International hip-hop artist, social justice advocate, and former South Sudanese child soldier Emmanuel Jal will perform on Tuesday, March 25, at 7 p.m. as part of Virginia Tech’s “Deans’ Forum on Global Engagement: Developing a Community of Excellence.” The performance is co-presented by the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech.

The performance will be held in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located within the Moss Arts Center’s Street and Davis Performance Hall at 190 Alumni Mall. The performance is free and open to the public, but tickets are required.

Jal will bring his unique style of hip-hop and spoken word, reinforced with a message of peace and reconciliation born out of his experiences as a child soldier in Sudan. Born in Sudan, he was taken from his family at age 7 and sent to fight with the rebel army in Sudan’s civil war. For nearly five years, he was a “child warrior,” put into battle carrying an AK-47 that was taller than he was.

By the time he was 13, he was a veteran of two civil wars and had seen hundreds of his fellow child soldiers reduced to taking unspeakable measures as they struggled to survive on the killing fields of Southern Sudan. He was eventually rescued by a British aid worker who smuggled him into Nairobi to raise him as her own.

To help ease the pain of what he had experienced, Emmanuel started singing. In 2005, he released his first album, “Gua” (“peace” in his native Nuer language), which became a number one hit in Kenya and earned him a spot on Bob Geldof’s “Live 8″ concert in the United Kingdom.

Jal is featured along with the bands Coldplay, Gorillaz, and Radiohead on the fundraising album “Warchild - Help a Day in the Life,” in the National Geographic documentary “God Grew Tired of Us,” and more recently in the feature film “Blood Diamond” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

His album “Warchild” was released in 2008 on the Sonic360 label and his newest album, “See Me Mama,” was released in 2012 on Jal's label, Gatwitch Records. 

Jal told his story through words and lyrics for a TED Talk in 2009. The talk has been viewed over 500,000 times.

Jal will also give a free matinee performance to over 1,000 Montgomery County middle and high school students at the Moss Arts Center. The students’ teachers will also be introducing special classroom activities inspired by Jal’s performance.


The performance is free, but tickets are required. Tickets are available online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, noon to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300.

Parking is available in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street. Virginia Tech faculty and staff possessing a valid Virginia Tech parking permit can enter and exit the garage free of charge. Event parking for visitors is $5. Event passes may be purchased in advance through the Center for the Arts box office or when entering the garage on event evenings. Limited street parking is also available. Parking on Alumni Mall is free on weekdays after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

Jal’s visit is part of the “Deans’ Forum on Global Engagement: Developing a Community of Excellence,” a series of events and presentations designed to bring awareness and recognition to the university’s work in global engagement. On March 26 and 27, the forum will feature keynote speakers Mitchell Reiss, a senior American diplomat currently serving as the president of Washington College in Chestertown, Md., and Harriet Fulbright, the unofficial ambassador for the Fulbright program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. 

The event will also include panel, poster, photographic, and session presentations by faculty, staff, and students from all colleges on campus. Faculty, staff, and students may register in advance or attend as space is available on the day of the events.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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