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Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in the preface of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth “Have the courage to read it, primarily because it will make you feel ashamed, and shame, as Marx said, is a revolutionary feeling,” referring to white Europeans reading Fanon’s masterful book.

Sartre noting that fear, shame that we have learning about things we know we are not comfortable with is a practice and a skill that I find ever-evolving. In the case of the book mentioned above, the premise and the vision for a better world is one that requires a concession your people are responsible for the oppression and genocide of people everywhere. It’s a book that leaves readers with the conclusion that their very existence is predicated on the subjugation of those living in the Global South. Sartre speaks of the necessary feeling Marx recognizes as revolutionary once one feels shame. …


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I wish the weather was still this good.

I’m thinking about Chicago re-entering first wave stay-at-home guidelines. It’s not as if my habits changed much at all in the past seven months of what we’re living through. I think a lot about what it means for this city to actively pursue and implement anti-houseless policies while okaying outdoor eating bubbles with heaters. I’m exhausted and still continuously distraught at the ever-presence of death that this pandemic has brought upon us all. Whether we’re in grieving for loved ones or for the 240,000+ people who have lost their lives due to a pandemic, we continue to be told to keep pushing as if the world is back to normal. …


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Today is the three year anniversary of the blog. Three years, 156 weeks, every single Saturday since November 4th, 2017.

When I started writing the blog, as I shared in that first intro post, I entitled this whole thing as “Being Noah Tesfaye” because that’s the only topic I could ever be an expert on. I was a junior in high school, just getting started in journalism and finally feeling like I had my footing with true friends. One of my friends who also loved to write placed a bet of sorts to try and get us to write regularly. I mentioned my dad had claimed a domain website at my birth, and so I decided to just try a weekly blog because I didn’t know what else to do. …


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Image Credit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

I haven’t written about this election for months.

Over those months, I’ve spent much of that time slowly spending less time understanding the landscape for the election and much more time on self-reflection and broader political education. When I wrote most of the pieces I did over the course of the year leading up to the primaries and the end of those primaries, I felt like I had an overwhelming grasp of electoral politics, of what I thought Black people would need to see our liberation. …


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When the pandemic began, my coffee journey sort of took an unexpected turn. After working behind an espresso machine for the first six months of school, I was back at home, with coffee shops closed and no way to foster that coffee craving. In many ways, this sort of sent me down a rabbit hole on how to figure out how to make coffee with the things I did have and make it work.

In many ways, the process of brewing coffee can almost be just as rewarding as the final cup. When I’d be behind the bar pre-COVID, grinding beans, tamping into the portafilter, locking it into the machine, and watching that velvety espresso flow into a mug was just so cathartic for me. It was just something reassuring about whatever else I was doing that day, this sort of action to make something for someone else or myself was something in my control. I would tweak how long I’d pull an espresso, or I’d work on my milk steaming technique. …


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Somehow, three weeks of the quarter have already gone by and I feel like I’m just settling into being a student again.

This is the second go at schooling online and somehow it feels almost as challenging as the first time through. I do appreciate the privilege to be back in Chicago again, to be back around some sort of campus. Yet it almost defeats the purpose once you learn it’s fairly difficult to reserve good timeslots in the libraries to study, much less have the same access to other random spaces to just learn. …


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I would attempt to just keep it moving, accepting whatever bizarre interactions I was having. Meanwhile, my brother would cry and continuously grow frustrated at the fact that so many people were touching our hair, pulling us in one direction or another for a picture, and just staring in awe of us. We were objects of a foreign land in a place where we were never expected to be, emphasis on being expected.

As a seven-year-old, I recognized that I was in a place without many Black people. I knew that I looked different from everyone else visiting sights in China, including when compared to the other American tourists. As I would witness the white visitors continue to not get interrupted as we’d hop to different sights, I too like my brother began to resent and feel more exhausted by those interactions. I realized it wasn’t fair but I still attempted to just keep it moving. …


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I’d rather not spend time discussing or debriefing political news that I feel has been broken down with enough nuance and perspective. We all know what has happened, from the debate I regret wasting several hours watching, to the news that we saw on Twitter Thursday night.

Amidst everything else that has happened though, classes finally started up again after four months off. What amount of time I did not spend in classes and working on assignments I spent actively trying to continue my political education. I joined two study groups going over two different topics surrounding radical politics, started reading two books I got before I left California, and enthusiastically debated my roommates. Through all of this, there wasn’t as much discourse about the current political climate, intentionally, because the work of organizing and learning in solidarity with one another is beyond the confines of the popular political zeitgeist. …


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Photograph by Ellen Shub

This past week, the amazing Barbara Smith was on a few podcasts (Millenials are Killing Capitalism most notably linked here) and was discussing her life’s work. After writing two essays this summer, one for The Nation and one for the Boston Globe on dismantling white supremacy, I was fortunate enough to learn about her work this summer and the groundbreaking Combahee River Collective. The Black feminist group based in Boston wrote one of the most powerful statements that encapsulated their vision for activism and fighting for specifically Black women, lesbians in particular. …


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My favorite course (note not class nor teacher) I ever took in high school was APUSH. AP United States History was the only class I ever felt like my passion for history or understanding the world was at least slightly cultivated. Silicon Valley schools in general are not exactly the most conducive to uplifting the social sciences nor humanities with everyone wanting to pursue CS or be pre-med. I had an incredible teacher who was enthusiastic about the curriculum and we went through what I had thought to be a fairly comprehensive look at all of American history. …

About

Noah Tesfaye

Just someone trying to share my story and find who I am, one post at a time

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