“When They See Us,” They Will Try to Destroy Us

This morning, I sat for about five hours from 7 AM to 12 PM and watched a horrifying mini-series based on the true story of five young black boys who were wrongly accused and convicted of raping and assaulting a white female jogger on April 18th, 1989.

“When They See Us” is the story of how the childhoods of Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise were stripped away. These now men may be known as the “Central Park Five,” but as director of the show Ava DuVernay has said throughout the show’s production, they should be remembered as the “Exonerated Five,” because they should be remembered for their innocence.

For those who do not know the story, these five children in 1989 were charged and convicted of an egregious crime they did not commit. They were coerced to confessions by NYPD with false promises, verbal, and physical abuse. Furthermore, even as minors, they were questioned for hours without their parents and were not given water or were fed. Ultimately, the five put into holding for charges that were based solely on these forced confessions, without having any physical evidence and an illogical timeline. They were all then convicted in the court of law and served varying times incarcerated. In 2002, the true perpetrator of the crime Matias Reyes confessed to the crime that the five boys were convicted for over a decade earlier. The year prior, it is said that Reyes met Korey while he was incarcerated. After the confession was confirmed with DNA evidence and further confirmed details, all the charges were dropped for all five men.

Through their respective times in juvenile detention and prison, they maintained their innocence, even when offered parole if they confessed they did the crimes they were convicted for.

Since 2002, the five exonerated men went on to sue the city of New York. In 2014, they were awarded a $41 million settlement. It was a tweet Raymond sent in 2015 to DuVernay about a possible CP5 project that spiked her interest in pursuing the project. Now, four years later, we are now seeing the culmination of this story.

Through watching this show, I kept going between two different mindsets. The first was the very fact that I am a young black man in America. The nightmare to have your whole life taken away from you by law enforcement who wants you to go to prison at any cost is beyond terrifying. I kept thinking as I made it through the four parts back to back to back to back, “Imagine if that was me. What if that was me?” Every single time the despicable human being Linda Fairstein (head of the sex crimes for the Manhattan DA’s office at the time) spoke, she treated these boys like animals, that they were guilty before any context at all in the case was given. Even after the prosecution kept hitting dead ends, she continued to never doubt the fact they were guilty, even when they were exonerated completely (Felicity Huffman also played her, which could be a whole other discussion entirely given the situation of her own trial). Just because I knew how the story ended, it didn’t mean that I was continuously petrified for almost the entire show.

The second mindset I watched the show through was as a student who wants to one day defend the wrongfully convicted. Time and time again, the NYPD and Manhattan DA’s office ignored every possible rule or rights protections for these young black boys. Furthermore, because the boys did not know about their rights, the authorities played into their fears, again and again, false promising they would end up home in hopes of getting confessions. $41 million is nowhere near enough, and ultimately, there cannot ever be enough money to ever make what they did to Antron, Kevin, Raymond, Yusef, and Korey acceptable or justifiable.

However disturbing the story of these men is, they still only represent the very best outcome for these circumstances. Thousands of citizens, predominately people of color, plea guilty and lack the proper defense for crimes they did not commit. That is the horrible state of the justice system, a system that does not actually seek out justice for those in it. It functions as it was designed, and ultimately, without tearing it down and rebuilding it from the ground up, there will be more stories like those of the Central Park Five.

This has been by far the most impactful show or film I’ve watched in a long time. I urge everyone who wants to at least understand the trauma that this system causes to watch this. We all know someone who may have gone through this system, so however you can, use your Netflix account, your sister’s, your parents’, watch this for them.

Watch “When They See Us,” because when you do, at least you will be able to see at least a fraction of what it’s like when this system tries to destroy everything you have and everyone you love.

Being Noah Tesfaye #83: “When They See Us,” They Will Try to Destroy Us

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

A Member of Generation Z Turning Towards Bernie Sanders

I never wanted to like Bernie Sanders.

That’s the honest truth. As a freshman in high school, watching his 2016 campaign, I didn’t know as much about policy as I do now. But at that time, I saw Hillary as the safe choice. I thought Americans wouldn’t be ready for “radical” policy positions. They would want the candidate who had a worldwide brand. Ignoring the tidbits of info I already had about the Clintons at the time, I wanted to just see Hillary win. Take the race slow and measured; that’s how Dems would win.

But as election day arrived and I saw exit polls and trackers indicating Trump had crept into the 30% range for odds to win, I knew something was wrong. The next day, walking around school, I realized that maybe this wasn’t the right candidate. I told myself I would try to figure out what happened and how a seeming lunatic could have won against an establishment candidate. I read about SuperPACs, super delegates, the DNC, and finally came to the conclusion that many have made: as Bernie gained momentum, the DNC took as many measures as they could to ensure Hillary a victory.

Two and a half years later, I am here writing to you, taking time to reinvestigate the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, the person who I didn’t want to win in 2016.

In that time, I’ve become more progressive on policy stances. I support much of the core policies that Bernie has based much of his career on, such as Medicare-for-all, as well as on a stricter tax code that increase rates against higher income earners and large corporations. I also commend his stance to allow incarcerated people to be able to vote. That is a position that should be a prerequisite to be president and earn my vote. In many ways, I just support and understand all of these tenants of the Sanders campaigns. I will say this however that these policies, while supported by a majority of Democrats, are no longer unique to his campaign. I do admire his commitment to many of his positions that he was thought as extreme for throughout his career.

However, as I’ve stated before, for myself, the 2020 democratic primaries are really about voting for the candidate I dislike the least more than voting for a candidate I completely support.

Bernie Sanders comes with a few personal gripes for me. First and foremost is his firm stance against reparations. I do believe that most candidates, especially those who back the idea, fail to really understand the legal justifications for why it must be studied and applied. What I dislike about Sanders is that he fails to treat black people as their own unique marginalized group in American society for their own respective past. His corrections on society as a whole are very helpful in aiding black people to continue to move up. But the sin of slavery, the perpetual state-sponsored segregation that existed and continues to exist in police enforcement and school segregation won’t go away. That is what reparations are against(also check “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the most important piece on the subject this decade). It is not against those who once owned slaves; it is against this nation’s government for violating the rights of people since slavery from granting equal protection under the eyes of the law. I’m not saying checks will just solely solve that, but commissioning an initiative to study how possible reparations could take place must be considered.

Also, something to consider at this time is that he suffers from a lack of support from minorities. His polling with black and Hispanic voters, if it stands as it does right now, could lead to him not being elected. That being said, it isn’t necessarily from a disliking of his candidacy, but rather of their support for other candidates, like Biden and Harris. The issue comes more from the fact that the majority of minority voters are older and are voters that have more conservative positions.

To elaborate on that further, I will say that Bernie suffers from a branding error in labeling himself as Democratic Socialist. It isn’t that I don’t agree with many of those ideas for that movement; my concern is the perception of not being electable. A social democrat, a human dignity-centered campaign. Literally, any phrase aside from DS would have eased any sort of concerns older, more moderate voters have of him. After all, his candidacy really is contingent on whether Americans believe that electability is second to policy, that Biden, however seemingly the best candidate against Trump he may appear, is not progressive enough. Do we know if his electability is a perception problem? Sure. But that is something to consider.

However, with all of this said, however little I do have to say consequentially, I do think he is one of my least disliked candidates so far. The perception of his policies and ideas do not work in the rust belt just is not true. Bernie in the 2016 primaries won the swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan that fell to Trump in the general. Furthermore, as a candidate who also has been against NAFTA and the TPP since the beginning, he could appeal to rust belt voters who have seen Trump hurting their economic security by imposing tariffs that hurt their industries. Working with AOC on capping credit card interest rates also intrigues me as well.

Bernie is right near the top of candidates I’ll vote for in the primaries.

With Biden polling numbers continuously dropping every single time he says something stupid, I envision this race becoming more contested than we even see it now when we get to January. Furthermore, with the debates starting next month, I look to seeing how Bernie goes head to head with his opponents in pushing his policies. He is the one candidate that the more I’ve researched, I actually have become more invested in. After all, this was the same person who led the crusade at my school next year, the University of Chicago, in protesting the institution’s ownership of segregated housing while he was a student.

As a generation z member to have only begun to realize my possible support and backing for Bernie, I just appreciate that he takes young voters about as seriously as anyone else running for office. Now, whether he will follow through with backing our generation in office has yet to be seen. But, if he can continue his campaign smoothly and perform well in the debates, he has a chance at defeating Biden, and eventually, Trump.

Being Noah Tesfaye #82: A Member of Generation Z Turning Towards Bernie Sanders

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

The New SAT “Adversity Score” Is Useless

It’s like my in interests of politics/race relations and recent experiences in the college admissions process just continue to clash. First,it was the recent Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) case against Harvard. Then, it was the recent scandal where rich parents paid bribes into elite schools. But if there’s anything that truly aligns directly with my concerns about college admissions, it is this latest news.

Two days ago, the College Board announced the addition of a new “adversity score” that would go in conjunction with the SAT. It would take into consideration three factors into a scale from 0–100 (o being least disadvantaged, 100 being most disadvantaged):

  1. Neighborhood Environment (crime rates, poverty, housing values)
  2. Family Environment (income level, different first languages, parent education, and marriage status)
  3. High School Environment (free and reduced lunch rate, course rigor)

This number is only calculated and seen by the College Board and the schools which a student chooses to send their scores. In adding this metric, the company believes that they can contextualize the data points from their test scores that schools receive like taking into account how their surroundings impacted their ability to study and do well on standardized testing. They tested the metric this year with 50 institutions and plan on adding another 100 schools for the next admissions cycle.

But this metric is useless; it completely unnecessary to aiding in any application decision.

The first problem this new metric raises is that it fails to take into consideration race. Where do they at all take into account the fact that many students, whether black, Hispanic, Asian or any other, have to deal with subvert and overt racism in their academic pursuits. This metric not only fails to take into this very important aspect in the “adversity” students face academically.

Second, this metric does not take into consideration the fact that many families of less means often go into severe debt just to send their children to adequate schools that give them a chance at a better education. School environment and neighborhood environment factors will negate any of this actual data, hurting many middle-class families only further than just when it comes to negotiating for financial aid if they get accepted. This number further complicates this situation for this significant proportion of top tier college applicants.

What is most surprising though about this new metric is that it is the first time the College Board is actually acknowledging that their tests are flawed. Year after year, more and more studies are being released that show that test scores do not really measure aptitude but privilege and access to resources to do well on the exams. And that is ultimately what it will always be. A single number on a single test (or multiple if a school super-scores) cannot already measure academic intelligence. Why would another singular number of recognizing disadvantage solve that problem too?

Schools already are taking into consideration the factors that go into this new SAT data point, along with race and the broader scope of how a student is able to do in the context of their own personal challenges to achieving the way they can. Many of my own peers here in Silicon Valley, who are only able to attend our school because they inherited property from a grandparent or moved when housing was less expensive two or three decades ago, would be burdened because the means of those around them are so extensive.

There is one clear, undeniable reason as to why the College Board created this metric: money. As test scores are being emphasized less and less in the admissions process, fewer people will pay to take their exams (SAT, SAT Subject Tests, APs) as many times, or even at all, if they know it won’t be weighted as much in their applications. With schools recognizing this fact after many studies, many institutions are becoming test-optional, where students can choose to or not send any test scores they want. If they do not send them, schools claim this does not disadvantage their application, particularly if a student does not have the means to take these exams many times or cannot afford to pay to send the scores to multiple universities. If more and more places take this strategy, the College Board (an institution with a drastic monopoly on the college admissions testing system which needs to be expanded upon for another blog post) will be out of a reason to exist. They don’t care so much about measuring or helping those students who are disadvantaged as much as they care about protecting their livelihood which is protecting their standardized testing programs.

My future school, the University of Chicago, is the first top 5 school to implement this policy. Whether it is because they want to raise their test average scores (a definite possibility), the fact that these exams are not holding as much weight as they once did only further aids students who are disadvantaged by their lack of means in being able to afford private tutoring or take the exams multiple times.

In my eyes, this metric is redundant and an ultimate acknowledgment that test scores are severely ineffective in measuring how qualified someone is for college. Making numbers so crucial to an application may be convenient, but it undermines the very humanity of students themselves. As schools choose to regard these tests less and less than presently designed, as they should, my only hope is that schools emphasize essays and recommendations even more than they do, along with grades in truly focusing on how well someone can master subjects and make the most of their circumstances they are dealt in life. That’s my only hope.

Being Noah Tesfaye #81: The New SAT “Adversity Score” Is Useless

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Growing Up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe — “Avengers: Endgame”

*This blog post contains spoilers (although don’t know why I’m warning you when you should’ve seen it by now)

In 2008, as a measly elementary school student, my mom thought it would be a fantastic idea to take my younger brother and I to watch a new Marvel movie. Fast forward two hours of blood, action, and occasional light-hearted cursing later, my mom walked out the film upset while my brother and I were smiling and behaving as though we were teenagers.

The film I’m talking about of course is Iron Man, starring a Robert Downey Jr. who was plagued by scandals and a downward spiral at this time in his career. For me, being truly introduced to Marvel through this first film was nothing less than life-changing. As a member of Generation Z, I grew up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). These films have gone with me from elementary school to high school, been a part of my memories every single year. From The Avengers (the first film I’d ever seen on my own) to Captain America: Civil War (when school discussions/arguments were incessant about what side we were on), no films were staples and parts of my life quite like those from the MCU.

Every single year, I went back to the theatre looking forward to watching another element of this journey. One film a year became two and three films a year. Following Iron Man grew into my fascination with Rocket and my admiration for T’Challa. Having never grown up when the comics were common to find, it was through research after the fact that I learned the stories of all the different Avengers.

A year ago, I was sitting amongst friends, stunned at the conclusion to Avengers: Infinity War. It wasn’t that I didn’t know they’d find some way to fix everything. Everyone knew that they’d eventually accomplish it. The real concern I had was that I had a feeling my favorite MCU character, Tony Stark, would be the one that would be killed trying to win. Granted, he wanted out years ago so it made sense contractually, but still. You don’t ever want to see a character you’re so attached to be killed off. Furthermore, I was also concerned about how they’re expecting to just weave in ten years worth of content and dozens of characters together into a fitting conclusion.

But, after two watches, one on opening Thursday night and the other this morning, I can confidently say that the Russo Brothers addressed both of my overarching fears for this film.

Avengers: Endgame is truly a masterpiece, not because of it’s script or cinematography, but for its ability to so emphatically conclude a decade-long saga.

As a stand-alone film, Infinity War is the superior of the two. In fact, I would go as far as to say that this movies might just sneak into my top five in the MCU, after Black Panther, Civil War, Iron Man, and Infinity War (in no particular order). There is a lot of misplaced humor that, although this being a MCU project, does not make sense considering the gravity of this movie. Compared to the films mentioned above, the character development is more thorough.

But none of that really matters because those downsides were never the objectives of the film. The Russo Brothers knew the goals they needed to achieve in making two movies back to back to end the infinity era: 1) weave the nearly two dozen films together, and 2) serve the fans with moments they will forever cherish.

They fulfilled both of those tasks.

Utilizing the quantum realm as the way to get the infinity stones back set up interactions that will go down as some of the most heartfelt in the MCU’s history. Howard Stark running into Tony, Cap vs Cap in New York, especially the last shot of the film with Peggy and Steve; all of these moments were resonating for everyone reacting in awe or sadness in the theatre, myself included. Fan service is also definitely observed during the battle itself with the female hero assemble sequence (which, while after the first watch I thought it was a bit tacky for the Avengers to just be all about inclusion when only one woman has led an MCU film so far, was satisfying in hindsight and during a second watch).

The two moments that stood out the most to me the most, however, were the most important during the film. The first was, of course, Cap saying “Avengers: assemble.” I got even more goosebumps watching that the second time knowing that it would be coming. As every single team brought their army to fight against Thanos, I was almost brought to tears the first time I saw it that this was about to be it, that this journey we were all on would soon end. The one tracking running shot where every Avenger was in the frame was just like the comic graphics (which I looked up ahead of time) I dreamed of seeing. It was all so fitting, especially with Alan Silvestri returning to score this film (I highly, highly recommended to listen to the soundtrack on its own).

The second moment that truly brought me to tears was the final Iron Man sequence with Thanos with his most iconic phrase, the phrase that set up this whole storyline: “I am Iron Man.” Tony ending it all ultimately was the way this journey was meant to end. And when he finally was lay to rest, with the shot of his original core on the lack outside his home, with everyone watching it float away, I finally came to terms with this being how it would be. Cheeseburgers, 3000, it all was a triumphant, albeit somber conclusion.

The Russo Brothers, Kevin Feige, and Marvel Studios accomplished a feat no one has ever come close to achieving: creating worlds of characters and narratives that could be tied together into one set of motivations.

21 films, eleven years, and dozens of memorable moments after my first interaction with Iron Man, I am grateful I grew up in a time where the MCU was my childhood. When the digital or 4k Blu Ray mega compilation goes on sale of all the films, best believe I will be there to buy it and watch these films all again (except for Hulk and Dark World and Iron Man 3). The MCU may seemingly be ending its first saga, but best believe there will be dozens of more stories to tell. And I will be there for them all.

Being Noah Tesfaye #80: Growing Up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe — “Avengers: Endgame”

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

The Ridiculous State of Joe Biden

there is one candidate (aside from Donald Trump) that I would tell you that I would never vote for in 2020, it would be Joe Biden.

As mentioned probably in a prior blog post, the first time I ever saw Joe Biden was during the 2008 primaries, where I was a first grader enamored by this politician that had a similar heritage as me (Barack Obama). He didn’t particularly catch my eye, especially since I was following the back and forth between Clinton and Obama at the time. Nonetheless, when I saw him picked as Obama’s running mate, I didn’t think too much of it.

Fast forward ten years later to right now, where Joe Biden is currently polling above 35%, and (assuming nothing ludicrous happens), Biden is poised to become the 2020 Democratic Nominee for POTUS.

And I hate that.

Before anything else, his campaign launch video was about as fake of a virtue signaling exercise as I’ve ever seen. Really? You’re using your intro to this race to proclaim that white supremacy is bad and that Trump is bad. That was it. He had no policy and no substantial justification or why anyone should vote for him, let alone anything to say for why at least he is better suited for the job than his opponents.

What I see Biden doing is attempting to take advantage of the gullible, anti-Trump-at-whatever-cost coalition in the Democratic Party. The pizazz appears to enamor more mainstream media is the fact he seems to be appealing to middle America. They see his race, age, and gender, combined with his conventional, dated positions as the way to drive a coalition against Trump. I’ve written about how I fear that much of America is uneducated in policy and we have for generations often voted for candidates that go directly against our own interests. Going with Biden in the primaries is running towards that inevitable fate that I believe will result in yet another four years of Trump.

Policy-wise, Joe Biden is more conservative than any other candidate running on the left side of the ticket. He still is against the legalization of marijuana on the federal level. He does not support a single payer, Medicare for all health care reform policy that is supported by 70% of Americans. I went through his whole campaign website and there is NOT ONE CONCRETE POLICY on an issue. NOT ONE! The whole page is filled with buzzwords dedicated to exciting people who have not as strong of a policy background and plays on their lack of knowledge. If this isn’t about as direct of a play out of the Republican campaign playbook, I don’t know what anything else is.

As a black person living in America, no Democrat has been more terrible in issuing policy and advocating for policy against black people like Joe Biden. Comparing Kamala Harris’s ludicrous record as a DA and state AG to Biden’s is like comparing a little league baseball player to Babe Ruth; there is no comparison in whose record is more atrocious. He referred to the Crime Bill of 1994 as the “Biden Crime Bill” as recently as 2015, taking pride for over two decades in a piece of legislation that drastically increased over-sentencing and police militarization for black people. He was an advocate for mandatory minimums and played a significant role for Democrats where the sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine magnified during the late 80s. Jamelle Bouie, a New York Times Opinion Columnist, wrote a more comprehensive article about his record back in 2015 when rumors stirred about Biden running then, but you can just get the gist of how racist the policies he supported were and still are.

Yet, as much as I think four years of Biden will be worse for black people than any other Democrat candidate, many black voters are moderates. Furthermore, the single fact that he was Obama’s running mate could only further pull more black people to go and vote for Biden. And I don’t know if that will change in any way. Our constituency will back Biden, no matter how much Warren or Sanders or literally any other true progressive is advocating for policies that will help us more.

Speaking of the Obama-Biden relationship, I will say that their interactions, for how jolly and bromance-y they were, that should not be any indication of Biden being any similar to Obama. Yes, although their policy positions are relatively similar, I have no idea how Biden will truly run his presidency if he were to be elected. This is in large part due to the fact he still has remained extremely vague on his own plans for office both at speaking engagements, as well as on his website and social media.

I won’t go into the handsy-ness or his ignorance about China or about his disregard for millennial and Gen Z voters, but the real question and everyone has right now is this: does Biden have the best electability and stand the best chance of defeating Trump? And my answer to that?


Because if America wanted a moderate Democrat in office, someone who would truly take Trump’s policy seriously (and not always focus on his erratic mouth and ideas), Hilary Clinton would have been our 45th president of these United States. Biden never wants to take any risks on anything in this campaign. And, knowing what we do in 2016, taking things for granted and playing elections safe instead of diligently campaigning will lose you an election, even against someone who seemingly should have never had a chance.

Being Noah Tesfaye #79: The Ridiculous State of Joe Biden

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Blexit Confuses Me

I tried. I really, really tried to take and understand a new perspective. But this is just ludicrous.

What am I talking about this week? My hours wasted attempting to put justification behind the movement that is known as Blexit, led by Candace Owens.

For those who may not know Owens, she is a digital pundit who has awoken herself to the facts that she is a black conservative just a few years ago. Last year, Kanye West tweeted about how he liked the way she thinks, resulting in a significant increase in coverage from major news networks. Over the past few years, she spent her time going on digital shows like Info Wars, speaking as a part of the organization Turning Point USA and has recently started a movement known as “Blexit,” or the black exit from the Democratic Party.

Initially, I didn’t really think too much about her work and kind of pushed it aside. But when clips of her recent Blexit event were starting to pop up in my YouTube feed, I just decided to finally hear what this whole movement is really about.

And it honestly just confuses me.

As someone who is registered independent but has very strong left-leaning views, I am all for hearing out conservative opinions. I am all here for hearing different perspectives from black people, especially since as a first generation black student. But the logic, the very factual basis for this exit from the Democratic Party is so flawed that I genuinely do not understand how it could ever truly accomplish its own goal. Owens is primarily responsible for this, whether making blatantly fake claims like the southern strategy is not true or that the party switch of ideologies did not actually happen. She also apparently does not believe in global warming and also cannot seem to find any issue with Hitler if he just decided to stay in Germany. Either way, you look, if you’re looking for clear arguments backed by facts, you won’t get them with Owens.

I will be the first to say that the Democratic Party has done very horrible things that have resulted in the harsher treatment of black people. Whether it was the Crime Bill of 1994 to continue to pander to our votes in every single election, I get the resentment that some black people have about the Democratic Party. That is why I choose to not register or align myself with any particular party but with policy and candidates and representatives that align with my values. Much of the world I grew up in here in Silicon Valley is liberal to such an extreme, yet ultimately is quite regressive when it comes to race relations. I’ve been told I’m not smart enough, been stared at whenever I do anything in public, even just flat out having the n-word being called out at and around me. This hypocritical liberal bubble that I live in many ways is more frustrating than if someone would have just directly faced told me that they didn’t like people like me.

My issue, however, with Blexit as a concept is this victim mentality that it proclaims that we as black people have by virtue of being left-leaning, that somehow it is the Democrats who are instilling in us that we are always less than and that we deserve better. The biggest flaw in that is that many of us, myself included, have concluded that the left-leaning policies are the lesser of two evils that inherently will not allow us to truly be able to circumvent the systems of hierarchy in this country. The way Blexit is framed is that we as black people have been conditioned to believe that the Democrats are the ones who will always make life better for us is ironic considering they fail to consider the perpetual disadvantaging and conditioning of black people that they will be treated as less than due to severe redlining and school segregation. I would like to think that most of us are well aware that we don’t want to align ourselves with a right-leaning movement that props up a racist as the executive.

That being said, the merits of the Blexit movement are with the ideas that we as black people should be able to think for ourselves, to not be beholden to any set of values and be open to learning new things. This is a universally agreed upon mentality. However, I still struggle to understand how Blexit could ever be a movement that becomes successful if it demeans black people for being liberal or for unofficially claiming only one side of the aisle. There can’t really be an exit if black people are conscious, as I truly believe we are when we vote blue. Most black people, based on voting records, think that the left provides policies that are going to benefit them then the right. If that is an issue, then explain why, in a non-derogatory way, in a way backed up by facts, then this movement could get off the ground.

If you’re black and conservative, more power to you. Having those beliefs should never force you to be treated as less than by your family or friends solely for your political identity. Our ideas as citizens in this country, politically, should always be based on the merits of our arguments, of the facts that we bring to explaining why we think the way we do. Shutting down any discussion that isn’t designed for genuine understanding of one another is destructive. Let’s just make sure to always work to that, and ultimately, we’ll be onto a more productive democracy.

Being Noah Tesfaye #78: Blexit Confuses Me

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

I’m Off to the University of Chicago.

When I started writing the blog, I knew that at some point I’d write about where I’m off to for college. I’ve reflected on this blog for nearly a year and a half, if not exactly that, and I just wanted to share the first chapter of my adventures at the University of Chicago.

As most of my other monumental life alterations, I got to know about UChicago from a close friend I met at the Columbia summer program I attended almost two years ago. She talked a lot about it, and seeing as we had relatively similar interests, I looked into it. On the surface, it seemed like a place I was afraid of just because of the expectations of difficulty. When I found out that people called it the school “where fun comes to die,” I almost didn’t want that kind of a challenge. But I just kept digging.

At the start of junior year, I went to one of those info sessions in San Francisco to learn about the school. In short, I was even more excited about it. Coming out of the hour and a half brief overview, I was convinced that this could be a place that could work. That being said, I also learned that day that they had accepted around 8% of their applicants for the class of 2021, so however hopeful I was, I was definitely freaked out about my own prospects, as anyone applying to any top tier institution.

Over the course of junior year, I got to pick and learn more about the programs. My good friend from New York ended up getting in and that only further peaked my own interest. I connected with others I knew who went there and reached out to hear if the stereotypes of rigor were true (they definitely are). By the end, I knew for sure I would at least try my best shot at applying, knowing ultimately I would regret for the rest of my life passing up that opportunity.

But unlike nearly every school I ended up applying to, I never visited. In fact, I hadn’t ever been to Chicago in my life. I watched YouTube videos and talked to friends, but I really did not know what the school I was applying to was all about. All I knew was that, on paper, it seemed like it gave me the challenge, opportunities, and people that I wanted from a school. I felt like I could really make this place mine.

And it worked.

This past week, I finally got the chance to visit Hyde Park and UChicago, as an admitted student.

Within about 10 minutes, I knew this was it. This weird feeling of nervousness, fear, joy, and awe all came colliding together as I walked into the main quad for the first time. Granted, this was 70 degrees in Chicago in April, but still. The student interactions, the massive late 1800s buildings, and my friend to guide me through it all felt right.

Yet, this week was more than just my first time on campus; it was the first time I got to really interact with so many of my future peers. I got to meet a friend who is now going to be my future roommate. I met fellow political nerds, black students, people who were so fiercely passionate about what they loved to learn. But what that meant the most to me was that the people I saw all around me were just so comfortable and confident in being themselves. They felt they were in an environment that really had a place for people like them to be their authentic selfs.

In a core class called “Power,” I got to participate in real class discussions on Alexis de Tocqueville and his interpretation of true democracy in America. I walked at night across campus with people from all walks of life talking about our journeys to get here. I drank coffee at five different cafés and had a Mexicana shake at Medici. I visited dorms in on the north and south side of campus, went to libraries from different centuries. I had philosophical discussions about politics

I spent nearly every hour of the day for three days roaming the school, from finding all the coffee shops I could go to, reconnecting with older friends that were there, and talking to people I have the pleasure of calling my peers for the next four years. And although my feet are ridiculously sore from walking some 30 miles the three days (note to self: never spend extended time walking in Vans in the rain), I would do it again and again.

I haven’t really gotten this itch, this feeling of such enthusiasm to be happy on this consistent level since I was at Columbia in the summer of 2017. And to know that I can be able to go somewhere that gives me that is something I am so thankful to have.

When I was applying to college, I was told both directly and indirectly by some that I would be wasting my time, my parent’s money, or that I just was not qualified to apply to places like UChicago. And I would have listened to those ludicrous statements if not for the tremendous support I received along this journey.

My mom spent so much time planning out our visits, and stuck by me through my range of emotions that I went through the past two years. My dad asked questions that helped me guide my search and put the grand scheme of life into perspective. My brother gave me the space and support in me spending hours inside to be the best student I could be. My advisor helped me learn about this process and let me flourish in expressing myself in my writing. My two older cousins pushed me to critically think about who I wanted to be and were the harshest critics of my essays that got me to find my voice. My school guidance counselor and teacher mentors at school continued to believe in me and support me when no one else on campus believed in me the first two years of high school. My close friends helped me learn to enjoy life, to have fun, to just remind me of the person I can be without being stressed.

There were moments like those instances with doubters that really shot my own confidence in my own worth, but they shouldn’t have. Meek Mill’s song Dreams and Nightmares kept me in this fight. These words sum up this whole journey:

I used to pray for times like this, to rhyme like this,

So I had to grind like that to shine like this

I may not rhyme, but I did dream of the moment where I would be at the end of high school. And to say that this dream of heading off somewhere I could be so proud to call my school is now a reality is gratifying.

Thank you the University of Chicago for this once in a lifetime opportunity. The class of 2023 is filled with amazing, hardworking, sincere people, and I am excited to be a part of this community. I won’t take it for granted.

Being Noah Tesfaye #77: I’m Off to the University of Chicago.

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Tips on Writing College Application Essays

By the time you reach the end of junior year, hopefully, all the things that you can’t control are done with. You’ve grinded standardized testing (SAT/ACT/AP/Subject tests), worked hard on getting grades throughout high school, and now you’ve arrived at what some may call the most challenging part of the application process: the infamous essays.

Over the course of the two years I actively was working on this college admissions process, this was the single part I was most excited about. As someone who writes constantly, I knew that this was the part of the application I could shine on. That being said, I know that it was the complete opposite for many others. And that’s totally fine! But, for those who will embark on this process, or anyone who is curious about how a student goes through this six month journey, this is my story.

Right at the start of June, at the end of junior year, I started writing my UC essays, 4 350 word essays for public universities in California. They release their prompts far earlier than private high schools and they’re the most straightforward to write. To start, I began just writing down a list of anecdotes and things that just meant a lot to me. I then began drafting and going through many different versions for the UC personal insight questions for about a one and a half month process till mid July, at which point I felt comfortable to set them aside.

Once I got solid, near final drafts for my UC essays, I dived into the most important essay of them all: the Common App Personal Statement. This is the 650 word essay that is designed to share something important to you. Before writing, I knew what I wanted to write about, which allowed me to just focus on the way I needed to share my story. The hard part was forming all these ideas together into something semi-coherent. I went through around 7 completely different drafts until I really found the nuanced angle I wanted to write about. And once I found that draft, it took me a few more months, somewhere around mid August through end of October, to make the revisions that I was satisfied with.

The wonderful part about getting through these main ones first was that a lot of the drafts that I didn’t think would fit for Common App, or the ideas I wrote about for my UCs could be used in my supplements for private schools. Those ones were by far least stressful for me to write because I could focus on explaining why I loved a particular school and explaining why I wanted to attend. The supplements would take around two weeks to truly solidify from research and ideas, to a completed draft.

Another section of essays that isn’t required but something I had to write is known as the additional comment section. This was a place where I had to share more personal details surrounding my academic experience to give more context to everything that was being shown. I urge anyone who feels that they need to inform admissions officers of something that affected your academic performance, use this section to explain that.

The single most important thing to do when writing your essays is to create a schedule for writing. I cannot emphasize this enough. By planning out this process for months, I was able to significantly reduce the stress I had throughout the fall with managing applications along with school work and extracurricular. I saw how so many of my peers were genuinely panicking about being able to get all their work done in time, and I couldn’t really do anything to help out because I didn’t know truly understand their situation. I knew that what worked for me was a strong schedule that guided me to not procrastinate on writing my essays.

The second key thing to do is to get feedback on your essays. I am not saying get advice from anyone. In fact, I didn’t really have any of my friends or people I was applying with read my essays. I had adults that had experience in the apps process give feedback. This way, I knew that the ideas were not biased and were really more focused on how they would be perceived by an admissions officer, not just by people I cared about. Another set of eyes will always catch things that you may have completely missed when writing on your own, so this is a strong recommendation.

If there was one thing that challenged me the most in writing essays, it was finding where to stop, when to not overdo any essay I would write. I sometimes try to be a perfectionist far too much, and a few times, I just wanted to revise or repeatedly tell myself it wasn’t good enough. But it was having other people reading through my essays that I could be reassured that I was on the right track, that what I was writing was truly reflective of who I was in real life.

Above all else, when writing your essays, just be yourself. This may be the most cliche piece of advice that anyone may give you about writing college apps, but this one is a huge one for me. There were moments throughout writing that I realized I was attempting to repackage and tell a story that wasn’t authentic to I was. And looking back, had I not made the conscious effort to just be as genuine as I could, I don’t think I could have ever let myself live with that. So I just let myself be vulnerable. I would rather always have someone tell me no for who I was than ever say yes for someone I never was. And this was the single greatest decision I made when writing these essays. I am so grateful I was able to make this conscious effort to push against this grain.

The college applications essay writing process can be tedious and cumbersome, but I can assure you that if you really just do the best you can, you will be proud of the work you’ve done (as was I). Next week, I’ll be visiting where I will be going for the next four years, so I’ll be chronicling that here on the blog next week to wrap up all this college-related content so I can get back to writing on politics, music, and coffee! Till next week…

Being Noah Tesfaye #76: Tips on Writing College Application Essays

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

The Best Digital College Applications Resource

So. You’re starting your college apps process (mainly talking to juniors, but really an HS student). You’re trying to figure out how the heck you’re going to make it through everything. There’s weird acronyms like OOS, CA, CSS, and FAFSA. And there are so many unknowns like when to start writing essays, how to know what you want in a school, and so many others.

Although I may have had some support around me when it came to figuring out this process, there was one singular resource that, albeit I addictively browsed for a year, really did help me figure out the idiosyncrasies of college admissions. That is, as shown in that picture right at the start, the subredditr/applyingtocollege.

All of my fellow seniors probably already know and browsed this religiously, but for the few who may not know, here’s the scoop. The page is a forum made up almost exclusively of students, both in high school and college, who ask their questions about the admissions process. Students often can give quick answers back to their fellow users about simple, more straightforward topics. It’s a great way to find any quick, searchable information about a particular school, major, or application in just seconds, rather than just scouring every single school’s page. It significantly improved the speed with which I was able to learn about everything because I could just check to see if someone else had that same idea.

There are plenty of other forum sites that also do college-related discussions, most notably College Confidential. But, what sets this single page above every other, is the access to verified college counselors and former admissions officers.

If there is a question that a student may have, from any part of the globe, they can ask a qualified expert about anything relating to college admissions and get better answers as opposed to relying upon the parents or students that may browse the page. My own high school is fortunate enough to have two advisors dedicated to college applications counseling. But, for those without that, and even four me looking for. more varied and broader opinions on any number of subjects, this page in sometimes two clicks could get me the answer that I needed rather than walking in, scheduling a meeting, and then remembering what to ask.

Besides just getting advise on numerous topics relating to the actual application, there are also dedicated subreddits connected to this page that can help with test prep. I used those pages almost exclusively for getting free access provided by some companies to users of the page for testing resources. I did nearly all of my test prep with the resources I found through r/applyingtocollege, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that. In a time where more and more corporations are starting to invest in profiting off this process, having free resources on the internet has brought it slowly closer to getting everyone a little bit better shot at applying to great schools.

I wouldn’t be a fair and honest person if I didn’t say that this place does have some of its drawbacks. Most upfront, it definitely is a site where you feel at times as though you’re not qualified. There’s an adjacent subreddit called r/chanceme where they “rate” your chances at getting into schools. Honestly, that place is ridiculous and I do not recommend spending anytime there. Often times, any forum surrounding applications is very numbers-focused at times, and although this one is really great, it does feel at times as though you might stand no chance if this random user from somewhere claims they did everything and still got a rejection.

But as a whole, I definitely believe that r/applyingtocollege really helped make this whole process way easier than I could have thought possible. When it came to comparing schools, I could just research direct head to heads. When I wanted to ask about diversity at schools, I could find that right away through the page. Aside from the addiction that this page becomes at times, to all the juniors, sophomores, and even freshman that just have any curious questions about college in general, check it out!

Thanks r/applyingtocollege!

*This installment of the blog is dedicated to the incredible Ermias Asghedom, better known as Nipsey Hussle. My thoughts on his passing will be up for my school paper soon.

Being Noah Tesfaye #75: The Best Digital College Applications Resource

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

A College Applications Reflection

Well. I’ve been counting down the months, the years, for me to finally say this: it is over.

This past week for many of us seniors was when we heard back from the last few colleges we applied to. For some, it meant joy. For others, it was seen as disappointing. For many, including myself, it is just in some weird middle ground indescribable that does not even fit within these two worlds. These past two weeks have been challenging not just academically but emotionally for a lot of people.

But, rather than diving into the other perspectives, analyzing this process as a whole (which I hope to do over the next few weeks), I wanted to share my thoughts on this whole journey I know a lot of us have been on for the past four years, and in many ways, our whole lives.

The first and most important thing I will say is that I’m grateful. To think that just two generations ago, my grandfather was walking near 30 miles to get to school in Ethiopia, to where I am sitting as someone who is going to college in the US is truly humbling. I often times would get discouraged, disheartened, disappointed, and beat myself up over not being good enough. But every time I saw that happen, I took my own time to just step back. I wanted to just give up at times, believe that I won’t be happy with how this process goes. But, the stories of my grandfather, the stories of my parents working so hard to make it here in the US, and the stories of people who look like me in this country brought it all into perspective. Am I going to be disappointed if someplace doesn’t take me? Sure. But is that going to ever truly stop me from accomplishing my lifelong missions of empowering people across this country? No. This is what continuously kept me grounded in this whole process.

The second thing that I have learned through this process is that it is not ever going to be 100% fair. Those of you who may know me and know my plans for next year would know my sincere fortune that I lucked out. And to some extent, I definitely did. But the thing that took me a long time to realize is that just because the system works in your favor, it doesn’t mean that all things in the world are now equal. The fact that you or I or anyone got accepted somewhere we wanted to go doesn’t mean that the system is fair. You can go down the line from establishing alumni bonds with legacy admissions to monetary contributions to what we saw a few weeks ago with the cheating of the system. The sooner we all acknowledge that however defeating it may be for us all to hear, this process will not be fair, I’ve found it less nerve-wracking and stressful to face this whole thing.

I’m very fortunate and thankful for the results I had with this process. The euphoria I had when I knew where I was going next year was a feeling unknown in my life. For the past four years, I’ve been trying to not just work hard but really work to establish a sense of purpose in all I do. I am beyond ecstatic about these next four years in a new place, where I hope to study political science and history. Of course, journalism won’t go anywhere, so I’m hoping to write for my school paper. A new world, a new start is something that I frankly need to continue to grow. I will miss my friends, my teachers, and so much about this Silicon Valley, I call home, however much I may strongly dislike it. Most of all, I’ll be far from family, which will take time to adjust to, but I am ready for the challenge.

However, I acknowledge that for many of my own peers, this week was one of the most difficult of their lives. And I wish I could be able to say I understand what that is like, but I can’t. I can only share and speak from my own perspective.

What I can tell anyone who may not feel satisfied with this whole thing is that I believe in you. If you believe that you want to help change the world, no school telling you no can stop you.

I know that when I arrive on campus next fall, I’ll have a chip on my shoulder. I know that where I’m going, they accepted my application, but never may have gotten to see all of me. And that’s why next year I’m going to work so hard. I want to make the most of these next four and share myself in a broader way than what 1500 words I wrote to my school that I submitted almost five months ago. I’m ready to conquer this challenge, this future.

Knowing what the plan is for next year has also just allowed me to really begin to focus more on making the most of my time I have left here. To attending more school events, spending more time with my friends, and getting back to reading for fun, I’m going to embrace all of the time I have left.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll try to write a few more nuanced takes on certain aspects of this process that I’ve found really important to my journey. I don’t know what those topics will be, but I want to help out anyone I can through this process if possible. As always, my DMs on Twitter are available for people to reach out to me! Till next week…

Being Noah Tesfaye #74: A College Applications Reflection

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/