Presented by the Luol Deng Foundation Head of Media, Chier Ajou Deng
South Sudan Unite (SSU) 5th annual conference was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota USA from July 19 – 21 2019. The three-day event was a big success with over 500 attendees. Like every year, the goal was more than sharing fun and information. It intended to highlight, celebrate and to unite all the people of South Sudan particularly the youth in the diaspora.
SSU is an initiative of the Luol Deng Foundation — through the celebration of South Sudanese cultures, highlighting the arts, fashion, professional development, mentorship and community development initiatives focused on investing in young people, it aims to create solidarity and peace amongst South Sudanese people in the diaspora and at home.
The first day kicked off with a panel and workshop led by South Sudanese professionals, the goal of the moderated panel and workshop called R.I.S.E (Role Models Inspire Strength and Empower) was to empower the youth to become leaders of their world by providing guidance and creating a strong network of positive role models to support and develop young people.
The panel had a range of South Sudanese with different backgrounds take the stage to share their experiences as entrepreneurs, academics, professional athletes and social justice activists.
Some of the panelists and speakers shared their thoughts about SSU:
“The workshops and panel day is always one of my favorite days. There aren’t many opportunities or spaces where we can come together as South Sudanese professionals and share knowledge, experiences, and network while discussing issues and opportunities in our communities. I love that the day is filled with meaningful conversation around South Sudanese solutions to South Sudanese problems and opportunities. It’s a day that gives young people a chance to see themselves in and learn from professionals that look like them. The epitome of representation!” -Buay Tut, Director of Outreach & Diversity at Make School
The Community Day Festival on the second day was a social event for families, friends and the South Sudanese community to gather in the spirit of peace and simply have fun. Attendees got to play basketball and socialize with each other and ate traditional dishes cooked by South Sudanese women. There were many activities for the younger children like a bouncy castle, football and face painting, a DJ and dance floor open to all.
Video game developer, Lual Mayen named a Global Gaming Citizen by Facebook at the 2018 Game Awards, led a VR game activation. Akeem Akway, the official Barber of the Minnesota Vikings and Timberwolves provided free haircuts to South Sudanese youth at the festival.
Some of the attendees shared why they chose to come to SSU/their experience:
“I come to South Sudan Unite to learn more about my heritage and meet people from my country.” -Ivan Arkangelo, Atendee at SSU
SudoNight, also known as Culture Night was an opportunity to enjoy live music and performances by South Sudanese musicians and dancers. Music performances included Bafo Joseph, Dynamq, Amanie Illfated, Khat Diew, Yaba Angelosi, Wad Haj Yousif, and DJ Biggie Deng. Cultural dance groups included Nyiir Biem, Anyuak Traditional Dance Group, Youth for Greater Good, and Jonglei Dance Group.
SSU gave out awards to recognize two outstanding South Sudanese individuals for their work in the community:
Video game developer, Lual Mayen, received the Achievement Award for developing Salaam, a game about peace and the refugee experience that drew inspiration from his twenty two years in a refugee camp.
Nyamuon Nguany was given the Diaspora Award for her work in building bridges and partnerships between immigrants, especially in under represented communities and the lawyers and advocates working to stand up for their rights.
Day 3: Fashion & Arts Showcase, July 21, 2019
South Sudan Unite rounded up with a fashion show hosted by Nyakouth Chakin and Anyang Deng, consisting of some of the best South Sudanese designers and models displaying both traditional and modern clothing. Additionally, there was an interactive art exhibition, vendors, and live performances by South Sudanese dancers, art performers and musicians.
SSU 2020 will be held in Kansas, Missouri, USA
For more information:
Please visit: www.southsudanunite.com