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Former child soldier to speak at Big Read event

September 19, 2008

Emmanuel Jal, a hip-hop artist who was once a child soldier in Sudan, will make his first appearance in the United States when he speaks and performs at Coastal Carolina University on Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. in Wheelwright Auditorium. The event, part of the University's "Big Read" program, is free and open to all freshmen although tickets are required.

The incoming freshman class was assigned to read "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier" by Ishmael Beah, about a child forced to fight in civil wars in Sierre Leone. Jal's experiences in Sudan were similar to Beah's. In the early 1980s at approximately six years old, Jal was sent away from his home to become a rebel fighter for Sudan's People's Liberation Army. After five years as a soldier in a brutal civil war in the famine stricken country, Jal joined more than 400 other child soldiers in a courageous desertion and was one of only 16 children to survive the journey.

As an adult, Jal has led a successful career as a rapper and hip-hop artist, having just released his third CD, "WARchild." He describes himself as part of a "rap counter-culture" that challenges the genre's gangsta image by focusing on messages of peace and reconciliation. A feature documentary about Jal's story, called "War Child," received the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival Cadillac Audience Award.

Jal is the founder of Gua Africa, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and ensuring sustainable development of local communities in Sub Saharan Africa. He is currently at work on an autobiography.

For more information, contact the University's First Year Experience office at 349-2934 .