Emmanuel Jal: My Journey from Lost Boy to Activist

Video: Emmanuel Jal, a former Sudanese soldier, uses hip-hop to help African children and raise awareness for his cause.
Emmanuel Jal, image by James Stewart

Photo by James Stewart


At the age of 8, Emmanuel Jal was already fighting as a child soldier in the Sudanese civil war. "I didn't have a life as a child," he says. "In five years as a fighting boy, what was in my heart was to kill as many Muslims as possible"—as revenge for what he'd seen happen to his family. With the help of a British aid worker, Emma McCune, he eventually escaped from the army and went to school in Kenya, where he began to confront what he'd been taught and the horrors he'd seen.

Jal's goal now is to make sure children in the Sudan have access to education—and to the childhood he didn't have. He founded a charity called Gua Africa to provide scholarships and build schools, including one called the “Emma Academy.”

While trying to heal from the tragedies he experienced as a “lost boy,” Jal used music as an outlet. Today, Jal tells his powerful story through hip-hop and rap to raise awareness for his cause.