Student Brings Former War Child, Now Hip-Hop Artist to Campus
March 30, 2011
"My every moment, voices in my brain of friends who were slain...dying by my side of starvation...ah, but Jesus heard my cry as I was tempted to eat the rotting flesh of my comrade/ forced to sin, forced to sin, forced to sin to make a living..."
--Emmanual Jal, "Forced to Sin"
Stonehill junior Pak Lul is Sudanese, but has never seen Sudan.
Lul was born and raised in an Ethiopian Refugee Camp. His older cousins were child soldiers. His parents, who still live in Africa, applied for resettlement for their two children in 1998.
When Lul was nine, he, his sister and her husband found themselves in Portland, Maine trying to eke out a new life on their own.
Today, Lul, 22, is majoring in International Studies at Stonehill College and is a key member of a new campus group, the African Service Project.
Lul was instrumental in bringing a big name in the world of African Aid to Stonehill, recently- former child soldier and hip hop star Emmanuel Jal.
"I wanted to bring Emmanuel Jal to Stonehill because we're helping the nonprofit that he found, (Gua Africa) and I wanted kids to see the actual person behind it," Lul said.
"But it's not just his story. I want kids to know that his kind of story happens to a lot of people," Lul said.
"I could relate to his story. I had a few cousins who were child soldiers with him. For a paper in high school, I interviewed my cousin who talked about being a child soldier. Through research, I found out about Emmanuel."
Jal spoke in the Roche Commons to a group of about 100 Stonehill students on March 26. He began his presentation with a video depicting starving African children with distended bellies, shrunken and scarred old men, and other images of suffering. The video also featured his A-list backers: Alicia Keys, Peter Gabriel and George Clooney.
"I travel the world telling my story, and people say, ‘Why? Is it not hurting to tell it?' And I say, ‘I have nothing else. I lost my childhood. But I have my experiences to create awareness,' " Jal told the crowd.
"When you put light in a dark place, it's giving the evil less power," he said.
He then sang his hip hop song/poem, "Forced to Sin." He sings about being tempted to eat his friend when they were starving and forced to kill Muslims in the Sudanese Civil War.
Jal was born circa 1980 in the village of Tonj in Southern Sudan. He was a little boy when the civil war broke out. His father joined the Sudan People's Liberation Army and when Jal was about seven, his mother was killed by soldiers.
At age eight, Jal was recruited as a child soldier; he was given an AK-47 and forced to kill Muslims. At age 11, Jal escaped with 400 fellow children; only 16 of whom survived, the rest died of starvation, ambush and animal attacks.
Rather than resort to cannibalism, Jal ate snails and vultures until he arrived at a refugee camp, where he was adopted by British aid worker Emma McCune and sent to England.
He's since become an international hip-hop star and an activist for kids in war zones. Called an artist "with the potential of a young Bob Marley" by Peter Gabriel, he has performed at Live 8 and Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday concert.
"My childhood was not as intense as Jal's, Lul said afterwards. "Fortunately I was born in the right time and did not have to be a child soldier like my cousins.
"But living in a refugee camp is never easy. The hardest part was not having enough food. You depend on the UN rations. There is no way to make money. Hunger is the biggest issue," Lul said.
Jal has been featured in TIME Magazine, USA Today, NPR, CNN, MTV and the BBC.
A documentary about Jal called "War Child" was made in 2008 by C. Karim Chrobog. It made its North American debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it won the Cadillac Audience Award.
Despite his accomplishments in music, Jal's biggest passion is for Gua Africa, a charity that he founded that builds schools and provides scholarships for Sudanese war survivors in refugee camps. It also sponsors education for children in the most deprived slum areas in Nairobi.
Lul also hopes to help educate African children someday, he said. "That's a passion of mine."
To see Jal's talk on TED.com titled "The Music of a War Child," visit here.
For more information on Jal, visit www.warchildmovie.com and www.emmanueljal.org .
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.