On Saturday, July 9, more than 160 students, activists, and Sudanese community members gathered at Diversey Harbor in Chicago, IL to raise funds to support Darfuri refugee education and celebrate the independence of South Sudan. The students of Youth United for Darfur, the Chicagoland coalition of high schools and colleges working together for peace and education for the people of Darfur, organized the inaugural Walk with Darfur, which raised over $1,000 to support our Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program’s efforts at Ali Dinar A school in Djabal refugee camp in eastern Chad.
Singing and dancing, remarks from guest speakers, and a barbeque lunch followed the 3K walk along Chicago’s Lake Michigan waterfront. Speakers included Malual Awak, secretary general of the Sudanese Community Association of Illinois, Valerie Kiebala, student activist and president of Youth United for Darfur, and Alderman Joe Moore, as well as other human rights activists and Sudanese leaders from the area. Jenny Cizner, from the mayor’s office, read a signed proclamation from Mayor Rahm Emanuel declaring “South Sudanese Independence Day in Chicago” and urging “all Chicagoans to recognize the many contributions the Sudanese American community has made to our city.”
I attended the event and was privileged enough to share in this momentous occasion with many Sudanese who lost friends and family and became refugees themselves during th e Second Sudanese Civil War. Many who I spoke with said the day as the most joyful in their lives yet and described their confidence in always knowing this day would come. They expressed their hope for the future of South Sudan and determination to build a country their children will be proud of.
Photo: Malual Awak, secretary general of the Sudanese Community Association of Illinois and the event's Master of Ceremonies, kicks off the rally portion of the day (Enough/Meghan Higginbotham)