Emmanuel Jal: “I might be here, but this story is much bigger than me

Many people recommend Community Service because working for something that you care about, something that moves you, makes it more rewarding than getting paid to do something you only care somewhat about, or not at all. I remember times that I’ve had freak-out moments and people would ask me, “What do you care about? What are you passionate about? This young person is all about purpose. Purpose guided the direction in which his life went, Purpose is giving him a reason to live right now. My point in featuring him, is not to say that you have to go through horrible life circumstances, to find your passion. But to keep looking for it. To connect yourself to something that is bigger than yourself.

Name: Emmanuel Jal

Age: Around 29

Country: Sudan (now lives in Kenya and UK)

Medium: Music

emmanuel jal

Credit: TED / James Duncan Davidson

It’s sad to admit, but the only thing that come to my mind when someone mentions the war in Sudan are: the Save Darfur rallies that took place on campus when I was a freshman and the first few pages of this book I picked up a few years. Emmanuel Jal knows more about it than that, because he lived it.

Growing up in Sudan, he saw his childhood slowly destroyed by war. He lost his mother, his family, his house and became a child soldier in the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) at the age of 7. He watched many people die at his own hands or at the hands of others for 2 years. He was later rescued and smuggled into Nairobi, Kenya by a British Aid worker, Emma McCune who later adopted him. In Kenya, he channeled his emotions into hip hop as a way to deal with what he experienced. Now, a world-renowned rapper, Emmanuel still uses music to raise awareness about the situation in Sudan and the plight of child soldiers. For him, Hip Hop is a medium to deliver a message, tell a story. use music to cope, to fight for the things he can. He’s been known to criticize rap artists like 50 Cent for the violent content of their music. He has addressed U.N delegates, performed at Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday and shared the stages with the likes of Alicia Keys, Coldplay, Five for Fighting and Moby.He raps in 4 languages: Arabic, English, Swahili and Nuer.

Not only is he a musician, Emmanuel Jal is also an activist. He made a commitment to live one meal a day until he has raised enough money to build a school in Sudan. During his TED talk, he urged those who would like to help to invest in Africa’s institutions, instead of sending aid. He frequently speaks in favor of free trade with Africa, as well as calls for an end of corruption. He is the spokesman for “Make Povery History”, “The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers”, “Control Arms campaign“.

His foundation: GUA Africa

A documentary that chronicles his journey and talks about Child Soldiers: War Child


10 Questions: Emmanuel Jal with Time Magazine

Emmanuel Jal with the New Internationalist

Emmanuel Jal: Behind the Warchild with Rolling Stone Magazine







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