Emmanuel Jal energizes audiences across Canada with human rights message
by Ali Wagner, Intern at Amnesty International Canada
Former child soldier from Southern Sudan and current Toronto-based recording artist Emmanuel Jal continues to inspire as his Key tour crosses Canada.
Last week, 900 students wandered into their gymnasium in Aylmer, Quebec expecting a simple presentation on human rights, but were greeted with pounding hip hop and Emmanuel Jal, leading an interactive and emotionally charged event. Emmanuel’s unique style of hip hop and message of peace and reconciliation engaged students and brought them along on his journey, through his happiest and darkest moments.
|Emmanuel Jal shares his story of trekking to Ethiopia with 400 other children to escape war in South Sudan.|
|Read Emmanuel Jal's bio|
Throughout, he encouraged students to add their own voices and stories, with students from grades 7 to 11 sharing their understandings of conflict, peace and the importance of education. The chance to interact with Emmanuel, whose story of trekking to Ethiopia at 7 years old with 400 other children to escape war and for the chance of education, ended up as an arduous journey with only 16 boys surviving and reaching a refugee camp, where they were then recruited in the SPLA to fight. His harrowing tale describing the desperation of starvation, the threat of cannibalism, the overcoming bitterness and hatred felt and his eventual escape with the help of a British aid worker, had students immersed from the beginning to the end.
Emmanuel’s flowing presentation ended with ways students could get involved and make a change in their world. Part of this was an introduction to his current work with The Key is E, a social business channeling the power of education, entrepreneurialism and creativity to impact social change. Ending the event with one of his songs that can only be described as a peace anthem, led to a stage full of dancing and jumping students following along with Emmanuel’s dance moves.
As I was told over and over by students visiting our Amnesty International Youth Information table, this is an event they won’t be forgetting soon! Emmanuel’s ability to spin a story, lit a fire in many students’ hearts, and we were overrun by eager students, looking to find out more about human rights issues, the current conflict in Sudan and ways they can take action!
Emmanuel has been making his way through Canada this past month, with the kickoff of his 5th studio album “The Key”. With events including Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal along with many other cities, Amnesty joined Emmanuel at Zaphod’s in Ottawa where his audience went through a similar journey as the students in Gatineau, connecting to Emmanuel through different mediums including hip hop, spoken word and dance.
Emmanuel relives his happiest and darkest moments through each performance he gives; bringing his message of peace to each person he meets.