Tag Archives: citizenship

Music Is Powerful

“I say I survived for a reason: to tell my story. I believe that…Music is powerful. It is the only thing that can speak into your mind, your heart and your soul without your permission.”
– Emmanuel Jal

The Second Sudanese Civil War from 1983 to 2005 was one of the longest and bloodiest civil wars on record, yet it barely registered in Western media. The war resulted in the deaths of roughly two million people and the repeated displacement of over four million others in southern Sudan alone, constituting one of history’s largest refugee crises. Among the atrocities committed during the war were slavery, rapes, mutilations, mass killings, and the forced enlistment of children as soldiers by all sides.

Emmanuel Jal was one such child soldier. Born in what is now South Sudan, Jal was a young child when the civil war broke out. After his father joined the rebel army (SPLA) and his mother was killed by loyalist soldiers, Jal joined the thousands of Sudanese children travelling to Ethiopia, hoping to escape the conflict and find education and opportunity. Along the way, however, many of the children, Jal included, were forcibly recruited by the SPLA and taken to military training camps where they were taught to kill, in Jal’s words, “mercilessly and efficiently.”

For the next several years Jal and his comrades fought with the SPLA, first in Ethiopia and then back in Sudan, until the fighting and deprivations became unbearable. Jal and some of his friends ran away, and for three months they were constantly on the move, stealing food and dodging roving patrols. Eventually Jal met a British aid worker who adopted him and smuggled him to Kenya, where he attended school. It was in the slums of Nairobi that Jal became a community activist. He also discovered hip-hop and the power of the spoken word; singing and rapping became a form of therapy to ease the pain of his experiences, and his life’s course was set. Over time Jal developed a unique form of hip-hop, seemingly conventional in form but layered with African beats and sung/chanted over African-inspired choruses.

Unlike many of his American counterparts, Jal sees hip-hop as a powerful vehicle to lobby for social justice and political change in a positive manner, rather than as a method of pursuing street credibility. His raps and spoken word pieces emphasize unity and common humanity as motivators for young people and weapons in the fight against the scourges of ethnic and religious divisions, such as those that plague his homeland. This hopeful outlook, combined with his many humanitarian activities, dovetails neatly with the goals of UC San Diego’s Eleanor Roosevelt College, and marks Jal as a suitably inspirational figure to help celebrate the College’s 30th Anniversary.

His dynamic performance is by turns thought-provoking and uplifting, at times almost somber, but also leavened with humor and, yes, with fun. As Jal himself puts it, “Life without fun is no life at all,” a remarkable perspective from one who has suffered much but has refused to give in to bitterness or cynicism.

Watch From War Child to Global Citizen with Emmanuel Jal.

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A Dose of Optimism from Gavin Newsom

Today he’s California’s Lt. Governor, but Gavin Newsom has the energy and enthusiasm of someone with far higher ambitions.

Newsom recently shared some of his fresh ideas — and a dose of optimism — during his recent visit to UC San Diego’s Revelle Forum, where he sat down for an interview with Political Science Professor Thad Kousser to discuss his new book, Citizenville: Reconnecting People and Government in the Digital Age.

During the lively interview, now available to UCTV viewers online and on-air, Newsom cites examples of individuals around the country who are bridging the vast chasm between government and the technologies that are already revolutionizing other parts of our daily lives. He contends that the best way for Americans to secure their future is to reinvent their relationship with their government, as they have countless times before, and have the power to do so again.

Watch “Citizenville” with Gavin Newsom — Revelle Forum and browse through the Revelle Forum video archive for more stimulating conversations with guests such as TC Boyle, Salman Rushdie, Frank Bruni and more.

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Democracy Assessed

What does our democracy require of us? What are our shared values? How do we define and create a common good?

The “Searching for Democracy” series from Cal Humanities tackles these and other tough questions about the evolution of civic conversation and the changing nature of democracy over time through conversations between a range of guests, including journalists, public intellectuals, scholars, policy specialists and more.

You can find all the “Searching for Democracy” programs from this year and last at the series page, but here’s a taste of what kind of conversations are in store.

Eric Liu, “What If No One Were Born American?”

“What If No One Were Born American?” with Eric Liu, author and former Clinton speechwriter and policy advisor

Is Social Isolation a Threat to Democracy?” with Philip Levine, Pulitzer prizewinner and poet laureate of the United States

“Is Civility Overrated?” with Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley Henry Brady, the Institute for Civility in Government’s Cassandra Dahnke, Arizona State University communications and performance scholar Jennifer Linde, and economist and anthropologist Meenakshi Chakraverti

“Is Democracy Too Slow?” panel

“Is Democracy Too Slow?” with Harvard professor Ezra Vogel, European Union watcher and civic participation expert Janice Thomson, and attorney and activist Christine Pelosi

“What Does Vigilance Mean After Newspapers?” with Voice of San Diego CEO Scott Lewis, documentary filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz, and investigative journalist Carrie Lozano

And coming in March, “Is Diversity Bad for Democracy?” with “The Almanac of American Politics” co-editor Michael Barone, UC Irvine sociologist Jennifer Lee, and City University of New York scholar Richard Alba

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