Being Noah Tesfaye #19: Pursue What You Want

Well today has been a long day to say the least. I just wrapped up the SAT for the first time and I’ve been thinking about college stuff all month. Through it all, I’ve been hearing a lot of discouraging BS. There were moments this week that the amount of pessimism that has been being thrown around reminded me to believe in the power of self. The only person that matters most in life is me, or you.

I got the idea to write this week after my good friend, with no past school leadership experience, was voted senior class president after running a “Trump-esque” campaign (the blindside aspect, not the policy). He told himself to just run and have fun and see what would happen. He made a campaign video, amazing poster, got a lot of campaign supporters, and won. Against all of the possible naysayers and people who may have found it ridiculous that he could have lost against all experienced candidates, he worked hard and campaigned to win the election for senior class president.

My good friend’s story this week just speaks to the bigger message out here I want to speak out about. You are the one that can control your accomplishments. Like I wrote a few months ago, I realized that I have the power to change my life if I just work as hard as I can. What is as equally important is to take all advice with a grain of salt. What I really mean is the idea that we should have our goals all in sight and have laser vision about what we want to pursue. This week, I got told no about something that was a dream of mine from someone who supposedly had experience in telling me whether I could do this or not. Had I not had the self-confidence and persistent believe that I could truly pursue this goal, I don’t know how I could have handled what occurred. I may have gone into another serious depressed state that could have thrown off my SAT this week and the rest of the goals I want to pursue this month. I don’t know what could have happened…

What I did know was that I believe in my dreams. I believe in the fact that I can pursue my dreams of truly changing the world on a global scale. It is imperative that you surround yourself with people who can believe your passion, but keep you in check. They need to support you, and even when they know the challenge may be extremely difficult, they will help you every single step of the way because they want you to succeed. Against all expectations, there will be people that will tell you that you cannot do it. You can’t make it. You aren’t qualified enough. Stop trying. Give up. I cannot tell you how much my life would be different if I took any of the advice that I took from these people. They don’t have your best interests and they do not want you to succeed.

So succeed. Kick ass. Be the best person you can be because it is what you want. I don’t want anyone reading this to ever be discouraged from ever giving something their best shot. Why live your life regretting to not take that shot, not giving that opportunity a chance? I am thankful I get to live in a place every single day that gives me the opportunity to succeed and guide me onto my path to a future that will be one in a trillion. So to my fellow classmates, friends, students across the globe, and anyone who may be reading, just know that it only takes one person to make your dream a reality: you. You can do it, against all that may say otherwise. You can change the world too.

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Being Noah Tesfaye #18: Umm…

I don’t know what the hell to write this week. I’ve been swamped and don’t know what to say. I have a couple pieces that I’ve written in the past that would be great to share with you all, but I don’t know whether I should share those at this moment in time.

I guess the real issue is that, like all my fellow classmates, I am completely stressed to the point I don’t know what to even do. You are so paranoid about the fact that you have so much to do at any given moment in time that it prevents you from actually getting anything productive done at all.

I guess I could say I visited some schools, but that isn’t anything worth really sharing here. I’m working on more school paper stuff, but that’s all on that website. So what now?

This is what it means to write a blog, right? You have weeks and moments in time where everything is set to go and you’re inspired and extremely passionate, but you also have days like today, when I don’t literally have anything to say. I’m even regretting to write this because I know I could be doing so much right now, but I promised I would post something every week this year. I’m not going to apologize for the lack of a regular post because this is something that happens to everyone. I’m just going to hope that next week I’ll be more inspired to share something more intriguing with the rest of the world…

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Being Noah Tesfaye #17: We Need Facts to Overcome

This past week in the East Coast has been one of the best weeks in a very long time for me. Yes, I didn’t have to worry about school for most of the time, or that I could take a detox from a lot of the other stuff going on back home, but I got to reconvene with all my friends and professor this past summer. The one argument we came across and tried to understand was why there has been so much inaction both politically and socially in this country. Perhaps my professor, Camila Vergara, reminded me of this as best where we cannot use solely morals to ever make a case for why there should be change to exist.

The first times in history I could think of with these examples was with the slavery and the Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation, while freeing slaves in America, only freed slaves in the South as to affect the Southern Army and help guide the North to victory. While Lincoln morally disagreed with the idea of slavery, he didn’t actually still see black people as fit for citizenship at this time. He only freed the slaves to objectively help create an advantage for the North in the Civil War. Fast forward decades later, the United States faced a crisis. Black people were getting attacked viciously by police officers in the South for protesting against the egregious civil rights and equal rights violations by Jim Crow laws. It wasn’t just the fact that these actions were immoral that President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, but it was for primarily anger and resentment across the globe about the fact that the US claimed equality worldwide when they couldn’t even achieve equality at home. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the culmination of the CRM and ultimately led to the quelling of national debate. Once the cameras of people across the globe shifted, the prison industrial complex and public housing discrimination became more prevalent.

This is where I think we need to address that there are movements designed to shift social perception and those that are designed to shift public policy. Like a topic mentioned in a lecture I went to with my cousin at her school this past week, there are levels of dissent that are allowed in a system and then there is civil disobedience, tackling unjust laws. The Civil Rights Movement was effective because the protestors were willing to give up their livelihoods and safety for their cause. Protests that happen today, I fear, won’t be able to be as effective because both me personally and many Americans fear the consequences of taking serious civil disobedient action are too much of a risk to destroy the livelihood we live with. Action requires enough of a forceful dissent combined with real legislation that is objective.

Speaking towards the civil rights movement, the example I know best, MLK and others had to come up with objective reasons for why civil rights were great for the US. Rather than just protesting the violence, they spoke out about how including black people in all forms of the workforce would make the economy better, that they would be able to create new jobs and not get rid of the jobs that white people had. They demonstrated how they were able-bodied workers and people just like anyone else through the integration of sports and other workplaces. This same methodology must and should continue to be a part of the work that is being done today. I fear that we are too afraid and too concerned to make that risk, and even though we may protest, as I have, we may not be ready to sacrifice what is necessary for the true betterment of humanity as a whole.

This week in particular has been marked by the courageous and valiant efforts of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have been not just protesting the gun violence that tore their community apart, but they are actively demanding legislation changes. Now, whether you may agree or disagree, their efforts must be applauded because they are willing to sacrifice their school year, and possibly their lives, to fight for gun restrictions.

There is however one significant problem that can occur with protesting. This is the fundamental crux of what goes on today. In the event that one begins to protest, the real question becomes, “Do I have the power and leverage to cause this change?” This is why many companies began to start allowing workers unions because they feared losing profits from a lack of work at their businesses. The first instinct I honestly had when seeing this protest and the ensuing marches for gun restrictions was, “If Sandy Hook couldn’t get Congress to do anything, why would students in particular strike out of class, losing only their education, to protest against gun violence in schools not in California?” But then I realized something. I realized that it isn’t about legislation at this moment in time. Sure, we should make sure to get these students as educated as possible so they can tackle gun laws head-on with the facts necessary to fight against groups that are in favor of gun rights (NRA, etc). Right now, these students really need to see that there are millions of students who are there to support their efforts. High school students, for the most part, cannot vote in this upcoming midterm election. But, there can be significant efforts made in the upcoming three and four years to ensure that when students do get the chance to vote, they can make sure to vote for candidates that support what they believe in.

Civil disobedience, courage, objective truth, and leverage are all absolutely necessary to create significant change in America. I truly wish we could all morally understand what is right versus what is wrong in the political realm, but that is just never going to be the case. I am rooting for the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in their efforts to fight for their beliefs and hope that they can be the first group to help pass comprehensive legislation in Congress in the near future. There needs to be the four: civil disobedience, courage, objective truth, and leverage for there to be change, and once they can really nail down those four things on this journey, there is nothing stopping them on their path to helping make this country a place they want to help change.

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Being Noah Tesfaye #16: “Black Panther” and Why It Made Me, a Young Black Student, So Damn Happy

It is not in it’s ability to be a great movie, but it is it’s cultural and global introduction to black power is what makes it such a groundbreaking film

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Like all blog posts, this story begins somewhere. Last week, I remembered that the most anticipated superhero movie in years was coming out two weeks. I let my A&C editor know that I wanted to write the review. My news editor and friend let me know he wanted to write it as well, so we agreed to co-write. Sometimes our school paper gets access to pre-screenings, and when we got tickets to see the movie this past Tuesday, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Walking into this film, I had the highest of expectations, and thankfully, it exceeded my expectations in all ways. I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy watching a film as I was when watching “Black Panther.” This film is truly one of the greatest, arguably top two superhero movies ever, and one of the best movies this year for sure.

I didn’t get to mention my personal thoughts of the film completely in our review, you can find that on our website, so I thought I would share a few more of my thoughts that we didn’t mention in the review. The first point I want to make is that there is no possible word that could describe how much pride I had watching a full-black lead cast in the biggest film series of our generation. When you see Chadwick Boseman fight against Michael B. Jordan, or when you see Lupita Nyong’o fight alongside Danai Gurira, I don’t think I have to mention this, but I will again: this is the first time this has ever happened! I mean let’s just be honest. As much as I love “Get Out” or other films with black leads, there still has never been a film that has been able to capture black power and black empowerment on such a scale like “Black Panther.” How many times do we actually see that not only a nation in Africa as a place of groundbreaking innovation, Wakanda, but is actually the most technologically advanced place in the world? For as much as we see chaos, especially for me with the recent protests in Ethiopia, black people across the globe get the chance to see their people be the smartest, most high tech, and powerful in the world, and that’s worth something we should be thankful for.

As a film, “Black Panther” fulfilled all my criteria for a great film: a great script, strong male and female leads, and great visuals/cinematography/music. Starting right off with the script and the narrative, I will just say that besides what is in my longer form review, I found Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole’s adaptation of the Black Panther character to especially carry a narrative that the audience really should connect with. They wrote the film so that you could not only just care about T’Challa, Black Panther, but, if anything, you could care more about Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, the antagonist. The motivations for each character are established clearly and concisely to set context for why every single action is taken throughout the film. I won’t go into spoilers, but the two approaches on how to rule Wakanda by T’Challa and Killmonger are truly the best fictional interpretation of the battle of ideologies between MLK and Malcolm X. You can make arguments for why both sides are possible solutions to bring Wakanda to the world, as it’s an isolated nation at the beginning of the film.

Speaking towards the characters themselves, from humble T’Challa to my favorite, Killmonger, to the ferocious Okoye to the methodical Nakia to the angry W’Kabi and to the hilarious M’Baku and Shuri, I couldn’t have asked for a better team of characters that complemented each other both in dialogue but also in how they acted with each other. There was a sense of camaraderie that couldn’t necessarily be seen in the script but rather in how they appeared on screen. When you see them on the press tour now especially, it is clear that they know how important this film is, and they brought individually and collectively their best performances to the biggest stage in film.

I’ll just touch on the music, but please, I assure you that listening to “Paramedic” by SOB X RBE after watching the film is literally the greatest feeling in the world, as it’s literally Killmonger’s anthem. Overall, the soundtrack, while most of it isn’t in the film, does flow just like the film and each song provides a distinct musical interpretation of each section of the film. There were some slip-ups in the CGI at a few points, which will be obvious once you see the film, but for the most part, it was on-par with any other Marvel film in its spectacle and its scope.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The scene I have a screenshot of from the trailer above is really a part of the bigger importance of what “Black Panther” means for me as a young, black student. Even though I’m older than most of the middle school Marvel fanatics, I cannot contain my true passion and happiness for this movie because I am so proud that people like me can get the opportunity to be shared in such a positive light on the most grand stage ever granted. Ryan Coogler, Bay Area native and director of “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed,” took a risk by bringing the true meaning of black power to the world. Thankfully, he did the best job anyone could ever ask for with the creation of a world and group of characters that exemplify what it means to be strong and black. This movie will inspire millions of black people across the globe, heck it’s absolutely inspired me, to know that we can be ourselves and that’s enough. We don’t need to change our blackness to fit into a mold.

There’s no way this film could ever speak for any issues that happen in the world, particularly in Africa, but it provides insight into the most simple debates that exist about why the second most populated continent can become a greater place and has the potential to be one day the greatest continent in the world. As both African and African American, I am so proud of this film, the team, and everyone who has helped bring this story to the world. If you want to watch a film that will be one of the most important of this decade and possibly this century, or just want to watch a great film about gripping with change and acceptance, then you should watch “Black Panther.” You will not be disappointed. I promise;)

Being Noah Tesfaye #15: Needing to Write

This week hasn’t been quite the best week in the world. Granted, I did do some awesome things. I wrote wrote three and co-wrote a fourth article for my school newspaper. I did get the pleasure to meet two political science professors and got to go to a real Stanford class for the first time ever. I was enthusiastic and excited to get this knowledge into my speech for my English class and would like to think I created a somewhat convincing argument to restrict hate speech at universities(we didn’t get a choice on what side, just what topic. For the record, I am for not restricting hate speech in universities at all).

This all goes just to say that I’ve had one of the most strenuous weeks that I enjoyed and I feel like I did nothing. I had some incidents and comments about stuff at school that I wasn’t too comfortable with. I had an incident where at a point I feared for no reason that my academic career could come to an abrupt end. At times, I really believe that I hate who I am and who I’ve become. Sure, I feel like I may be productive, but it isn’t about that. In a time especially when I’m trying to deal with the issues of college stuff and school work in general, I am struggling to find the meaning in it all. That doesn’t mean that I don’t know what I want either. I know that I want to go to a great school, study political science/theory and constitutional law, and help as many people as I can. But it still doesn’t feel like enough.

I don’t shy away from my insecurities. I don’t appear to have them, but I do, and at every single second of the day, I try to find out how I can combat these failures I find in my life in order to secure what I wish to be a life of fulfillment. The problem that I realized early on is that I shouldn’t ever do anything for anyone else. As such, I tried to minimize other people and their involvement to my success. I thought that by doing so, I would be able to come to a point where I would be able to get everything together. That being said, I still don’t believe that I have gotten to the point where I realize that I am truly responsible. It is my responsibility for how well I can succeed and how well I can successfully take advantage of every single opportunity my circumstances have bestowed upon me.

So why am I even writing about this for the blog this week? There’s one simple answer: for my sanity. Every single Saturday, I come and sit down in a coffee shop to escape everything. I write to get a sense of where I am. I write to understand why I’m making the moves that I am. I write to realize where I will go. So no matter what I write about, I know that it is helping me, even if it’s just a little nudge, to really continue to explore who I am. So even if this gives me relief for just the next fifteen minutes, I can refocus onto what I need to become the best person I can become. Even though I don’t know where I will be in a year, I know that this is the one place I can come back to and just scream my frustrations out onto the blog and give myself some sort of hope that a refuge is some place I will find one day. I’ve only found part of it, but I’m on my way there.

Being Noah Tesfaye #14: What do I want to do for a career?

I’m sorry, but this is the ultimate question that I don’t spend an hour without thinking about. I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to write about for this week, but I set it out as my mission to write something every single week this year. Let’s be honest for a second. As a child, how much did you flip around your career ideas? It was pretty simple for me at this time to constantly change it around, but didn’t we all switch it around? Actually, there were tow kids usually. One type of kid knew exactly what he wanted to do since he knew what it was, and the other type of kid is the one that doesn’t know what they want, so they spend hours contemplating their future. Fortunately and unfortunately, I fall in that second category. As a young adult, I try to figure So the question if the day is: what do I want to do for a career?

When I first found out what a career was, the first dream I had as a child was to become an Egyptian archaeologist, digging up the next King Tut artifacts. Later on, I began to realize that this career didn’t really have much prospects in the US, where I want to stay, and I didn’t want to have a career that would, for the most part, be mundane in helping excavate artifacts that don’t really affect the world today.

The next career that I remember I wanted to have was to become an NBA coach. Understanding my lack of physical prowess at a young age, I knew and understood the game from the bench better than any of the starting players on the court. But alas, this didn’t serve the purpose of making an impact on people’s lives for anything other than entertainment.

I considered a job in public policy and becoming a senator in middle school. I thought I could learn about making the nation better, but then I realized that politics, for the most part (at the time), was a fairly slow, inefficient process and as a somewhat impatient person, I didn’t want to wait around for my fellow congressmen and congresswomen to agree with me.

At the start of high school, I binged ALL of Grey’s Anatomy during a single week of ski week. I was fascinated with idea of actually saving someone’s life. I wanted to become the next Callie Torres, an orthopedic surgeon, mainly because I had a compound fracture in my right arm three years prior, and I wanted to fix the problem that I had. I also even though of going into cardiothoracic surgery and be just as cool as Cristina Yang. But after watching the show, and then matching up the skills I have, medicine wasn’t quite the place for me to be. I did love the idea of helping and having a direct impact on people, but STEM didn’t fit me.

Then, like I said in a previous blog post here, New York City completely changed my perspective. After being exposed to how powerful the law really was and being able to interpret the Constitution, I knew immediately that my options were now narrowed down to just two options that I loved. The first was to become a constitutional lawyer, arguing one day in front of the Supreme Court over constitutional interpretations and studying America for how we can adapt the laws to help all Americans. The second option was to become a professor in political and constitutional theory, combined with a job as a writer for the Atlantic, my current favorite news publication. These two careers would fit me because I can impact people with what I do, but also with what I write, something I have been able to see with writing for my school paper.

So at this point in time, I am leaning towards those two, but to be honest, I don’t know where I’ll end up. The one thing I do know is this: I want to become a better reader and writer and I want to help people in as many ways as I can with my words and actions. As long as I can do such things, then I can be happy with the career I end up with. I want to change the world, and even if it may be at a small scale, I always want to know that what I’m doing is for the better of human kind.

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Being Noah Tesfaye #13: 4:44, The Most Important Album of This Past Year

The first time I listened to 4:44 by JAY-Z, I was lying in my bed in my dorm at Columbia. My roommate was sound asleep, like usual, and I decided to hit play at midnight on June 30th, hoping this album could be everything I anticipated it could become. I played “Kill JAY-Z,” thought it was interesting, but soon after, I fell asleep, with the album still playing…

I woke up later that morning and decided to play it from start to finish going to get breakfast and some good cold brew from UP Coffee Co. Initially, the first impression I had of listening to this album was that it was too short for me to ever enjoy. But, to take advantage of my Tidal free trial, I played it again, and again, and again, and again. I also downloaded a free copy as part of the Sprint promotion where Shawn gave away a million free copies. I don’t know what happened but I think it was the time I started discussing the album with my friends before class. I didn’t know quite the impact it would have on my life for the rest of the year.

That weekend, I exclusively played the album, memorizing the lyrics, interpreting every single bar that was there. And then it hit me. I realized that out of nowhere, this album was my favorite album. Ever. I didn’t understand why. Maybe it was the Nina Simone samples, or the simple drum breaks, or the punchy, punctual bass. But there was one thing I couldn’t get over: the lyrics. Now, I understand that his lyrics aren’t hard to understand. They’re not suppose to be super difficult to understand. What made me appreciate the album so much was his ability to just speak the truth of his own life. His experience being black, the two competing minds of Shawn vs Jay, family feuds, and his legacy. No one I had heard has had this kind of sincerity that I felt came from his lyrics. I have listened to a lot of great music, going all the way back from Rakim, to Tupac, to Cole, and of course JAY-Z. But the albums that spoke to my age and direct experiences as a teenager didn’t connect to me. That’s what made 4:44 so amazing. I didn’t experience losing out on a property for $25 million, or have an affair and almost lose my wife. I don’t have a gay mom either. What I did have was two personalities: the crazy measured. The one who always wants to do every insane thing imaginable, and the one who panics to get through work.

When I was walking to get to the 59th Street station to go to Coney Island on July 4th, I saw a skyscrape filled with nothing but the 4:44 album cover. I knew this album meant so much more to me even at that point, because everywhere I looked, I saw the album, and everywhere I looked, I saw the album speak towards circumstances of my life.

“Kill JAY-Z” spoke to my split personalities I feel at most times of my life, as I alluded to earlier. That idea of feeling like you should do something that you know will hurt you, and that guilty conscious will hurt and punish you for acting that way. Shawn is speaking to Jay in this song, and that’s how I try to reason to myself to get out of the selfish state of mind.

When “The Story of OJ” came on, and I listened to the chorus, I couldn’t believe how simply you could put the African American struggle. Yes, we have different skills, come from different experiences, and want different things, but we are all still the same, under one name.

“Smile” was me connecting to my appreciation of the life I do life. I don’t have the most peaceful and happy life, but I should be able to continue to appreciate my life for what it is. I should be thankful for the opportunities that I have and most of all, my mom is just a legend.

I understood “Caught Their Eyes” as my constant fight to watch out for those who get in the way of my success, attempting to threaten what I want to achieve. The most important thing was that you should watch out for those deceptions that could come in the way at some point too.

Well. “4:44” was… it’s just a masterpiece. No need to connect it to anything else. It’s one of the most important songs in hip-hop ever. Most people don’t know that yet, but they will in twenty years. A true classic. Not much else to say honestly.

“Family Feud” especially was almost laughable at some of the similarities with my family, and I appreciated his simplicity of saying: “I’ll f*ck up a good thing if you let me.” How much more blunt can you be? Really? The Beyoncé sample, feature, whatever it may be is phenomenal that balances out the snares and beautiful piano melody in the background sets this up as the most joyful song on the project

“Bam.” This is the “turn up” song of the album, mainly thanks to the fact that this song is the response to “Kill JAY-Z” from Hov’s perspective. He just attacks every single level of reasoning with just working to constantly go on the offensive, never settling for anything at all. That’s how I pump myself up. I want to and continue to get to the level where I can work harder than everyone else.

I couldn’t stop laughing at “Moonlight” because of its hook: “We stuck in la la land. Even when we win, we gon lose.” I appreciate his shredding of these rappers who sound the same and don’t change anything else. This song connects with me personally because I relate it more to how I see everyone around me doing things because others have done it, never thinking about what they actually want to accomplish.

“Marcy Me” is without a doubt my favorite song on this album. It’s not just the instrumental and the singing chorus, but it’s the idea of reflecting on how far you’ve come. I couldn’t believe just six years ago that I could be at the state I am at today. Also, “Hold the uzi vertical, let the thing smoke,” and the rest of the line about Lil Uzi Vert was appropriate, mainly to point out the stupid actions that these younger rappers are doing today.

I hope that my “Legacy” can play out something like Shawn’s. The intro from Blue is appropriate for this one especially, and I want to create a legacy that I can leave for the world one day. I want to truly change the world.

With the Grammys tomorrow, I’m rooting for 4:44 to come home with the victory. But to be completely honest, no Grammy or two or eight or none will take away from the impact this album has had on my life. When I ranked it as my number one album of 2017, I should have been more clear about the fact that everyone who loves music should listen to this album because it will become a Picasso. I’m just fortunate enough to realize this now, and maybe in thirty years, I’ll remind you, “I told you so.” Thank you Shawn Carter for making the most important album of my life and I wish you and the family all the more success in the future.

Thanks for reading this week! If you enjoyed reading, please leave a clap (on the side fo the page), and be sure to follow me so we can get more readers! Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter @noahbball1 for any updates to the blog. I’ll see you all next week at the same time.

Being Noah Tesfaye #12: We Need a Leader

So last week I was talking to my mentor teacher/friend, the only black English teacher at my school, about how African Americans could possibly really become equals and demand for true equality. After everything we talked about, the one thing he said was that we need a leader. And ultimately, he is COMPLETELY correct. Black people don’t have someone who can currently demonstrate their wants and rightful desires in this country. As much as I do want to believe that there has been a lot of progress made, there is no single YOUNG black leader in politics that can carry the legacy of the likes of John Lewis.

The first initial answer that any non-black person would say is Barack Obama. Now, as much as I believe that Obama was one of the most important people for African Americans, he hasn’t been as forceful and as direct about black issues as I would have hoped. When pressed by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Obama agreed that reparations are more than justified, but in its actual application, he didn’t know how feasible that goal was. As a strong supporter and passionate advocate for reparations, I would have hoped that our former president did take a stronger position on the subject. His speech to Morehouse College, the famous HBCU, left many, including myself, kind of surprised in his apparent lack of sympathy for those who have dealt with the worst hardships of the results of Jim Crow and slavery. In many ways, I like to think that I’m kind of like Barack in a sense that I have African heritage and grew up in a fairly diverse place. Nonetheless, we don’t have that heritage rooted in being brought on slave ships across the Atlantic. We both struggled to find our identities in a world where we didn’t know if we were ever fully accepted.

Barack is a strong example of someone that I have definitely looked up to as a black leader and helping bring more opportunities for people who are first generation like me. But he his goal wasn’t the betterment of black people; it was to be the president of the United States and a person beloved by all. We need someone who can truly lead and live a life to the betterment of all black people and continue to demand progress, never settling for any moment.

This is why I find the dispute between Ta-Nehisi Coates and Cornel West were absurd and utterly stupid. To be clear, I side completely with Ta-Nehisi, not just for my affinity for him, but it is because I don’t think he is attempting to be the spokesperson for black people. When Cornel West wrote the Guardian opinion article saying “Ta-Nehisi Coates is the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle,” I couldn’t stop laughing. Really? And then I read through the article, and I just became sad and disappointed. How could someone go after someone’s writing without understanding the context and purpose of Coates’ writing. He merely writes from a perspective of honesty and specificity about the effects of slavery and Jim Crow that have led to the plights of black people today. Being narrow doesn’t mean that you don’t have other reasons for what you believe. Being narrow means you know know your lane and you can acknowledge that your perspective that you are writing about is not necessarily showing the full scope, but rather the scope of your field of expertise in detail.

These disputes between black intellectuals and people who I believe, regardless of whether they intended or not, have some sort of opportunity to use their platform to share their perspective. Both of these authors are able to help bring to light some of the issues that black people face and are able to articulate them in clear and effective ways. However, to have conflicts between these two in ideology speaks of the larger, unfortunate circumstances that I want to change. Unity is one opportunity where regardless of specific ideologies, we need to be clear in what we want to accomplish. And nothing could be more effective than having a true leader to truly advocate for black issues and take initiative for these issues on a national scale, seen on a global scale. We need another Martin Luther King Jr. We need another Malcom X, or maybe a little less extreme. We need someone who can not only bring the issues of black people to national spotlight, but garner the support necessary to cause actual legislative change. This comes from an increase in black people in politics. Even though we may never truly ever become equal, why not try and work as hard as we can today?

Thanks for reading! Please leave a clap and follow so we can get more readers! See you all next week.


Being Noah Tesfaye #11: “Get Out” and What It Reminded Me About Race and Politics

If you haven’t seen Get Out by now, then you probably should stop reading this and avoid any further spoilers. Furthermore, if you haven’t seen Get Out, I insist that you should go watch this one of a kind film immediately! Anyway, my mom hadn’t seen the movie, so we watched it last weekend. Then, a few weeks later, I stumbled upon this article. And it brought up the point that I often forget to emphasize to a lot of my friends. In America, we emphasize too often the prevalence of white nationalists and their racist rhetoric. And while I do think it is important that we emphasize that their rhetoric is horrible and dangerous and all that, I feel as though that isn’t the real threat to preventing black people from rising up in society. I mean, sure, if you live in the South, much of the racism you face is more outward and explicit. But the racism that I know minorities in Silicon Valley experience is “liberal racism.”

We all know what racism is: “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” according to Merriam Webster. This idea of racial superiority is nothing novel, yet it continues to persist in society. Here in Silicon Valley and from my personal experience, people behave in a way that continues to perpetuate racial superiority, but the instant they get called out on this behavior, they immediately claim “I’m not racist.” This can range from stereotyping to direct use of slurs, but the result, regardless of intent, leads to facilitating a situation where “racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” This is where I think we as people might lean if we dig into the definition at surface level. I would tend to agree with this point of view, and in many ways I think that this can lead to a few problems.

The first and most obvious problem when you call someone out on these ideas of “liberal racism” is that they most often didn’t intentionally mean to say anything that would lead to this sort of circumstance. This is where the term “racially insensitive” comes up. This is a more relaxed term that usually is used as a means to differ from the specific intent that comes with being racist and being racially insensitive. Some argue that this term comes back to the idea that the label of racist is “harsh” and that we shouldn’t label anyone with such a strong term. I find this logic to be absolutely stupid and honestly a way for people to let their racist comment, regardless of whether it was intentional or not, slide. If you did something regardless of whether it was intentional or not, in any circumstance, the fact is that you did it. You wouldn’t tell a judge that you took something from a store shelf, walked out with it unintentionally, and claim you didn’t steal. You did.

The best example I would like to use from experience of liberal racism is the idea that certain minorities, regardless of their work ethic and determination, aren’t as well-fit to take advanced courses. I speak for my experience in middle school when, like I mentioned in a previous post, my math teacher thought I shouldn’t take the honors math track for reasons I didn’t understand at the time. Her judgment that I wasn’t ready for it was unfortunately based on the fact that African American and Latino students tend to, objectively, have lower scores and are less successful students. However, of course we all know that these minority students have significantly more setbacks to their lives, from the lower socioeconomic brackets, to bad public schools, and so on. But the fact that this teacher was adamant that I don’t take this advanced course showed me for the first time an experience that was not intentional, but was designed regardless to continue to perpetuate racial superiority. I know many conservatives may disagree with this point with “Oh, why do you always bring up race?” And to that I would like to say that had it not been for my race, that teacher would have seen my As and hard work, and would have been objectively been able to say I should definitely take that honors math course.

So what the hell does any of this have to do with Get Out? As I watched the film, I couldn’t believe the precision Jordan Peele was able to describe some of the subtle, yet race-based conversation that continues to arise with black people in this country. The main character, Chris, gets into discussions with his girlfriend’s parents, who are white, about what it’s like to be black, and later at a party, a group of people at a party at the Armitage house question Chris about his athleticism and the unique features of black people. Besides this all being extremely awkward and disturbing, it continues to portray more of the same stereotyping that exists with particularly black citizens in this country. They are amazed that he can speak so eloquently and it only continues to the point, and reaches a climax where he gets literally hypnotized by his girlfriend’s mother to get his eyes extracted for a customer. This family literally sells features of black people to the highest non-white bidders, and this famous artist just so happened to be blind and wanted to see again.

I can speak for other black people that there couldn’t quite be something we fear as much as being crippled and at the mercy of white racists who pick apart our best features and throw everything else away for scraps. This movie showed me, and lots of other black people, is that these types of irrational fears that seem like true terrors are in actually nowhere near the magnitude to the kinds of real fears we have everyday. I pray everyday that when I do get pulled over by a police officer that I stay as calm as possible and any movement I make could result in the end of my life. I live in constant frustration by the fact that I will get wrongly accused of something I didn’t do just because of my skin tone. These fears seem extremely irrational and for most of the time, I can exist free of these fears because where I live isn’t too bad. Nonetheless, I feel insulted every time I hear a racist joke about black people because they somehow believe my existence as an Ethiopian is different from any other black American. Sure, my last name is different, and I may have the ability to trace my roots of my family, but that’s it. I still get treated the same. No racist is going to be less harsh to me because I’m Ethiopian. No police officer is going to be less harsh because I’m African. No court of law will be less harsh because I’m not the typical black teen ethnicity-wise. Just because I am first generation, doesn’t make it mean I’m less of a black person. My family just happen to have moved from a sh*thole country voluntarily and only thirty years ago.

In many ways, this is why I think that sense of security and support for one another and its significant lack of it is why we aren’t able to ensure our true success. Maybe if we weren’t so caught up in getting upset at each other, with the Ta-Nehisi Coates vs Cornell West debates, or with the fact we aren’t demanding more from our legislation without bringing enough people to compete at that level. Get Out presents us with the opportunity to reflect on the status of black people and really check if the true enemy we are going after is the white supremacist in Alabama or the white liberal/conservative intellectuals who we are only starting to challenge now. I am glad that for once that the fears of liberal America were put on such a display in this movie, and Jordan Peele shared the unfortunate story about the fact that those who even appear to help us are also not willing to let us reach an equal summit of power.

So let us take this year as an opportunity to intelligently tackle the issues of black people. Let’s try to think and continue to look at the great parts of our community taking up the arms in legislation, changing communities. We could use more politicians like Jewell Jones, citizens who are willing to impact their communities and take the most methodical legal approach to eventually one day securing the true equality of black people. We may never be equals in this life, but what we can do is to continue to work as hard as possible to one day be on that level and at the very least put the next generation at a better place than we are at today. Dr. King would be proud of the steps we have taken the past few years, but in his words: “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Hope you enjoyed reading this week! Be sure to follow me on Twitter for some of my thoughts more immediately as well as some fun tweets as well! See you all next week at the same time.


Being Noah Tesfaye #10: Why I Fear Failure

So initially, I was going to write about watching Get Out and what it reminded me about liberal racism and racist vs racially insensitive, but I decided to save that for next week. What I wanted to write about, or rather just vent to anyone is my fear of failure and not succeeding. I have been trying to understand for so long the consequences that I could face by not succeeding to the lengths that I truly believe that I can achieve and as a result that always gets in the way of me being able to achieve the great things that I want to do.

This idea isn’t anything new for me or anyone else like me who constantly lives depressed. I would like to think that for the most part I have a handle on these issues and can be comfortable living mostly positive everyday. But every once in a while, it slips. Yesterday was one of those days when I couldn’t get it to click. I kept missing one, two, three, four questions when doing practice reading passages for the SAT. Now usually, I am pretty confident in my ability to remain calm and be proactive with my ability to look intensely at my mistakes and be able to grasp how I can be better at working on my weaknesses. But for some reason, yesterday it all collapsed. I bombed a section of the practice reading and I couldn’t remain calm throughout, couldn’t read anything on the page, and began to panic. It was just a practice test. It didn’t count for anything. And yet for some reason, it was as if in that single moment, every single worry I had of not succeeding all came crashing down.

I believed in that single moment that it would all be over. The college dreams, the great SAT score, the law school aspirations, everything hinged on this single practice test. And when it didn’t go the way I hoped it would, I raged irrationally and for reasons that shouldn’t have happened. I blamed my brother for playing Xbox so loud when I could’ve just put on my noise cancelling headphones. I blamed my dog who wasn’t even barking, yet in my mind was. And most of all, I blamed the environment that I was in that allowed me to somehow not do as well as I wanted to in this situation. There was no reason for me to get upset from an outsider’s perspective. I have plenty of time to make up for this one misstep, and yet, I couldn’t think about it this way. All I saw was these mistakes and the end of it all. The past success, the optimistic future, was gone.

What I came to realize, with the help of my mom most of all, is that I truly am my worst enemy and the single person who can destroy everything I have going. I have been too petrified about the idea that when I fail, it would end everything that I’ve worked so hard to achieve. And the worst advice I always get that I find at first ludicrous is “relax.” As a young black teenager, I don’t feel like I can ever relax because I think there is no chance for me to make a mistake. But the truth is, that this advice, is kind of true. I feel like I’m trapped at every point in my life and in everything I do, but I have yet to look at what I have. I need to get rid of my attitude about not doing enough and failing with gratitude for the circumstances I have to succeed. I could have been my cousin in the countryside in Ethiopia with no chance of leaving home. I have the whole damn world at my fingertips and it is only about my effort and drive to get to where I want to go that is in the way.

So I need to step back for 2018. Every single time I feel like a failure, a piece of sh*t, a loser, worthless, I need to bring back everything into perspective. By no means is this a concession to stop working hard. Best believe that I will be working harder than I’ve ever done this semester and the rest of this year through apps. But I want to get back and see the big picture. I want to see and remind myself of why I’m working so hard and keep that as the main objective. And while it may weigh on me a bit more, it will remind me that I am only at the beginning of something I know will be special and that will change the world. I may not know completely what that thing will be, but I know that I can work as hard as possible AND be grateful for this one in a million opportunity I have to pursue my dreams. That’s my goal for this year. Now, I’ll go back to tackling that reading section productively and I’ll see you all the same time next week. Thanks for reading.