Emmanuel Jal

Silver Spring public schools host former child soldier and hip hop artist, Emmanuel Jal

Emmanuel Jal

I gotta reason for being on this earth
’cause I know better than any what a life is worth.
Now that I get a chance to stand my ground,
I’m gonna run over mountains, fields and bounds.
I remember the time when I was small,
when I couldn’t read or write at all.
Now I’m all grown up,
I got my education.
Sky is the limit
and I can be stopped by no one!
–Emmanuel Jal

EMMANUEL JAL was born into the life of a child soldier on an unknown date in the early 1980s in the war-torn region of Southern Sudan. Through unimaginable struggles, he managed to survive and go on to emerge as a recording artist, achieving worldwide acclaim for his unique style of hip hop with its message of peace and reconciliation borne from his personal experiences. Jal is currently touring schools around the world to share his story and music in a quest to engage and empower young people as they become active, global citizens.

Jal will be working with and performing for Silver Spring students at Blair High School and Sligo Middle School on February 21st and 22nd, respectively. The artist-in-residence program is being supported through the schools’ PTSAs. Both schools serve student populations representing cultures from around the world. The two schools are mixed income, with nearly half of the student population receiving Free and Reduced Meals (FARMS), and a large percentage participating in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs. Some are refugees who have fled violence and persecution and are committed to moving their lives forward safely within the Silver Spring community.

Montgomery County Public Schools are committed to taking proactive steps to promote cultural understanding and celebrate diversity in our classrooms and schools. From English and social studies to physical education and health education, MCPS students are exposed to diverse perspectives; examine the cultural beliefs, customs and traditions of people from different backgrounds; are taught about acceptance and respect for others; and learn about culture as part of building cultural awareness and appreciation for others.

While in Silver Spring, Emmanuel Jal will spend focused time with students participating in ESOL programs, including a number of English language learners who have had limited or no previous schooling or significant schooling gaps due to interrupted or disrupted education.

Cary Dimmick, Principal of Sligo Middle School, believes that Emmanuel Jal will help to inspire and empower students. “As a richly diverse school, with a majority-minority population including students from immigrant and refugee backgrounds, we are looking forward to welcoming Emmanuel Jal to our community. We’re committed to celebrating our diversity – recognizing that it is indeed one of our greatest strengths.”

Blair High School social studies teacher Anne Manuel shared the sentiment. “Many of our students face significant struggles in their daily lives. We strongly believe that Emmanuel Jal’s life experience, in which he rose above the horrifyingly violent world of his youth to become an emissary of peace, can be a strong point of connection and inspiration for our students. We are particularly eager to promote messages of tolerance and diversity after this year’s divisive election season.”

For Emmanuel, education was the invitation to expand his identity, not trade it for a new one. “I feel a responsibility. I believe I survived for a reason… to tell my story… to touch lives.”

Additional Information

Emmanuel Jal website


Emmanuel Jal’s book, War Child: A Child Soldier’s Story

Emmanuel Jal’s documentary, War Child

Emmanuel Jal’s music video, We Want Peace

The Good Lie, a movie with Emmanuel Jal and Reese Witherspoon about the Lost Boys of Sudan:

Performance at Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday concert (introduction by Peter Gabriel)

The Hip Hop Artists Who Use Words to Change the World

Washington Post review of Emmanuel Jal’s book

We still need funds to bring Emmanuel Jal to our school: please contribute.

For more information, contact Gillian Huebner: gillianhuebner@gmail.com, (202) 372-5757.

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