May 5, 2010
After surviving nearly impossible odds during Sudan's second civil war, Emmanuel Jal emerged with a message of hope.
The former child soldier turned hip-hop artist is the keynote speaker for Ohio University's annual International Week celebration, May 8-16. Jal will lecture and perform his songs at 7 p.m. Monday, at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium.
Although he does not know his real age, Jal was around seven when he became one of the thousands of Sudanese youth uprooted from their villages during military attacks. Known as the "Lost Boys of Sudan," these young refugees either fled the country or like Jal, were forced to commit atrocities in the bloody civil war.
After almost five years of combat in Ethiopia and Sudan, Jal escaped the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army and was rescued by a British aid worker and sent to the United States. He has since used hip-hop to share his story and promote awareness of world conflict.
Jal's musical style is inspired by American rap, but his lyrics condemn what he sees as the violence prevalent in popular hip-hop. He criticizes rappers like 50 Cent for glamorizing gangster lifestyle. In contrast, Jal's lyrics deal with overcoming hardships and practicing peace.
His latest album "WARChild", is also the name of his autobiography and documentary. The film "War Child" will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 9, at Baker University Center Theatre.
Jal is also the founder of GUA Africa, a nonprofit organization that sponsors school construction projects and education of African children plagued by war and poverty. "Gua" means peace in the tribal Sudanese language Nuer, and Jal sees education as a means to promote this goal.
To see the full International Week schedule, visit www.ohio.edu/internationalweek/.