Being Noah Tesfaye #37: A New Future for Ethiopia and Eritrea

If I could describe being both Ethiopian and Eritrean in one word, based on the history, it would be conflict. Ever since we rose up and defeated the communist regime known as the Derg, Ethiopia and Eritrea have fought over regions they share borders, especially at Badme, a town in Eritrea. For the past twenty years, there has been unofficial war between the two nations, which cost the lives of over 70,000 people.

For a brief recent history, the main jist is that the former prime minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi did not follow through with a peace agreement signed in 2000 between him and President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea. This led to a sudo state of war and conflict for the past decade and a half or so. After Meles died and his successor, Hailemariam Desalegn stepped down a few months ago, Ethiopia finally had an election this year. Its winner, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, is the first president of Oromo descent, the ethnic group who was in severe conflict with the Tigray TPLF party and with the government, which resulted in numerous state of emergencies and countless deaths.

What makes Abiy so different from any Ethiopian prime minister thus far is that he has been extremely progressive. Like insanely progressive. He has a masters from the UK and a doctorate from Addis Ababa University, and he’s only 42! He and his chief of staff have Twitter accounts, and they post regularly. He’s ordered the releases of thousands of political dissenters from prison, condemned the previous regime’s torture methods, and opened televisions networks and websites for Ethiopians to use for the first time. The lifted state of emergency after the numerous protests in the country have signaled a new direction for Ethiopia: one of peace and future-driven thinking.

But in his first inaugural address, Abiy spoke to finally making peace with Eritrea. And last week, he went to Eritrea and signed an agreement with President Afewerki to end the war, giving up the conflicted town of Badme, and resuming economic trade with Eritrea. But it goes beyond that. Eritreans and Ethiopians for the first time can now travel between each country and can make phone calls to each other. And just today, Saturday the 14th of July, Isaias finally came to Ethiopia for the first time in over twenty years to continue discussions with Abiy.

For me personally, this is some of the greatest news I may ever hear in my lifetime. I genuinely hoped and prayed that this would become a reality, but I never thought this could come so soon. My grandmother on my mom’s side is from Asmara, and for decades, she has never been able to see her family. I’ve never been able to visit aunts and uncles and cousins for fear of consequences that could happen if I were to travel to Eritrea. But now, this door finally opens a new chapter for us to be able to establish new relationships and new opportunities to make each country better.

I can’t wait to visit Asmara and see all of the Italian architecture. I can’t wait to visit the Red Sea in Massawa at night, talking to my family for the first time and eating some great food. I can’t wait to learn more about Eritrean culture, finally picking up some Tigrinya and exploring the countryside. New pictures, new memories, and new stories that I can write, the possibilities are endless.

My grandma also has a weird personal relationship with Isaias, which I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, but has caused arguments with my uncle and her about his behaviors as a leader. He’s definitely a very, very bizarre and quiet person, and you can read about all of the insane things he has done leading Eritrea for the past twenty years, including never holding elections and more. But I’m really curious to see that first interaction and find out what would happen that day.

If you didn’t know, the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on December 10th. I’d like to offer a completely unofficial nomination for Dr. Abiy Ahmed. What he has done in just three months as prime minister has objectively shifted the course of peace for all of East Africa. Assuming he is able to stay focused and put the people first in all of his work, he is deserving of this award. I am so, so, so damn excited about this new future and when I get the chance to go visit Eritrea for the first time, I will be sure to write back and share those stories. Till next week…

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Being Noah Tesfaye #36: ‘Just Mercy’ — Let’s Change this Country

Up until the Wednesday two weeks ago, I was going to write my thoughts on this book. That was the plan until, well, you know what happened. I don’t have to say anything else. But if anything, writing about this book that I just read is more pertinent with the resignation of Justice Kennedy. This book speaks towards the severe injustice within the American justice system, through racial, socioeconomic, and mentally disabled lines. That is why I don’t just think that “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson is very important to read, but I think it is a must read for anyone, especially for people who call this country home.

I began reading this book after a recommendation from a friend in February, when Stevenson actually visited her school. I knew about his work, and I was so inspired by the museum he helped create, the National Museum for Peace and Justice, but I never heard about the book. So I bought the book in at the beginning of the year and began to read. But as school picked up, I set it aside and didn’t really pick it up until a few weeks ago when I started commuting for an internship. So I just read, and read, and read, and read. And when I finished it, I was truly both horrified and somehow motivated to do something.

The main premise of the book is Stevenson’s journey as an attorney representing clients for free on death row in Alabama. It details how his firm was founded, the Equal Justice Initiative (officially a dream to work there one day), and his relationship in particular with one person on death row named Walter McMillian. I will not mention anything about the specific cases Stevenson and his team tackled throughout the book, as I find the stories far more heart-wrenching if you go in with no expectations, but this is heartbreaking. There are children sentenced life without parole for non-homicide felonies, mentally ill people who are set to die without ever being diagnosed properly for their conditions, and so much more.

The book also shares Stevenson’s experience being a black attorney, not being taken seriously as a lawyer, being refused at times initially from entering a courthouse. What inspires me so much about this book is this necessity to always persevere. Above anything else that may go on in life, Stevenson exemplifies what it truly means to be a human. He is honest about his shortcomings at certain moments, but he explains how he bounced back, how he reinforces within his clients that he will do anything to ensure they will not be imprisoned for crimes unfairly and for crimes they did not commit. I really hope one day I get a chance to meet him and learn from more of not just his work as an attorney, but of his life as a person, as a human.

The single most important thing I took away from this book as a whole is that there never will be true change unless we actually try. There would have never been changes to death row and life without parole policy had Stevenson not worked to help end them, which he did thanks to victories at the Supreme Court. And when there were times when an appeal would not pass, EJI continued to try and try and try again. The only true way for the justice system to ever change is if people are diligent and are willing to take any measures necessary to ensure we administer punishments fairly. We need to work harder to be in a time where people no longer go to prison for crimes they did not commit, and more importantly, no longer receive sentences they do not deserve. And there is one important way that we can change that: vote. Support candidates that we believe have the best interest of the underrepresented, whether it be judges, DAs, or county sheriffs. We need to go out and support these candidates. Will everyone get out to vote? No. But we can get more people to vote, get more people to understand the stakes, that lives are at risk. So read “Just Mercy” and learn even more about how much our justice system really needs to change.

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Being Noah Tesfaye #35: A Daunting Future

This week, the American public realized how important the Supreme Court truly is. For anyone who follows the court, the resignation of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy came to some surprise, but this decision was nowhere outside the realm of possibility. But with the very thought of conservative majority for the foreseeable future now a reality, so many of the norms Americans have been accustomed to, like abortion rights, affirmative action, gay rights, and so much more are all now in jeopardy.

I will be the first to say that I am beyond terrified. When I first saw my phone blowing up with Twitter notifications and news alerts, I genuinely couldn’t contain my frustration. After the upholding of the travel ban, I had assumed with the end of the SCOTUS term, there would be no resignations. But with Kennedy choosing to leave under a Republican (he was appointed by Reagan), it made sense that he would resign at this time. I could not believe that there could be another Gorsuch back on the court by November. And with Trump poised to give his nomination within the next week or so, the court would be firmly voting conservative for decades.

Whenever something happens with SCOTUS, the one place I’ll always go to is my RBGANG (for Ruth Bader Ginsburg) group chat from my Columbia summer program. We started throwing out all different types of possible solutions to this problem. We thought about court packing, impeaching Clarence Thomas, or just begging for there to not be a vote until the end of the Mueller investigation, or at the very least, until midterms.

But of course, I knew a lot of these ideas were near impossible. My professor from my class reminded me that Clarence Thomas was indeed the most senior member of the court, let alone the fact his impeachment pertaining to lying about the Anita Hill sexual harassment claims would never be voted on in a Republican-controlled Congress. She showed me a possible court packing strategy outlined in this article, but I could not see any president willing to commit that kind of political suicide. The only reason Roosevelt entertained it was because he was one of the most, if not the most, favored presidents ever, and he had no term limits.

The best case scenario, the one chance there is to not have an extremely conservative, more importantly young, justice is that somehow, against all odds, is if senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski vote against the appointment. They voted against the ACA repeal, but did vote to appoint Gorsuch. They said they plan on being very thoughtful about who will be appointed, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t vote for a Trump appointee. They singlehandedly hold the power to shape policy for the next forty years.

The real question I had for this really was how the hell could this have happened. I, in many ways, blame the midterms of 2014 for this. Obviously, when there were nine seats gained by Republicans in the Senate, the main reason I saw this happen was because of the lack of unity within the Democratic Party. Sure, they could not stop the filibuster that prevented Merrick Garland from ever getting a hearing, but still. I really, really wish there was more enforcement throughout the Clinton campaign about the court. I feel as though there still is such a general lack of concern for the very power of the court itself that when it comes to elections, people still are not aware of the very rights that could be changed with a presidential election. Is this in part because of the lack of substantial civics education throughout middle and high school? Possibly. But perhaps more than anything, I am most frustrated by the very fact that the consequences are not stressed enough.

Are Americans really aware, I mean really, really, REALLY aware that the Supreme Court can change their rights at any instance? Any rights, like equal rights for gay people, being allowed to receive the same benefits of being married. They can control the extent to which affirmative action based on race can exist in this country, or whether abortion rights will remain. They can destroy criminal rights reform, by reinstating life without parole for minors in non-homicide crimes. They can enforce an immigration ban for the foreseeable future, and they already have with a repeat for Korematsu v. United States in Trump v. Hawaii. The court has the power to change how the law is interpreted in every sense, for every single American. They are the real world Thanos, with the ability to change everything with a snap of a finger, or really a 5–4 decision.

Gorsuch and the next possible appointee won’t be the end of this however. I want my idol RBG to fight till her last breath, and she might very well pass on the bench, but that is a possibility. I believe she can stay around for the next two, or even six years. She’s more fit than any other justice, and she has the fire to stay for another ten years. Other justices could be on their way out as well. Clarence Thomas could consider retiring as well, but who knows at this point. Everything’s on the table.

I think the single most valuable lesson from this resignation is that we must respect the power of the Supreme Court. I truly believe that it is the most powerful and most important branch of government. Justices are appointed for life and have the power to determine the degree to which the law is applied. They are the final say in such matters, and therefore, there is no office we should put in higher regard. More than likely, there will be another young conservative justice on the court within the next few months, and we will be seeing the resulting consequences for decades. I was going to say we should be optimistic and hope for the best, and while yes that is what we should do, I am probably not going to do much else except think about how this circumstance could have been so different. It could have been so different. I hope this situation serves as a harrowing reminder to never ever forget the power of the Supreme Court of the United States. Respect SCOTUS.

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community!

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Being Noah Tesfaye #34: My Daily Driver

I want to talk about tech today. I don’t think I’ve ever written a post on tech, but this week I want to talk about the one piece of tech I cannot live without that is not my phone or laptop, both of which are essential in their own ways. No, what I’m talking about is headphones. They’re the way I experience almost all of the first listens to albums, get transported through stories in podcasts, and keep myself isolated from the world.

The single piece of technology that allows me to be as effective as I am studying, writing, or researching is my Bose QC35s. I live by this single piece of technology every single day. I got them about a year and a half ago, and they have been the best times listening to anything in my life. I’ve tried Beats, I’ve tried Sennheiser, I’ve tried Audio Technica, I’ve tried everything. But these headphones somehow remain atop the very best I’ve ever used and definitely the greatest pair I’ve ever owned.

The single most valuable part about a headphone for me personally is the comfort, and I have consistently worn these headphones for many, many hours. I’ve worn them for 22 hour flights to Ethiopia, for eight hour study sessions, and through the recent hour and a half commute to my internship, and I never feel like I need to take them off. They fit perfectly around my ears, and the seal they create is impeccable. They’re also wireless if you didn’t know, which allows for ultimate mobility. They also can be used powered plugged in as well, or without power using the included audio cable.

But what sets these headphones apart is the noise cancelling. Now, anyone who loves headphones knows that Bose is the very best available when it comes to pure noise cancelling, and these are the very best Bose have ever made. When I want to tune out a busy coffeeshop as I am right now, I put them on. When I want to tune out my brother, I put them on. Sometimes I don’t even play anything through the headphones and just turn on the noise cancelling because it is that good at it. Within the app, called Bose Connect, you can actually toggle between full, low, or no noise cancelling, depending on the circumstances. I usually just leave it on the highest noise cancelling setting so I can listen to music at lower volumes and still not hurt my ears.

Overall, the sound quality is solid. It definitely sounds clear for the most part, but it takes a higher volume, which I cannot listen to regularly, to hear how great these headphones are. They definitely are not the best in this class, as I’d argue that headphones by Sony are probably more balanced, but the bass here still packs a punch. Mids and highs are a bit muffled here, but they are still respectable. It definitely is tuned more towards hip-hop, but you can use a phone amplifier, or your respective audio listening apps to be able to correct for this.

I haven’t mentioned any complaints yet, but there is one, albeit major frustration I have with these headphones: the ear cups. They’re very, very comfortable, but they are horrible quality. After only a year of use, the pleather begins to flake, and now I have a pair of headphones that lacks much of its original padding layer. I hate the fact that I have to replace them for $30, but I’m going to buy it anyways, so that’s that.

The one thing that deters a lot of people from buying headphones that sound great is price. But if I’m going to be completely honest, for a gadget, a utility that you will use every single day, paying the extra money upfront for a great pair is absolutely worth it. The version I have, version I, is available for $330, but if you want to pay for the version II that has an “Action” button for noise cancelling toggle and Google Assistant, it’ll set you back $350. That is a price that many may be afraid of paying, and for good reason. But if you want to truly get a tool that you can use every single day, one with a $30 annual membership for a new set of ear pads, this is a worthy investment that you will not regret.

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community!

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Being Noah Tesfaye #33: What Could the Released Harvard Admissions Info Mean?

The second post I ever wrote for this blog was on affirmative action. Back in November, I wrote about my case for why the policies in place have the potential if followed through to increase representation of underrepresented minorities and poor students. I also spoke in particular about some of my fellow Asian friends who may have not gotten into some of top Ivy League-level schools they applied to. I felt and still feel frustrated for them since the majority of them do have nearly every single thing I could think matches the qualifications for the greatest schools in the world. Then, as I was stumbling around the r/Applyingtocollege subreddit, I read the news about the Harvard admissions info that was released.

Before I get into my general thoughts, I was stunned reading through the comments at the lack of knowledge about the benefits of diverse educational environments. Furthermore, I’d suggest reading the article in its entirety before coming to your own conclusions. With all that said, the first thing I did was message a Vietnamese friend in college to get his perspective. I didn’t know how to think about the fact that Asian-American applicants were being rated consistently lower than any other ethnic or racial group for traits like “positive personality,” courage, kindness, and more. He gave me two thoughts from his POV. First, he told me that we are still unclear on the specific ways Harvard measures all these attributes, and more importantly, how ACCURATE these ratings actually are. He told me that if the findings in Harvard’s research was thoroughly conducted, he could see how a strict Asian culture surrounding academics could play a role in these conclusions made by Harvard admissions officers. However, I agree with him 100% that if these conclusions are unfairly placed, being used to keep the Asian population around 20% and reject qualified Asian applicants, that is absolutely wrong.

I am going to be very honest : I’m terrified. I’m probably one of the most passionate advocates for affirmative action, mostly because it actually BENEFITS everyone to be in a diverse educational environment. That is a fact you can find that has been well-documented and researched. What scares me the most is the intentions of completely removing any subjective measures or intangible factors to college admissions is that it will inherently lead to a homogenous student body at all schools, both racially and socioeconomically. If you really, really, really wanted to, you could game the system, taking test prep courses and tutoring if you can afford it. You could go to a better private high school, or live in a better area to go to a better public high school. How can you assume that just on stats ALONE someone is passionate about learning and is challenging themselves out of their own interest? Speaking from my own experience, Ethiopian parents are notorious too for pushing their kids and making them pursue academics above all else, and I can see from experience how that pushes students in the wrong direction.

What I am concerned about is the potential chance that SFFA, Students for Fair Admission, headed by Edward Blum who worked on the the Fisher v. University of Texas case, is mounting a potential reversal of that decision and receiving support from people who may not understand these consequences. Affirmative action is at risk if it does return to the Supreme Court. Again, this is with the assumption that these analytics were conducted fairly and done so accurately without racially-biased intentions. But even if these comments on these applications were unfair, which there is a chance that they indeed are, this does not mean that we should all of a sudden call for the removal of subjective material in applications to top universities. College admissions are subjective by nature. Schools like Harvard and other Ivys know what they want in a certain class that can prepare the most well-rounded group of students possible in the best learning environment for those students. They can’t be 100% objective because in doing so they could never do their job effectively.

I want admissions to be fair and give everyone the chance to go to the schools of their dreams. My friend told me that perhaps the first step in this path towards more fair application odds for Asian students who are well-rounded, if indeed these findings are accurate or not, is to have universities continue to stress there is more to applying to a college than a perfect GPA and SAT scores and all the president roles. I feel for my friends who are Asian who may be pushed harshly by their parents. My parents for so long were the same way too. First generation kids know the pressure is so great because our parents want the best for us and for our families. But anyone, if they are pursuing their passions and dreams for themselves and not for others and are doing so at a high level, should be given an equal shot at applying and getting the chance to be considered fairly in the admissions process.

Again, I cannot stress to you how much of what I think about what is going on is contingent on the fact of whether we know for sure the evaluations of Asian students were justified. But if we are going to give everyone the best chance to have a great education at the greatest schools in the world, the answer is not completely removing subjective parts of the application; the answer is to include more people of diverse backgrounds in the admissions offices to uphold affirmative action fairly for students of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds and ensure applications are read with a students’ personal or cultural circumstances in consideration. An Asian admissions officer will understand the pressures of applying to top schools from their own culture’s standpoint that that a white or Hispanic admissions officer may not. This applies to all demographics. What I fear the most is that we are not only going to hurt poor and/or URM students in this fight to remove subjective applications, but that this battle will hurt ALL students in their academic pursuits, especially represented minorities and white students. Race and socioeconomic status are factors that, if seen as legitimate proof to help make a university’s class stronger, should be allowed for private institutions to have discretion over. Let’s not let SFFA fool everyone into thinking this is merely about students being picked for the wrong race. This is about a university subjectively choosing how they can build the best class for their school. If I or anyone else of any background happens to suffer from being a certain type of student a school may not be looking for at this particular time, then that is just how it will go, and I, along with everyone else, no matter how frustrating it may be, must accept that.

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Being Noah Tesfaye #32: Lazy Music

I don’t have to tell you, the reader, how much I love music. I’ve written about music a ton the past couple months, in part because it is something that is so vital to my existence. I play music when I drive, study, or just about do anything. But as of late, I’ve been thinking a lot about one single idea, one which has begun to plague and dilute my experience as a listener. I hate it every time I listen to it, and it fundamentally frustrates me every single time I hope a personal favorite artist thinks they can get away with this. What I am talking about is lazy music.

Lazy music isn’t just a genre, or a specific feeling in a type of music that makes you feel lazy. No. Lazy music is work done by an artist without any substantial effort devoted on their part to create music that is unique or pleasing to their audience. This idea is not something special to any time period either; it’s just that with the advent of social media and catalogues of music at our fingertips that we can better recognize when music is made with effort or when it is not.

I’ll give two recent examples from one of my favorite artists: Kanye West. Both of his recent projects, “Ye” and “KIDS SEE GHOSTS” with Kid Cudi are the epitome of this term “lazy music.” I don’t compare artists to other artists; I compare artists to themselves. These recent projects lack the sophistication, the grand instrumentation, and any lyrical content that at least I could try to understand from Kanye. I am not disappointed in the fact that this album is bad, which in many ways its not. I am disappointed because I would hope an artist with as much talent as Mr. West would actually create music that pushes the boundaries as he has in the past. What makes the music made by him as of late “lazy music” is the fact that Kanye himself recognizes and realizes that his music, no matter the effort he puts in, will be received by his fans as the second coming of MBDTF or “College Dropout” at the drop of the hat.

Maybe the complex of dealing with our favorite artists making music that does not actually demonstrate so-called “effort” or work is with us, the listeners. Maybe we are expressing our fandom as absolute, and as a result, conditioning artists to think that we will take everything they do as holy. This false sense of absolute satisfaction an artist may feel is on us. We stopped putting quality first and instead would put someone’s name and their past work ahead of great music. This system of supporting artists that we put on such a high pedestal can end if we truly wanted to promote and support great music that is created by artists working as hard as they can.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there will be anything that will stop artists from producing lazy music. There will always be fans that will unequivocally follow their favorite bands, rappers, and singers, and in that way, artists can continue to create lazy music. Call it whatever you want, but if we want our favorite artists to make more music that we can enjoy for decades to come, we can do our job in asking them to continue to make music with the passion they want, not to just merely appease fans.

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community!

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Being Noah Tesfaye #31: The School Year’s Over

This school year has been quite a whirlwind for me. When we started back in August, I had no idea what this school year would bring. Initially, I was extremely hesitant about my class choices and how I was positioning myself to not succeed. This year was going to be the hardest one yet and I was paralyzed in fear of making mistakes at the beginning. But, what I could not have anticipated was that this year was going to be the single best year of school yet. And here’s why.

Coming back from New York, I was reinvigorated with an excitement to learn, and that propelled me to find everything I would work on interesting. Whether it was English or history or end physics (one of the harder subjects for me), I was able enjoy at the very least parts of everything I was taught. I learned to love learning in school and just not on my own, which made me appreciate school even more. Combined with my teachers and my peers, I was able to learn at a higher level than I ever have.

This year, however, didn’t come without the struggles. Those were the moments that truly shaped this year for me. I had points when I wanted to drop classes, didn’t want to take on the challenge, and did not believe I could actually succeed the way I wanted to. I saw my friends doing amazing things and accomplishing their academic goals, all while I was struggling just to get by. I was putting in hours upon hours upon hours, and for a long time, I never, and even now, still don’t see the results of that hard work. I’m not going to lie I was jealous and angry that I saw other people putting in what i saw as less work and getting better results.

When I’d try to talk to anyone about hitting a wall, I got no almost no good advice from any of my peers. I was doing all the same things and working just as hard. Had it not been for my therapist, I probably would have been even more angry and upset every single day. I didn’t walk to talk to anyone at times and I didn’t understand what working hard actually would mean if I didn’t get everyone else’s results.

But this year taught me the most valuable lesson ever: to work hard, always, 100% of the time, and just learn to get better. I realized throughout this year that the work I put in is the only thing I can control. I can’t control how difficult my homework or tests are. But I can control how hard I work, and that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t let the downs ruin my weeks. I may have mulled over a bad grade for a day, but I knew everything else would suffer if I would stay stuck on one number.

This year brought me new relationships. I made stronger bonds with teachers I already knew and forged new ones with teachers I had this year. I met new friendships I knew were not even possible. Being in my school paper especially helped me realize that having a community that can support you and is a place where you can help others made this year so special. It was the people, not the classes, that made this year the most memorable yet.

College is on the horizon. I’m honestly freaking out on the inside about everything. Where do I want to go? What do I want to do for undergrad? Where do I want to be? All of the trials and tribulations have given me the arsenal to just pour my soul into the applications this coming fall. I cannot wait to see what next year has to offer, but in the meantime, I’ll be writing some fun posts the next couple weeks. I’ll see you all next week…

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community!

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Being Noah Tesfaye #30: Tapestry

I’ll be writing the school year recap post next week when I’m finally done, but honestly I just wanted to given an update as to the current state of mind. But since the only thing I have been thinking about for the past week has been this major English assignment, I thought I’d would try to explain how this project, which I do not know if I may share with you all. I wanted at the very least explain what this has meant to me mentally.

The project is called “Tapestry,” and we basically have only three requirements for this English assignment due yesterday:
1. Six pieces, and all poetry count as one piece
2. Must have some sort of theme to connect the pieces
3. Must answer the question: “Who am I?”

Everything else was left to the interpretation of the writer. When our teacher gave us the assignment at the beginning of the year, I honestly had no idea what I was going to write about. I had never had an assignment so open-ended, but I was destined to write something I profoundly believed since the beginning to be the most important writing project of my life.

The first step I took about two weeks ago once we finished all our other classwork, I dove into each piece that I wrote and attempted to come up with a theme. What I decided to write around was this idea of my current self writing to the version of myself that was angry, depressed, anxious, pessimistic, and pretty much any other bad adjective imaginable. I wrote letters in correspondence to him, discussing how I wanted to share with him stories about my life, meeting him for the first time, and living without fear for how he would affect me. My final of the six pieces would be the final letter, bidding my farewell to him and making the decision to move on from him.

For me personally, the easiest part of this process was cranking out the pieces. I already had four drafts complete, so I wrote one more narrative piece, and then the final letter. After I wrote each piece, I would print each one of them out and go through printed versions of the pieces with a pen in hand and try to catch grammar or phrasing issues. In these formats, I would also look for places where I could expand with more details, or pull back on sentences that were irrelevant to the pieces.

I also got a ton of feedback from my peers, and in many ways, that is always the best way to catch mistakes since no matter how many times you may read through your own work, it is your peers that will catch things far more often because the content is just so new to them. I would bounce ideas off of my friends on punctuation, tone in the letters between each piece, or just chat through each message. Those conversations were so valuable to developing the ideas that allowed me to write the pieces, and it ultimately allowed me to realize what my goals were in writing this project.

I didn’t want to just write this project because it was an assignment for a class; I wanted to write this project for myself, to try and discover who I truly am and what I want to become. All of the dialogue I had with myself and with you all on the blog was able to ultimately be united through this project. Had I not been so comfortable digging into who I was and with my personality throughout the past six months, I don’t think I would have been able to actually succeed in this project. What this project allowed for was an exercise that I regularly take part in: self-reflection. It required me to dig into my past and really understand how what has happened in the past has shared who I have become today.

Now, by no means am I saying that I think I wrote the best project. If anything, I feel as though the work my peers were extremely inspiring to me. I got to read some amazing work by people I hadn’t gotten to know as well throughout the year, and in giving feedback, I began to truly appreciate their stories even more. And honestly, I just want to say thank you to all of those peers who let me read their work and were willing to be so honest and genuine with me. That is something I’m extremely grateful for.

So now that Tapestry is done, I’m off onto the next project for myself. I’m planning on revisiting the most fascinating topic in all of American history for myself: reparations. I’m going to try my best to write a paper that truly allows me to explore the topic in far more depth than just reading through all of the major papers in the field, but I want to localize the issue, talking about how these reparations could, or potentially not, benefit black people here in Silicon Valley. That’s the plan this summer. While I’ll continue to work on writing here as well, I’ll be also diving into more literature pertaining to a paper I hope one day will be published. I’ll see you all next week…

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community!

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Being Noah Tesfaye #29: Growing Apart

With this year coming to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about school and the experiences I’ve had. For me personally, the one big thing that stuck out for me personally is how much I’ve grown and changed. Specifically, the people that I’ve spent my time with at school has drastically changed over the years, and that has pretty much been what’s been on my mind all week.

When I got to school, I knew not a single person on campus. It was in that that I began to figure out who was friendly and who was out to get something personally from me. I made friends, I lost friends, and ultimately, I didn’t really know what would happen. But there were people who were always approachable, unique, and eager to discuss topics with one another. They were the people who would have no judgements, would never shy away from wanting to just focus on the relaxed parts of life.

But slowly, I began to see them less and less. I didn’t spend as much time with them. We started to no longer have the same classes. We were on different paths, charted by who knows what and why. But what truly frustrated me now in hindsight is that I didn’t do enough to preserve those relationships. I was never looking to actually ensure I could be a person to be there for these people that were so genuine.

But during school, your peers change and your friends change. That is merely just a part of life itself. I’ve learned to accept that at points there are people that can be beneficial to helping me in different facets of my life for different reasons. In that way, it is what allows me to learn about different kinds of people, to experience new things, and to be able to grow as a person.

Where am I going with all of this self-reflection? Well, I’m currently writing the single most important assignment of my life. I’ve been thinking about this single project for the whole year, and now that it is only a week away before it’s due, I thought it would be nice to just say thanks for reading. This blog, which is still only halfway to its one year anniversary, has helped me revisit and reflect what is going on in my life, which has enabled me to be a better writer, prepared for this moment. So with that, I’m going to go back to writing that, and I’ll see you all back here next week.

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community!

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Being Noah Tesfaye #28: What if ‘Dear White People’ Could Be My Life One Day?

There are very few shows I get the chance to truly sit down and watch anymore. Aside from some Shondaland shows, I usually find some Netflix comedy specials to laugh to and that’s pretty much it. However, there has been one show that has truly caught my eye ever since it released its first season. Especially as I get prepared to head to college, season two of Dear White People made me think a lot about the fact that although nowhere near as dramatized, this could be my life in college one day.

Coming from a school that is 1.8% black, any university I will attend will absolutely have more people that look like me. Dear White People works as a show because the premise is simple: black students living on an Ivy League level university and having to explain who they are and what is culturally okay for people to do and not do. They have to deal with subvert and overt racism as they pursue education at the highest level. The show’s name comes from the main character, Sam(Logan Browning), who has a radio show entitled “Dear White People” where she feels the need to explain directly to the majority white population at Winchester University that they need to recognize their privilege and their racist actions. I see some of myself in her at times when I have to clear up statements about Africa or being black, things like “Do you say the N-word?” or “Where is Ethiopia?” It’s not that these questions bother me, because in many ways I truly believe they are something I just have to live with through the rest of my life.

What this show does so well is illustrate the very differences between groups of black students, almost perfectly resembling black student groups across American history. There’s the group that is very cautious and is always looking for ways to appeal to white people while plotting their plans to control the school. There’s a group that calls white people out on their BS, of which Sam is a part of. And there’s even a group of students who are extremely upset at the treatment of people like them on campus and want to take near-violent actions against the white police force who pointed a gun at one of their peers.

All of these groups join together into a powerful ensemble that makes me even more excited to go to college. Their discussions on how to take action against the school, deal with white students in a productive way, and just learn to coexist is a dynamic I have never seen in a show before. And that is something I want one day. That is something I want to be able to live one day. Having disputes with people like you on the state of your own people are conversations that are always some of the most enlightening conversations I have with my friends and family. We talk about Ethiopia and Eritrea, and we can disagree on how things could change or get better. But those discussions are needed in order to find new ways to progress, to become better.

For me, Dear White People is not just a great show. It has almost became kind of a weird dream. I would truly love to one day have the chance to live an experience like this. In many ways though I would say that I kind of live a life like depicted in this show, with far less drama and black people of course. So I would say if you’re looking for a break to watch a show and just have fun, or you’re looking for a show that could at least partially resemble the discussions that some black students deal with at the highest academic levels, watch Dear White People. You won’t be disappointed.

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community!

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