny sliver of heritage she had in her bloodline at some point well over a century ago. This only further sparked more debate, and she later apologized privately to the Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Almost instantly, after hearing about Warren treating a heritage as merely a check in a box, I pretty much vowed to myself I wouldn’t back her candidacy. I write frequently about race relations, and for someone who is running for president to treat this discussion in such an ignorant manner turned me away. The way that people have dismissed this story recently with her polling numbers surging is worrisome to be quite honest. Yet, putting myself in the shoes of other Americans who may not seem to care about this egregious mistake, I am trying to understand her policies.

From the surface and beyond that, she is very progressive. She’s for very strong regulations on Wall Street, and that’s backed with her helping start the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She is also progressive on family policy, expanding to universal childcare and paid family leave. She also is for reducing student debt and for single-payer health care, which is pluses.

But, the thing that concerns me is that on crucial issues, she isn’t as firm on some policies. She is for the cancellation of a majority, but not all student loan debt. She only recently backed Medicare for All, yet still hasn’t established a clear plan on what that entails for her presidency. Yet, by far one of, if not the biggest hole in her platform, is on foreign policy. She goes straight down the line with centrists on the military, wars, and conflicts in the Middle East. If you read the tab on her page about foreign policy, it is so generic, it’s genuinely concerning for me as a voter. She also has said she would take corporate PAC money if she made it to the general election. That possible sacrifice of yet another core progressive standard also is disconcerting.

When Bernie ran in 2016, the progressive that is Elizabeth Warren backed not the candidate that was vouching for and pushed for the middle class; she backed Hillary Clinton. Warren didn’t back the candidate that supported strong Wall Street regulations or Medicare for All; she supported the candidate who told us that the status quo was working. Now, we’re in 2019, full swing into the 2020 primary race, and centrists are slowly warming to the idea of having Elizabeth Warren be their champion if she is the last defense against Bernie. If that isn’t alerting a concern about her possibly compromising on her less clear positions, including health care, student debt, and foreign policy, I don’t know what is.

However, at this point of the race, I want to be hopeful. I think that as far as what she’s supported so far, I would be fine with a President Elizabeth Warren. Is she my first choice currently? No. But is she someone who has some values and policy positions I can get behind? Absolutely. But I will not say I am not at least a bit worried she may turn into Obama 2.0 on policy or compromise on core progressive tenants if she is pressured to do so from establishment Dems on the hill or her strategists on the trail or in office come January of 2020. That is something I really would not like to see.

But, I will say I am looking forward to seeing how things shake out for her candidacy. If she becomes the nominee, I will back her and vote for her come November. But, at this point in the race, I just dislike her platform more than I dislike/support Bernie’s. She isn’t as progressive, but she is doing a damn good job at portraying herself to match him in that lane. She just isn’t as dedicated to the true progressive movement as Bernie is, but I still am putting her as my current second choice if Bernie drops out (which I hope won’t happen).

Being Noah Tesfaye #89: My Mixed Thoughts on Elizabeth Warren

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



Kamala Harris’s Record Must Not Be Overlooked

Kamala Harris is one of my senators. She’s black, an attorney with a career on the surface is strong, and appears genuinely invested in a progressive agenda. On paper, if you gave me a lot of these brief qualities (race being a nice little bonus but not really a factor in my vote), I would say you have my perfect candidate.

During the debates, she pressed Biden on busing policy, attacking his record on race in a way that impressed me. In short, she landed the punch that started the precipitous fall of Joe Biden in the polls. That’s something I’m beyond grateful for since I would take any other Democrat frontrunner in this race other than the former vice president.

But that’s just about where a lot of my positive thoughts on Harris unfortunately ends.

When she launched her campaign, the video that accompanied the announcement beyond vague; it lacked any substance. Americans today want to hear about specifics, even straightforward policy goals, not on buzzwords that Americans don’t agree on their definitions. Right from the jump, my doubts about supporting her only increased.

The first concern I have is that on policy, she is masking her more centrist opinions by more recently supporting progressive policies. Yes, she’s for Medicare-for-all, but she also isn’t completely behind free tuition at all public colleges and universities for all citizens. Yes, she’s for reparations, but she has not been as willing to push for a more progressive marginal tax rate.

I could go on and on about those specifics but I will leave you linked to this video by Kyle Kulinski (granted a strong left radio host) on those different centrist policies.

Without a doubt, criminal justice reform is the policy area with which I follow the most and am most passionate about this upcoming election. It means so much to me not just as someone who’s studied the area for me to realize how severe the circumstances are for so many incarcerated people, but as someone who knows people personally who have been screwed over by the system.

If anything, Harris lost my primary vote automatically before she even ran because of her criminal justice record.

First, she was against the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana as late as 2014(she later reversed her stance). As if that wasn’t enough, she also throughout her career as San Francisco District Attorney and the California Attorney General was for the three-strikes rule, along with not willing to put together statewide regulations for body cameras. She’s denied release of incarcerated people even when they’ve been proven innocent, as well as fought to deny gender confirmation surgery to imprisoned trans people(she later apologized for her stance). She pushed foran anti-truancy policyto punish and even imprison parents of more truant students to push them to get their kids to go to school.

It doesn’t end there. As state AG, she ran on enforcing capital punishment, something that should never under any circumstance be allowed and should be deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (although I know that won’t ever happen, especially with the conservative court we have currently constructed). She’s been against numerously wrongly convicted cases so religiously, but she’s only recently begun to walk back her statements and begun to concede she was wrong on several cases.

This kind of attitude of conceding for her past record all too much is just too constant for me to believe she ever will push for true progressive legislation if she’s elected our president.

She through her record has not been consistent enough for me, or really anyone, to trust that she has the interests of all Americans at heart. I’ll concede that her policies that target black voters are a nice gesture. But like every other candidate, she fails to truly understand the issues of reparations and is far too behind on eliminating money bail for me to even suggest she is the best candidate in this race for black people.

This more also goes to the more recent stirring up of the discussions I’ve heard around that she isn’t “black enough.” We have to stop that. I don’t have African American roots in this country, and neither does she. But that doesn’t make her any less black. Why go and nitpick on the lack of whatever heritage tied down to America when she on policy is so lackluster anyways? Would it be great to have the first black woman, the first Indian-American president? Yes. But her blackness or alleged lack-thereof shouldn’t be a part of the equation. To do that is unnecessary and a waste of your time.

Harris is a true centrist Democrat’s dream: energetic, composed, and lacking any strong progressive leanings. That’s why she will not threaten the status quo of corporatism in America as president.

Harris will not be getting my primary vote, but should she somehow emerge as the nominee, I will still vote for her. Any Democrat is better than Trump, but let us hope that a true progressive emerges in this race to defeat her. America should have a president who has proven and will continue to push for all of us. Harris just isn’t that.

Being Noah Tesfaye #88: Kamala Harris’s Record Must Not Be Overlooked

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



The First Democratic Primary Debates — Oh How the Tides Have Turned

The first Democratic Primary Debates are now in the books. On Wednesday and Thursday this past week, the 20 candidates that qualified were sorted out randomly into two ten-person debates. In short, these two nights of policy and ideological arguments marked the true beginning of the 2020 Presidential Election.

For each debate, I recorded and watched through every minute, looking for new takes, new ideas, and anything novel that I had not seen yet in the campaigns.

In short, nothing about my own preferences of nominees changed. In fact, the debates only further solidified the candidates I had been looking to see perform the best, Bernie and Warren. Warren got sorted on the easier Wednesday night roster, where she was the only candidate polling in the top five. Compared to the rest of the field, she came in more prepared, more policy-oriented, and showed the average viewer why she was the readiest for the job that night. She was methodical and made sure to use her voice that ensured she wouldn’t lose ground in the polls but still showcase her ideas.

Bernie’s night got to a slow start but significantly picked up as the night went on. Granted, his night was filled with far more interjection and unnecessary jabbering. However, Bernie stood out above nearly every other candidate when it came to how every candidate framed his own arguments, with comments like “I agree with Bernie,” or “Bernie is right on this.” The policies that he ran on in the late 80s, the policies he ran on in 2016, and now the policies he is running on for 2020 are now becoming widely accepted by almost every candidate. Whether Medicare-for-all, the assault weapons ban, or harsher regulations of Wall Street, Bernie led the charge to put the common American as his true first priority and has done so for decades. The level of respect and support for his ideas amongst his peers is indicative of the awareness of the validity of these plans. Once he got to his closing statement, no one finished their debate performance as he did. He framed his conclusion around the concern he has that nothing will ever change unless a candidate has the guts to truly take on corporate America, portraying every other candidate’s goals as merely talking points that don’t indicate their commitment to all citizens.

On night one, Cory Booker and Julian Castro came in and did what they needed to stir up their names back into the mainstream conversations, focusing on their core campaign issues (Booker on civil rights, Castro on immigration). The candidate that I had not anticipated admiring was how passionate Jay Inslee was in pushing for climate change as the sole purpose of his candidacy. Climate change is the single biggest national security and economic threat for our country in my view. For him to at least have the chance to voice those ideas on the national stage is something I am grateful for, although it is inevitable that his ideas will be not ranged as priorities and we will fall only further into the climate crisis we are enduring right now. Tulsi Gabbard could not answer a straight question for the first hour but then proceeded to assert her dominance in the foreign policy field against Tim Ryan.

Yet, for as many, as may have tuned in for the first night, the second was the one with the majority of popular candidates: Bernie, Biden, Harris, Buttigieg, and the two rising non-politicians Yang and Williamson. And in just two hours Thursday night, we all saw what I had anticipated coming:

The beginning of the collapse of Joe Biden.

Besides his policies being awfully centrist, we saw his ideas for America crumble Thursday right before our eyes. Of course, the moment we will remember for the rest of the campaign will be when Harris spoke to Biden’s record on race relations, specifically opposing busing. She tied this to her own life story, is the second class in Berkeley at her school to desegregate and she was bussed in. His response was unfocused and couldn’t make up for his past record on the issue. When it came to foreign policy, Bernie went right after Biden’s record voting for the war in Iraq, followed up by mentioning his persistent anti-war record and backing the War Powers Act to prevent the war with Yemen. Everything Biden said on Thursday only further hurt his campaign, and with the comments, yesterday about a black kid wearing a hoodie “may very well be the next poet laureate and not a gangbanger” only further solidify why he would make a terrible general election candidate and president.

Harris was by far the biggest winner of the debates. On Thursday, she came in appearing to be all for the progressive agenda in a way that makes the average, non-politically active person think she is for those ideas (even when we very much know she doesn’t stand for those ideas). She had many lines throughout the debate to smartly portray herself as the adult amongst children bickering, poignantly wrapped up when she said “America does not want to witness a food fight. They want to know how they’re going to put food on their table.” To be the one to come in ready to knock out Biden was the best move for her politically at this point. She isn’t attempting to go towards the hard left, millennial voter; she is going for the not-so-politically inclined, moderate voter, specifically the more conservative older black Democrat voters. Those voters may be feeling more concerned about Biden, but now they know they can have someone who supports their views and is a viable alternative for any centrist Democrat.

O’Rourke failed as I had anticipated, but the true disappointment I had watching the debates was seeing Yang’s poor performance. Although his mic did get cut off at moments throughout the night (which is crazy considering his mounting support for NBC to do that), the moments he did get to speak were not as punchy and as to the point as I know he can be. Hopefully, his momentum can continue and those who hadn’t ever seen him can learn more about his campaign. Maybe the next set of debates will provide more impactful for his candidacy. At this point, the more name recognition for him or Williamson is the goal to continue further and meet the later debate thresholds.

With the first debates wrapped up, it has become more clear that Democrats and America really as a whole, has become far more progressive in just the four years since the previous primaries. I am really eager to see how things shake out in the next month until we hit the second debate, also split across two nights, July 30–31st. At this point, keeping an eye out on policy shifts and agenda changes can be an effective way to remain engaged in the campaigns.

The goal of these posts aren’t really to share any particular ideology, but to reinforce the idea that everyone can be informed about politics in simple steps. So whether it means reading articles or watching YouTube clips, do whatever you want to be able to be informed enough to make your own choices once the primaries start in January.

Being Noah Tesfaye #87: The First Democratic Primary Debates — Oh How the Tides Have Turned

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



Reparations Revisited — Policy Our Nation Needs

On Wednesday, June 19th, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee hosted the first-ever hearing on the idea of reparations for slavery and the perpetual injustices caused by the federal government through Jim Crow. The room was packed with activists, tensions were high, and a significant chunk of the conservative representatives was absent.

The topic of reparations has remained an active topic in the American political sphere recently since the 2014 essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates “The Case for Reparations.” During one of my first ever blog posts over a year and a half ago, I wrote about a few brief arguments that have been shared about why reparations must happen, linked here. Coates’ essay was and is still one of the most important pieces in my own growth as a writer and learner. Yesterday, he, along with several others, testified to the merits of this discussion. He went after the recent comments Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the day prior, saying:

“He was alive for the redlining of Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion. Victims of their plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they would love a word with the majority leader.”

The hearing was on the famed piece of legislation known as HR40, which began with former representative John Conyers asking for the federal government to create an initiative to investigate the merits of paying reparations. At this point, the argument isn’t even whether reparations should be given, but whether the federal government should start a commission to look into the issue. Throughout the hearing, advocates for both sides of the argument took the time to make their own short case for reparations before the committee asked questions.

The challenge when it comes to getting this bill through is the prevalent argument held by conservatives, black conservatives most vocally, that it happened too long ago, that the true victims of slavery are long gone. Furthermore, they criticize the practicality and invalidity of paying checks which they claim would only increase racial tensions. Another argument that is also presented is the idea black people don’t need a handout, that anyone who wants anything bad enough, they can.

Yet, every single argument when it comes to the framing of this argument against reparations fails to focus on the key facts. There are countless accounts following slavery of state-sponsored segregation and unconstitutional legislation that prevented black people from being able to climb up to the middle class after being freed. From the GI bill to redlining, loan denial, and plainly not being allowed to buy property, the government is responsible for the majority of the wealth gap that exists between black people and white people in America. That does not even begin to go into the lack of voting rights or even the fundamental case that those enslaved never reaped the benefits for helping build this nation literally into the most powerful nation in the world.

Reparations aren’t about just money; it is about this nation truly coming to terms with the sin that is responsible for what we are today.

Cash checks are not just the only way in which reparations can be granted. From interest-free loans, free college, or investments into community centers in black neighborhoods, there are many methods in which funds could be devoted to positively impact black people in ways the government failed them throughout our nation’s history.

To have this hearing on Juneteenth, the anniversary of the end of slavery, the year that marks the 400 year anniversary since the first Africans arrived in America, speaks volumes to how long we’ve continued to push off discussing this issue. Aside from the ideas I’ve been gathering to push for Black History Month to move to June, the one frustrating part about all of this is that the argument for, at minimum, a reparations commission, if heard objectively, is sound. However, public opinion on the issue is terrible.

Across several national polls, only about 25% of Americans are in favor of paying for reparations. In a time where the issue is unfortunately so misunderstood and mischaracterized, when partisanship is at an all-time high, for a presidential candidate to truly back the issue would be committing political suicide. And indeed, you see that the candidates who back reparations as one of their tenants in their campaigns are trailing in polls, with Julian Castro and Senator Cory Booker not yet cracking 3% with near unanimous national name recognition.

But, here’s my question: when has public opinion polling ever stopped a movement to advocate for what is right?

Gay rights, women’s rights, and of course the rights of black people all had national polling numbers that suggested this country wasn’t ready to adopt these policies. But has that ever stopped activists, stopped our nation from moving forward for true justice? No.

HR40 must pass. The conversation on a national level is one that with this bill could lead to a true education nationally on the effects of slavery and Jim Crow had on America. I urge you to go out and learn more about the bill, it’s merited, and why the argument for reparations is clear. Let this week’s hearing just be the first of many.

Being Noah Tesfaye #86: Reparations Revisited — Policy Our Nation Needs

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



The iPad Pro is Close to Replacing My Laptop as a Student

The first day the iPad came out, I went to the original Apple store in downtown Palo Alto. I sprinted through the front door and snuck my small head through the crowds of bodies to hold this bowed, aluminum-backed, massive canvas of a device. It was the first truly new Apple product that I watched the keynote for as it launched, and I was beyond ecstatic to make the argument to my dad why we(well really he) had to buy it.

But, in the near ten years of iPads being released annually, I hadn’t really jumped into getting one. It wasn’t just that it isn’t cheap, but I felt like it was a device that I could accomplish the same tasks I could on my phone or laptop. I thought a 9.7-inch media streaming device would be great, but I just saw it as that.

However, I think that’s changed.

A few months ago, I picked up the new iPad Pro 11” as a birthday gift on a significant Amazon discount and it’s accompanying keyboard, with my friends chipping in to get me the pencil.

For about two months straight, I did not take my laptop to school (for reference, I use a mid-2015 Retina MacBook Pro 15”, the last generation before the Thunderbolt 3 refresh). My high school relies heavily on tech, but every single thing we did in class was feasible on an iPad. Google Classroom, Drive, emails, and note-taking are all I really did on a daily basis. This machine blazed through every single task without any issues. While I run many windows and tabs on Chrome on my Mac and it chugs through everything, I haven’t had a single slow down or freeze.

The biggest thing I really appreciated with the iPad Pro though was the weight reduction. Going from a 5 lb laptop with a pound charger down to a pound overall with the iPad and accessories and charger is game-changing. I’d sometimes just check my backpack at school and worry I left something at home because of how much lighter my backpack got using this device. With it taking less space and weighing significantly less, I got to take my camera around more often since it wasn’t as much of an inconvenience.

Another factor in this equation that I didn’t anticipate was how much I enjoy typing and writing with the iPad Pro. I am always for more travel on keys (why I’ll be keeping my current laptop until there’s a better Mac keyboard). But this Keyboard Folio, however overpriced it is, is a solid typing experience. I wrote a significant chunk of my final paper for AP Literature with this, written a few blog posts (including this one), and gone through numerous article drafts without any complaints. On the pencil side of things, I’ll say that although it hasn’t replaced my Muji notebook and pens for daily jot-downs, the organization for classes like AP Stats was infinitely better having digital handwritten notes. Usually, I hand write all my notes, so having digital organization on top of a solid writing experience has been a nice upgrade.

Every single significant critique I had about the iPad Pro were almost singlehandedly corrected last week at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). They announced iPadOS, built on iOS 13, which establishes the iPad as its own true platform. Widgets, external storage support, possible mouse support (via accessibility), desktop-esque browsing with download management, split screen with the same app, sidecar multitasking. I could go on and on about all the further changes that I am so glad to have arrived, but those are the ones that I was looking for the most. If Apple is able to further continue to flesh out the platform, who knows where this will take the iPad Pro with consumers.

Yes, I still edit videos on my Mac, and yes for extended writing, I may go to my Mac. But, that isn’t a regular part of my schedule. For everyday use, for the tasks I need to work through, the iPad Pro does all of these things incredibly well. For the majority of people, when iPadOS releases in the fall, an iPad could replace your laptop completely. Aside from the high upfront cost, this new iPad Pro is truly the best refresh to an Apple device in years. I’ll be bringing my laptop to college, but I imagine it will be spending a lot of time sitting on my desk next year because of this incredible piece of tech.

Being Noah Tesfaye #85: The iPad Pro is Close to Replacing My Laptop as a Student

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!



I Graduated High School.

Yesterday, I graduated from high school.

If you told me I would be where I am on the day I started high school, I would never believe you.

Four years ago, I stepped onto a high school campus of 2,000 students not knowing a single soul. I had no genuine connections with anyone in my freshman year, no true friends, and no one I believed would support me. I was that one kid in the cafeteria that no one ate at, eating my mediocre school lunch alone watching youtube to pass the time. I had people who would backstab me, a “friend” who tried to convert me to his religion vigorously, and a miserable relationship with mathematics and a teacher who purposefully made me feel like I could never succeed in the subject. At the end of that first year of high school, I did not believe that this community I was a part of would ever have a place for me. That year, after pouring my soul into my journalism class (the newspaper), I got rejected. And I was devastated. It, along with everything else happening in my home life, had me contemplating a lot of terrible things. I didn’t know how I could go anywhere in my life.

Sophomore year was in some ways a step in the right direction. I did meet more interesting people and did for a bit have a group of friends. But I just drifted away because I just couldn’t agree on the fundamental beliefs of some people. It was never about bad intentions (at least I think?), but I just did not know what I wanted in my world.

But then, a string of events coincided with the moments and friendships that literally changed my life.

After a google search of things to do my summer heading into my junior year in January 2017, I discovered the Columbia summer program for constitutional law. I applied, got accepted, and won a full scholarship for the ludicrous $11,000 price tag. For three weeks in New York City, I met the six friends that gave me hope of what life could become. They taught me what true friendship could be in daily life, that your work and learning could be so empowering and fun. RBGANG taught me what it meant to truly find the joy in living, something I took strongly into my junior year.

At the end of my sophomore year, the journalism advisor walked into my media literacy class asking for videographers to join their staff. Rather than a full application, he asked us to send a link to our work that year. Although still bitter from that rejection a year ago, I reluctantly sent in my links in hopes of maybe a new start. Within five days, I got an email notifying me of my acceptance to the newspaper. I nearly started crying, but I knew that I had to take advantage of everything I could.

After Columbia, my peers I knew, teachers, friends, and family said I changed. I don’t remember who I really was. Heading into my junior year, with a chip on my shoulder in the journalism program and a blueprint for the relationships I wanted to forge, I wanted to make the most of high school. I wanted to do it because I realized no one would be willing to help me if I didn’t have the dedication to believe in myself.

And these last two years changed everything.

In journalism, I strived to work harder and smarter than anyone. Beginning as a videographer, I worked to learn how to construct angles, drafting nifty ledes, and searching for scoops no one else was interested in finding. After just a year on staff, I ran and won web managing editor after campaigning all year and proving to myself I could be the hardworking person I knew I could be. This past year on staff, I still continued as the admin beat, reporting on first amendment violations, and shared my connection with Nipsey Hussle. The newspaper gave me the courage to share my voice and be proud of being myself.

With the support of my friends from Columbia, I sought to be more outgoing. I reached out actively to eat lunch with new people, text about different classes, and go out of the house. I’ve had countless coffee shop work sessions, weekend dinners, and just driving time with people I never thought I could admire so much. From people in journalism to friends I met through my classes, I cannot thank you all enough for just accepting me for who I am. These two years, I’ve been able to forge friendships that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life, something a fourteen-year-old Noah never thought was possible walking into high school in August of 2015.

In September, I’m heading to a new city and a school I never could believe would take me for myself. When I started high school, I hated myself. But now, through the relationships I’m grateful for now, through writing with this blog, I think I’ve gotten a hell of a lot closer to knowing who Noah Tesfaye is.

UChicago may be my next chapter, and although I am eager to head off in the fall, I am walking away from high school more satisfied and thankful than I ever could believe. I’ll miss the late nights laying out the newspaper and the hole-in-the-wall food trips, but I’ll miss the people most of all.

But, I know that and I believe that I am now able to truly continue to have meaningful relationships with the people I care about beyond high school. This is not goodbye by any stretch of my imagination; it’s really just the start of relationships not bogged down by homework and teacher drama.

Yesterday, I graduated amongst people I care about, surrounded by people I love. Thank you to my mom, dad, brother, friends and family, teachers, and mentors for giving me the courage to never give up. Without you all, I could have never completed this journey. I leave high school feeling more alive, passionate, and empathetic than I ever have in my life. That is all I could have ever asked for in this experience.


Being Noah Tesfaye #84: I Graduated High School.

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!