Financial Literacy Against the Odds

Throughout my education career, I have learned how to integrate calculus functions, construct past imperfect Spanish and Latin sentences, and read dense historical texts. Yet, in fifteen years of education either directly paid or indirectly paid for through taxes, I never learned how mortgages worked, what makes up your credit score, and most of all, how to be financially responsible.

This past summer, I did something that our schools have failed to do: I taught myself how to be financially literate.

Over the four months I spent at home, I watched YouTube videos, read articles, and pushed myself to try and understand the stakes that exist when you need to understand how to be responsible with money. I learned about Roth IRAs, compounding interest, credit utilization, index funds, and so much more. Yet, if there was one thing that truly blew my mind throughout this whole process was coming to the general conclusion that not many people are aware of or have the privilege to take the time to learn all of this.

When it comes to financial education in public schools or schools in general, there are nearly no federal standards or requirements. In 2017, Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy gave out Financial Report Cards to every single state based on how well they taught financial education. Just five states received A ratings. Do you want to know what states those were? Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee, Utah, and Missouri. They mandate half a year in taking personal finance courses to graduate. Just 17 states require personal finance classes to graduate.

From an economic sense, it almost seems too obvious as to why there wouldn’t be financial literacy standards nationwide. Besides the fact that public schools are almost completely controlled on a state level, if everyone was taught how to budget correctly or know how to use credit responsibly, all the banks could not make the monstrous profits than they currently do. Corporations thrive on the lack of financial literacy, of compulsive spending, because as long they get a sale from you, it doesn’t matter the debt you could be taking on.

For many people across America, the fear of credit cards is a rational one. These companies are predatory if you do not know how to work in the system. We don’t just give people a car to drive without testing them (no matter how simple that training maybe). We don’t give people the chance to teach our students without being credentialed to be able to teach. Yet, for something as important as financial literacy, we just throw our citizens out in the open and expect them to figure out how to navigate this system.

I know I’m not a finance guru by any stretch of the imagination but I try to at least share some tidbits of info with my friends about applying for a credit card, using it responsibly, and starting your retirement account early so you can rake in compound interest. I send out links to channels like Graham Stephan or AskSebby or websites like Mint or NerdWallet. All of these places can just give you a simple jump on a way towards financial independence. Especially since I’m in Chicago, away from home, budgeting and being financially literate is imperative.

I am slowly getting more responsible and aware of my spending habits (note the coffee), but hopefully having a new job and living in a new place can help me build more responsible practices. It’s an evolving process, but if you can nail down just the essentials of spending less than you make, that alone can set you on a path towards success.


Being Noah Tesfaye #102: Financial Literacy Against the Odds

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!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Embracing It All in College

In a week through classes, I still cannot believe how incredible college is.

Four days in, everything is a challenge, yet simultaneously so rewarding. I’ve had more reading and more class work than ever. It’s a lot of dense, deep material that is quite the awakening from a four month summer. And for maybe the first day or so, I didn’t know how I could manage to keep it up for the next four years.

But, after a few days, things finally began to click. I’ve gotten engrossed in my reading, discovering new strategies to close-read and get the most out of the texts. I’ve built stronger, more rigorous instincts to take every free moment to study if I can not just to be on top of my work, but because I really enjoy learning in my classes.

Course-wise, I knew what I was going to be jumping into, but I also knew simultaneously that this would be the right decision. I wanted the heaps of reading that I never got to push my curiosity in high school. I know that I’m just going through the first week, but the level with which I’m being forced to think, to grow, is a true privilege that I know I need to take advantage of. It will be a hard road to travel, but this journey in college is the right one for me.

In this week, I’ve seen two Ta-Nehisi Coates talks, one of which I got to ask him a question and just talk to him for a brief minute. That moment will literally replay in my mind over and over and over again, especially since my friend recorded it and I have it forever. I may disagree on certain aspects of his writing, but I cannot deny that both he and his writing is immensely responsible for me even attending the institution I’m going to right now. Between the World and Me changed my life and made me really believe that there was a place for my own voice.

I’ve gone to our school’s first ever black convocation and have repeatedly had my mind blown with knowledge about how our school has a ways to go with race reform. Going somewhere where I know there are actually other students going through the same challenges I’m going through in this PWI is truly something new for me. I am so proud and excited to have conversations and discussions with other black students for the first time.

In this past week, I got a job, made new friends, and most of all, I feel like I have a home in college.

That last point means more to me in particular because I had been hoping for so long that this journey of personal trials and tribulations fighting through the whole high school experience would lead me somewhere meaningful. I wanted so bad for college to be the launching point where I could have a sense of my own belonging and identity. And for the first extended period in a while, I haven’t even thought about holding off being my true self. I won’t deny that UChicago will only get harder and more difficult. But, if I can continue to maintain this personal belief in my own abilities, in the confidence that I can do this, there will be nothing in my way to taking this all in.


Being Noah Tesfaye #101: Embracing It All in College

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!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

100 Weeks Later…

In the 100 weeks of writing this blog, just shy of two years posting without a missed week, this is is what I’ve learned:

If you thought I would have come to a massive, single life-altering conclusion about writing for this long of a time, well I didn’t. I didn’t come to a complete higher intellectual plane, nor did I gain some sort of higher notoriety (albeit I’m still surprised some new peers I just met this week in school said they read, which I appreciate!).

What I’ve learned the most about is myself.

This blog has been the continual development and growth of understanding who Noah Tesfaye is. This means from understanding the way I think on a deeper level, working towards establishing a sense of discipline with my life, and most of all, growing my writing skills. This long, two-year gradual process hasn’t culminated into one big conclusion as much as it’s evolved the way I view life itself.

“Being Noah Tesfaye” has been the title of this blog from the beginning for one simple reason: this is where I tell my own life story, unobstructed and unfiltered, open for anyone to interpret and take advice from. I went for this because I know that no one can tell my story ever as detailed or as specific as myself. There is just something about taking the chance to just be myself, and for every single Saturday the past 100 weeks, I’ve done just that.

In the past year, the last six months, this hub, this blog has grown into more than just a way for me to write about my thoughts. Not only has this place turned into a platform where my friends and I can begin to have real-world dialogue, but it has afforded me a position where I can truly begin to build my voice amongst my community. Being a college student as of this upcoming Tuesday, I am grateful that my peers are ready and invested in understanding my ideas. To be in a community now where these kinds of conversations just happen in the quad whenever we are free is just a testament to the environment I’ve wanted to be a part of for all of my life.

I have more eyes on the blog now, which is nice and motivating, but that doesn’t mean anything will change. For the foreseeable future, I’ll continue writing here, talking about politics (impeachment post will come soon), music, and my college experience. I know this is my last free weekend after a four-month summer, but I can assure you that this blog, this platform, won’t be going anywhere soon.

Thank you so much for reading to #100, for the past two years, or reading anyone in between. I truly am grateful for and appreciate the kind words you all have said in person or online.

Here’s to another 100 more.


Being Noah Tesfaye #100: 100 Weeks Later…

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!

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Moving to College

Today is the day. Today, I’m moving to my new home for the next four years: The University of Chicago.

As I write this flying to from San Francisco to O’Hare after a nearly three-hour delay, I honestly do not know what to think about this moment. As I write this final blog post as a non-college student, I just wanted to take time to reflect on everything that led up to this moment, this big day.

Four years ago, I embarked on this journey called high school where I didn’t know how I would make it through. I chronicled those challenges in prior posts, but in short, I didn’t know anyone when I arrived on campus with 2,000 foreign faces. All I wanted to do is be heard, to share friendships that could carry me through life, and most of all, carry on my passion for learning.

Amidst all of the different chaotic moments of confusion, uncertainty about whether I wanted to be at school, frustrating relationships with peers, and a sole focus on STEM, I didn’t know how I’d make it in college, heck even makes it to college in a hopeful, eager package. Seeing the examples of my older cousins at great schools, my parents immigrating from Ethiopia and making it here, I was afraid I wasn’t going to be enough, that I didn’t deserve the opportunities I did because I couldn’t see success in the same ways for a long time.

But, somehow, things began to come together. The newspaper, my adventures at Columbia, this blog, all gave me a joy I didn’t know was possible. I could live, begin to thrive as a human, and start growing into the person I wanted to become.

These past four months, really a lifetime, of waiting for the day I would move into college has slowly crept by. I’ve spent a ton of time toggling life career paths, questioning whether I was making the right decision to go with social sciences, whether I made the most of high school chasing today. I wanted to be here, today, embarking on this new path, since I could remember learning about college.

But now that I’m finally at this point, I’m going to try something a bit new for me, something I practiced a bit more this summer:

Live for today.

I know it will be hard, but I want to be more present. These next four years will go by almost certainly faster than the drawn-out time that was high school. Stick to taking photos because I love taking them, but put it away to live through my own eyes than throw a viewfinder. Whether it is exploring Chicago or traveling elsewhere, I just want to experience new worlds and opportunities.

Living for today means yes planning for the future, but focusing on the micro, to do the best I can today for tomorrow. I don’t want to be paralyzed by fear anymore about making a mistake in the short term when I know that these four years are my stepping stone to bigger ventures.

As I’m moving in today, as I’m meeting new friends for the first time, as I’m settling into Chicago, I’ll be trying consciously to live by this, to continue my growth in a way that allows me to be the best person I can be. I’ll continue documenting and writing about my adventures here, and with installment #100 coming next week, I’m ecstatic to continue the blog from my new home.

Till then…


Being Noah Tesfaye #99: Moving to College

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!

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The Third Democratic Primary Debate — Joe Biden Rambling His Chances Away

On Thursday, the showdown of all major presidential candidates took place at Texas Southern University (an HBCU). The third presidential debate was, thankfully, just one night, and for three hours, candidates jousted back and forth to move the needle in the polls.

And, to no surprises, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren stood significantly stronger above every other candidate on the stage. It wasn’t just that they back a lot of policies I’m for, but they were more prepared in rebutting any conservative, right-wing framing of questions, or centrist arguments from other candidates. Bernie was asked how his proposed Democratic Socialism was different from Maduro and socialism in Venezuela. Yeah. That happened. Perhaps the most frustrating part of the debate is just the constant rehashing from everyone asking how you’re supposed to pay for Medicare-For-All, and again and again, they’re forced to just restate their arguments, losing valuable time they can utilize to push on further elaboration.

Surprisingly, for at least the first 30–35 minutes, the candidates were discussing health care plans. It allowed candidates to detail more in-depth on the debate stage why their respective plans were the best for the country. Yang went right to explaining again why M4A benefits small businesses (relieving costs, expediting the process for employees), which is a much-needed part of the plan that Bernie and Warren could do more of. Klobuchar (who I still don’t understand why she is still running) attempted to get at Bernie with “While Bernie wrote the damn bill, I read the bill” as some sort of sneaky way to get around the fact that private insurance is responsible for the absurd costs for prescription drugs and premiums.

Aside from the top two progressive candidates, Yang continued to take more strides to get more people to support UBI. I may personally disagree on how he is getting there, but I cannot deny that he is destroying the other establishment candidates on a majority of policies, from health care to foreign policy. I’ll admit he did have quite a few fibs, but throughout the night, but as a whole, he had one of the stronger evenings compared to the majority of the field.

There’s a reason why I’ve just steered clear of hands down the biggest loser of the evening. And it isn’t close in any stretch of the imagination.

Joe Biden. His debate performance was terrible.

Perhaps the moment that stands out was his racist response after scoffing at a question as to how to deal with the legacy of slavery. Here’s a clip from Secular Talk where they play the clip in full:

Aside from the complete random jumble of words, including a record player for whatever reason, lies unfettered bigotry. Biden’s racist remarks on minority and poor households needing social workers to help reinvigorate the abhorrent stereotypes that black people cannot parent properly (which of course we know is completely false). The idea that these children need to hear words and are not exposed to the material to learn is also racist and unfounded. Forget the fact he didn’t even answer the question. No one in MSM (mainstream media) is acknowledging truly how consistently Biden is allowed to repeatedly perpetuate racist ideas and policies, which is not necessarily frustrating as it’s enlightening. No one there seems to acknowledge or care that these are issues a significant portion of voters will not stand for. These are the types of positions that will result in some voters not turning out if he’s the general election candidate.

Thankfully, Julian Castro came ready to parry and get right back at Biden over and over again. Although his polling numbers indicate he is almost certainly out of the running, I am thankful he has been able to tackle Biden’s hypocrisy within the debate and took risks to point out the obvious: Biden is an abhorrent candidate.

After this debate, if there’s anything that stands out, it’s this: Biden is not fit to be our next president. It’s his policy, his actual cognitive abilities, and his racist and archaic perspective on America that should steer all of us away from him. Jamil Smith wrote a more pithy and direct articulation of this idea in a recent column for Rolling Stone, but we need to face the truth he will almost certainly lose to Trump.

Fortunately, signs are showing Bernie or Warren will begin to eclipse him at some point in the polls, and so at least for now, we could see a true progressive White House.


Being Noah Tesfaye #98: The Third Democratic Primary Debate — Joe Biden Rambling His Chances Away

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!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

What If We Had a National Study Abroad Initiative?

In just about the past month, I’ve had the privilege of traveling twice. Throughout my lifetime, I’ve flown on at least a hundred planes and knocked off five out of seven continents (Australia and Antartica left). To have this opportunity to travel across the world is something I am beyond grateful for.

If there is anything that has allowed me to truly inform my world view, my perspective on life, it has been the opportunity to be able to travel. It’s what has allowed me to connect more with my family and heritage. It’s allowed me to constantly evolve the way I think when I am living amongst people of new backgrounds. Everywhere I’ve had the privilege of going, I meet new people, learn new languages and cultures, and perhaps most importantly, educate myself.

A few weeks ago, I finished reading “How to Be an Antiracist” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, one of the most powerful discussions on race in America yet. An aspect of the book I found particularly interesting was how frequently he touched on how there needs to be some sort of incentive to be able to progress political and social change with race. President Johnson was far more willing to go ahead on civil rights legislation when he saw other countries pointing towards the US’s hypocrisy when it came to pushing for equality and freedom abroad when they couldn’t do it at home. There needs to be a way in which people can truly see and witness the benefits of multiculturalism, the power in learning about others.

What if we offered every single high school student the opportunity to travel to a new country?

Logistically and financially, it would be a feat unlike anything is ever taken on by our public education system. With the approximately 16 million current high school students or at least the roughly four million per class, this endeavor would cost well over a few billion every year, maybe $10–20 billion assuming a rough cost of $1000 to $2000 per student. We also need to touch on how to reach students who may have not completed high school or students who drop out and see how to involve them or grant them access.

But, imagine an opportunity for a student to travel with their peers for free to a country abroad and expand their world view?

Being a Silicon Valley student, seeing often families paying their children to go on service trips or traveling for leisure is a common sight. If anything, it isn’t just that this isn’t necessarily a genuine gesture as much as a tack-on for a college application. But what we fail to acknowledge is that these students are gaining access to grow their perspective in ways students without access or the support to travel cannot.

The benefits of these opportunities are nearly endless. Like this essayhighlights, traveling not just about understanding your place in the world within a new context, but it allows you to understand how your life is the way it is. World history that we learn in American public schools is by design west-centric. By contrast, going abroad grants students the important perspective of the world from all different angles, to better inform our population about our context within it.

It would be difficult to come up with the legislative backing to support an initiative like this, much less decide on what countries students are allowed to visit and not visit. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important and that we shouldn’t try. I don’t know if this name of “The National Student Study Abroad Initiative” would be appropriate, but it does have a nice ring to it.

Do you want to help students begin to empathize with others? Traveling with your class is a pretty good place to start. We should just make sure that this opportunity is truly accessible for every student in this country.


Being Noah Tesfaye #97: What If We Had a National Study Abroad Initiative?

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!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

I Concede — AirPods are Awesome

The most-read blog post in the almost two years I wrote was on AirPods.

I wrote about my frustrations with AirPods back in December 2018. I talked about my disliking for its sound quality after a few listens, the lack of noise isolation, and the weird stem design that I thought looked a bit tacky. And, with little surprise, I received quite a few lengthy comments criticizing my opinion. In hindsight, I probably could have been a bit fairer and do a longer test.

When the Powerbeats Pro released this past May, my intrigue for a pair of true wireless headphones spiked again. But, after reading a few reviews of ear fatigue and seeing the hefty $250 price tag, I cautioned myself against just jumping in. Also, the lack of availability and one black color at launch didn’t help the case I tried to make to myself to buy them. And so, as any member of Generation Z would, I ran an Instagram poll to see if it could help me make a decision.

A week later, in June, I went to the Apple Store and bought AirPods 2.0.

For the past two months, I’ve been using AirPods as my main audio consumption gadget. I left my Bose QC35s in my backpack more often and put these through public transit, traveling, and just daily listening sessions.

And I am officially declaring today that I am conceding to those blog post comments. AirPods are great.

Most of my criticisms from my initial writeup still stand. They don’t isolate sound, resulting in me having to trade off playing music at absurdly high volumes or just accepting them as background noise. The look is still a bit funky and the sound is not that great.

But that is all I have for downsides.

It is one thing to have a pair of earbuds that you can throw in your pocket, but it is a completely different thing to have AirPods with you. The case is almost undetectable in my pocket everywhere I go. I’ve got mine in a small rubber case that I clip onto my keys, and every time I leave the house, it’s with me. Forget the fact that you’re charging the buds while they’re in the case, the convenience alone as an audio solution in daily life is something I truly did not grasp until I had my pair.

Yes, the sound is about average to above average. But surprisingly, AirPods shine with podcasts. No, they are not an over-ear pair of noise-canceling headphones. However, voices are sharp and clear, and you can hear even the microphone crackles in lower-quality audio. Music also sounds solid, and for a pair of buds this small, the earbuds pack quite a bit of bass.

If there was one thing that I think amazed me the most about actually owning a pair of AirPods versus just trying them on a few times, it is the fit. This is one of the aspects of owning a pair that is the most variable. For some, their ear shapes just don’t go well with them. But for me, they create a near-perfect fit. And that goes miles towards a better sound. I haven’t had them fall out of my ear in any movement or activity, whether walking, jogging, or anything in between.

As much as I wanted to dislike the gadget that initially received a ton of memes and hype at and since launch, I enjoy AirPods, a lot. There are four things I carry with me everywhere: my phone, keys, a Muji pen, and AirPods. The price at $160 or going for the $200 wireless charging case version I have has been one of the best tech investments I’ve made in recent memory. No, they may not blow your mind in audio quality, but their convenience and practicality alone make them worth it. I don’t see myself getting another pair of true wireless earbuds for at least a few years if these hold up with reliability. I was completely wrong, and I own up to that.

Get AirPods. They indeed are worth the hype.


Being Noah Tesfaye #96: I Concede — AirPods are Awesome

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!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Relying on “Electability” is Problematic

Few words are being thrown around this presidential election season quite like “electability.”

From the onset of this election, some progressives, liberals, but most specifically Democrats, have been attempting to push the narrative that the single most important aspect about this election is to defeat Donald Trump at all costs. It doesn’t matter how or who that is, so long as defeating him is possible. And, while defeating Trump is extremely important, doing so in favor of compromising core progressive tenants to get there will just perpetuate our status quo. That is something that will only further exacerbate tension across the nation.

The problem with the term “electability,” as has been chronicled numerous times is that it is associated with safety in an election. It is associated with the idea that a candidate that does not alienate the most people should be the one elected, not the one with the most enthusiastic base or the one with the policies people support. This often means that a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) is the preferred choice because people believe that because of their vastly unchangeable human traits, they stand the best chance to win.

If we relied on traditional metrics for electability, a president like Trump would not be possible, a candidate like Obama would not have gotten the support necessary to win. Both these candidates both had “obstacles” as seen by traditional political strategists that could hurt their chances at winning. Trump had a history of racism, lying, sexual assault allegations, and just general bigotry. Although on a far smaller scale, Obama did face the repeated questions where people asked if America was ready for a black president. If they listened or followed traditional terms of electability, they wouldn’t have become president.

Fortunately, much of the discussion as of late has shifted from talking about the physical or personal traits of candidates and now towards the policies candidates have. The argument by many centrists as of late has been that the next president of the US needs to be more moderate because that is the type of person that will appeal to more people. Yet, again, if we just look to recent history, a candidate on the far, far right is now in the Oval Office. This president defeated moderate Republicans and a moderate Democrat on his way to a victory (granted in a system built on inequity with the electoral college). We have an example facing us every day, spewing hatred about almost every marginalized group in America as a breathing example to show what sticking to what’s “electable” gets us.

Current polling reflects that Americans are relying heavily on the antiquated, ineffective strategy of voting for someone who is “electable.” Joe Biden has led every single poll for this nomination since he formally launched his campaign. His campaign is based on two things: “I was Obama’s VP,” and “I’m electable.” He slowly is losing ground bit by bit, but he has still been able to convince around a third of Dems that he should win the nomination. Even under the conventional guise of “electability,” running a third presidential campaign after losing the first two may not seem like a good idea. Yet, he seemingly has gathered more people than anyone else running today under the assumption that he is the only candidate who can defeat Trump.

So what am I suggesting about how we should go about this presidential campaign? Remove the term “electability” and any semblance of this currently benign definition of it. We should look towards and support candidates that share our vision for America, treat this election as an election for the future. If we solely focus on what will defeat Trump, not only has this ideology of centrism failed us before, but it will only further hamper our ability to ensure the progressive policy is enacted.

I cannot say much for certain, but save the impending economic crash, focusing on “electability” will only lead us to one conclusion: the re-election of Donald Trump. So, for the sake of a more productive democracy that serves to protect all its citizens, let’s just support candidates we want to lead us, not just defeat Trump in November 2020.


Being Noah Tesfaye #95: Relying on “Electability” is Problematic

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!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Reporting on Slavery and Racism in America Today — The 1619 Project and “How to Be an Antiracist”

Following my recent adventures at NABJ, I was adamant about trying to continue to read more journalism. In a setting filled with black journalists who recounted the challenges they faced because of their race in their profession was often heartbreaking to hear but motivating. The stories of triumph against a world that has treated us as less than deserving reporters and people telling us our background makes us biased were powerful. It reminded me why I love being a journalist who wants to cover race and politics in America.

Tomorrow, the New York Times Magazine will publish a complete issue called “The 1619 Project.” This incredible undertaking, pitched and brought together by the brilliant Nikole Hannah-Jones, attempts to further our understanding of the effects of slavery on this 400 year anniversary when the first slave ships arrived in British colonies in North America. Filled with essays, photo essays, poetry, and further prose, the project also will have a special section in tomorrow’s Sunday Edition of the New York Times, along with episodes on the popular “The Daily” podcast, as well as more pieces over the next few months.

Although only just an essay and a half through, I am blown away with not just the prose and writing as a whole, but more importantly I am just filled with a lot of indescribable emotions. Hannah-Jones’ essay begins the project, and she argues, rightfully so, that we must refocus the origin of this nation not in July of 1776, but rather in August of 1619, when 20–30 enslaved Africans were brought to Jamestown. It is at this moment the true story of America begins; it is a story that is not pretty, not glorious, and most of all, built on a designed racial hierarchy with black people at the bottom. She articulates further in the article that this country’s independence is based on a lie that all men are created equal, but it was the movements for civil rights by black people that helped bring that equality further towards the democracy the founders claimed they had established in 1776.

The rest of the essay follows this dissection of how we got to where we are and, how against all odds, black people have risen up to become the most American of all. I won’t go further into the essay, but this is the type of story and breakdowns of history we all as Americans need today. We all need to learn this. That’s why the Pulitzer Center partnered with The 1619 Project to create a free education curriculum to help teachers across the country learn the truth about slavery.

A common question ignorant and even well-intentioned people are constantly asking black journalists and writers is “Why are you doing this now? Why write about race? I don’t see race, so what’s the point of dividing us now?” The simple answer is that in the near 250 years of bondage black people suffered under, we have only been legally “free” for 50 years. For the first time, black journalists like Hannah-Jones, Brent Staples, Vann Newkirk, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and others are finally getting the opportunity to have the resources and backing from some of the largest publications in the world to really dig into these issues. If you have the time to watch the launch presentation of The 1619 Project, all the journalists and even editor of the magazine Jake Silverstein, are well-aware of how even a few years ago, a pitch on doing a story or two like this, let a massive undertaking like this project, may not have even gone through.

But there’s a deeper reason and desire to cover these issues now, and it has a whole lot to do with the climate we are in politically. Now, in the open and on both sides of the political aisle, there is a fear to discuss the true effects of slavery and racism on America. People are reluctant to use the terms “racist,” equivocating it to extreme usages like when a white person says “nigger,” or when a white person dons a Ku Klux Klan hood and robes. But the problem with this is that people are negating and ignoring the present day racism and racial abuse (as it should be said).

That’s why just a day after release, I picked up Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s newest book “How to Be an Antiracist.” Kendi’s goal is to explain how not being racist isn’t enough, because in doing so, one only perpetuates the racial inequity that exists in America. To be “antiracist,” as he defines it, is to support policies that treat all people as equal and actively pushes for racial equity. I’m about five chapters in, but Kendi so precisely goes towards articulating a new explanation for racism in America: it is racist policy that perpetuates racist ideas which permeate through society, not vice versa. He believes that for there to no longer be a moment where races are viewed as unequal, systemic, antiracist policy must be put in place to allow for a true correction in society. Interjected throughout the book, Kendi brings in personal anecdotes that helped him form his own current understanding of race relations in a digestible way for people who don’t know how to approach the issues presented.

Both The 1619 Project and How to Be an Antiracist are massive endeavors black writers are taking today in helping teach the masses about the issues our nation has chosen not to educate us on. Black writers have been doing what they have done for generations, but now, we are finally getting the chance to share our stories with the masses. To Hannah-Jones, Kendi, and the countless others putting their careers on the line to tell these truths, thank you for writing and for dedicating your lives to this fight. I hope to one day go out and cover these stories like some of my biggest inspirations.

Read both the project and the novel, and I assure you will learn something profound.


Being Noah Tesfaye #94: Why We Must Report on Slavery and Racism in America Today — The 1619 Project and “How to Be an Antiracist”

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!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

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

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!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/