IMG_0062_09-01-2018-18-57-00 - Samuel Getachew.JPG

Samuel Getachew, 15

Samuel Getachew is a poet, activist, and organizer from Oakland, California. His poetry has garnered over half a million views online, and been reposted by prominent figures such as Sarah Silverman, Michael Skolnik, and Phoebe Tonkin, and featured by news outlets like NPR, KQED, and KTVU News. Getachew says that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Barack Obama are two of his biggest role models. He admires Adichie for being one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and eloquent intellectuals of our time and draws immense inspiration and learning from her writing and speeches. Getachew notes that Obama showed him that a black boy with an African name from both everywhere and nowhere could reach the stars. He admires Obama’s strength under utmost pressure and his exemplification of the definition of work ethic.

Getachew is the 2017 and 2018 Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam Grand Slam Champion and a 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Finalist. He has performed and spoken at events featuring artists and activists including Zendaya, Alice Waters, Brittany Packnett, and multiple California Congressmen and Senators. He has performed for organizations such as, The Soze Agency, Teach for America, the Oakland March for Science, the Oakland March For Our Lives, and more. His poetry has been published in programs for the San Francisco Curran Theater play, Bright Star, as well as distributed to thousands at Pop-Up Magazine's shows in several major cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, and more.

Getachew is the co-founder of Oakland Technical High School's Student Activism Club, which organized a walkout on March 14th, 2018 against gun violence, in cooperation with national efforts. An estimated 1,500 students participated and hundreds registered to vote. He also works with Eighteen by 18, a youth voting initiative and is the Features Editor for his school newspaper, The Scribe. Getachew was elected Freshman and Sophomore Class President two years in a row at Oakland Tech.

In the summer of 2017, I visited my family in Ethiopia for the first time in three years. While I was there, I wrote a poem each day. This is one of those poems.



After Yujane Chen

By Samuel Getachew


plane takeoff


11:15 am

washington, dc, dulles airport


5000 feet above the ground

steadily climbing

i think about the idea of flight

how poetic it is to defy gravity

to be close enough to heaven that you can almost grasp it

how it is so beautiful as a concept

when it is not ripping people apart

about how 500 mph above the clouds is the only way i’m allowed to see my family

flying, always


perhaps that is why i’ve always loved planes

corny movies on low quality screens

bruno mars playing through a tinny pair of free earbuds

how a foreign country or an airplane is the only place i can sleep in front of strangers


and i think about how birds only fly so far when they migrate, or escape the cold

as though we are coming here to stay


or perhaps

to flee


and i find it fascinating

how i am most at home in the sky

everywhere and nowhere all at once

between two polar opposites

between my home and the home of my ancestors


how this midpoint is where i belong

how i am an argument between the clouds


we chase time

cheat death and dance through time zones as if to say

“i dare you to take an hour away from me.”

only we could have figured out a way to outrun the sun


i look at my mother slowly relax as she grows nearer to her mother and remember

that for the immigrant

homeland is a process



that i am what i will abandon once again


who i am

who i am born of

and my muscles relax one by one


i feel my grandmother’s blood coursing through my veins

and i realize that my strength is not enough

my strength

is nothing compared to the woman that raised my mother

feel generations of women in my family with fire in their eyes and feel that fire blaze in my own soul

everything i know about courage

i learned from my mother

who refused to acknowledge fear and braved the world without question

everything i know about resilience

i learned from the woman who raised eight children alone in a country that did not want to allow her to do it


to think

that this sky is the only thing between my grandmother and i

to think

this sky thought it could survive being the only thing between my grandmother and i

to think

this sky thought it could survive my grandmother and i


we turn cartwheels through the sky and dare to call ourselves immortal

we dare

to call this migration a homecoming and not a departure

we dare to call this migration a repentance and not a repetition of our sins


to be here

in the sky

smiling with all our bones


to come back home