What does the music of a war child sound like? Full of despair? Pain and hatred? Forgiveness? For five years, young Emmanuel Jal was forced to fight as a child soldier in the Sudan. He was rescued by an aid worker, and subsequently became an international hip-hop star and an activist. As he says in this magnificent, heartwrenching Ted Talk, he is doing this not for the fame, but for other lost children in war zones across the world. Using words and lyrics, he tells the story of a life forced upon him. A life that finally, he has reclaimed.
‘I want to kill as many Muslims and Arabs as possible,’ so said a seven-year-old Emmanuel Jal after his family was ripped apart and murdered by the war in his home country. He was swept up into the Sudanese rebel army. Years later, he finally escaped with 400 fellow child soldiers. Tragically, only 16 survived, those that were lucky enough to beat starvation, ambush by other rebels, even animal attacks. Emmanuel says that instead of eating his dying or dead mates, he survived by eating snails and vultures until he and 150 child soldiers were adopted by his hero – aid worker Emma McCune who succeeded in getting them out and over to England. And now, those same Muslims and Arabs from the north of Sudan he swore to kill are his biggest fans and supporters of his charity projects.
Through hip-hop, poetry, and spoken word, his story unfolds. Lessons he has learned from such turbulent early life interweave with horrifying honesty. Yet, he speaks of love and his dreams of hopeful future for his country and those children still caught up in adult greed and war across the world.
Nowadays, He works for Amnesty, War Child and a number of other charities and in 2009, when this Ted Talk was filmed he was on day 233 of his bid to raise money and awareness and build a school in Sudan by fasting until 5 pm every day. War Child, his biography, was released in early 2009 along with a documentary film.
Listen to Emmanuel’s War Child, here
And the brilliant Ted Talk, here
What others say
“Jal’s narrative flows between darkness and light, the terror that befell his family and kinsmen, the horrors he went on to inflict upon others, and a deep-seated desire to set things right.” — Washington Post