Rahiel Tesfamariam is a writer, social activist, public theologian and cultural critic. She is the Founder/Editorial Director of Urban Cusp, a cutting-edge online lifestyle magazine highlighting progressive urban culture, faith, social change and global awareness. Rahiel is also a columnist and blogger for The Washington Post.
Born in war-torn Eritrea a decade prior to independence, Rahiel Tesfamariam’s roots can be traced to slum villages off the coast of the Red Sea. As a product of her nation’s tenacious struggle for self-determination, she went on to earn a B.A. in American Studies from Stanford University and a Master of Divinity from Yale University, graduating Magna Cum Laude.
As a youth, Rahiel attended public schools in the South Bronx and the District of Columbia. Through the years, she was the recipient of countless awards recognizing her writing and oratorical skills, receiving one of her greatest honors from the National Association of Title I Schools who honored her with the Distinguished Graduate of Washington, D.C. Award in 2001. Two years later, she was headed to Oxford University for an overseas studies program.
As a lifelong writer, Rahiel interned with National Geographic Society and Time Inc. before being appointed, at age 23, the youngest editor-in-chief in the history of The Washington Informer, an African American-owned newspaper founded in 1964 in the nation's capital. While at The Informer, Rahiel joined a 12-person delegation that traveled to Khartoum and the conflict-ridden region of Darfur in Sudan on a fact-finding mission.
It was also during this time that she served as co-Youth Advisor for the NAACP D.C. Youth Council and became involved in prison ministry programs throughout the East Coast. After her tenure as editor, Rahiel briefly taught at a D.C. public charter school and served as a nonprofit consultant, organizing conferences at local high schools and serving as coordinator of “40 Days of Increased Peace," a D.C. city-wide antiviolence youth initiative.
In 2006, Rahiel was licensed as a minister and started at Yale Divinity School after being named the school's inaugural William Sloane Coffin, Jr. Scholar for Peace and Justice. While there, she chaired several campus organizations, including the Yale Committee on Social Justice and the Yale Committee on Racial Equality (CORE); founded the student newsletter CORE News; served as Graduate Assistant to the Dean of the Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale (affectionally known as "The House"); and traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean, Asia and South America for various research and service projects. Most notably, she was part of a 100-person Yale delegation to China in 2007 per invitation of President Hu Jintao. This was also the period in which Tesfamariam interned with the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign and a farmworker labor movement in Florida, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
Prior to graduation, Rahiel began consulting for the Fund for Theological Education on young adult vocational discernment and Brown University Professor Tricia Rose on progressive Christian strategies for Hip-Hop. In January 2011, Tesfamariam resigned from her position as the Region 1 Lead Entity Director at East of the River Clergy Police Community Partnership where she managed a $4M program budget and oversaw the Rising Youth Coalition, a community-based continuum of care made up of 40 agencies that serviced over 450 youth committed to the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), the District of Columbia’s cabinet level juvenile justice agency.
Rahiel has been named a 2013 GIVE1 Project Global Leadership Fellow, the 2012 IMPACT Leader of the Year, a 2012 Beatitudes Society Fellow, a 2010 Practical Visionary by The Institute for the Future, and a “Top 40 Under 40” by the EnVest Foundation. She has been featured on Press TV, Washington Watch with Roland Martin, Our World with Black Enterprise, HuffPost Live, The Geraldo Rivera Radio Show, Jeff Johnson's The Intersection Show, The Audrey Chapman Show, SiriusXM, and more.
Black Girls Rock!, Inc. featured Rahiel on their annual awards show on BET in 2013, saluting "her tireless dedication to global issues, community activism and youth advocacy." The world-renowned nonprofit recognized Rahiel because she "leads with her faith, inspiring awareness and inciting change around the world."You can follow Rahiel on Twitter at @RahielT. Follow Urban Cusp at @UrbanCusp and join Urban Cusp's fan page on Facebook.