Emmanuel Jal: From child soldier to world peace activist

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Salt introduces the first of its exclusive series of motion shots, photographed by Clemmie Mauleverer. Our resident ‘jumpographer’ captures inspirational leaders defying gravity, while discovering what makes their soul take a leap.

Emmanuel Jal is a recording artist, actor, philanthropist, social change maker and political activist. He was born into the life of a child solider on an unknown date in the early 1980s in the war-torn country of South Sudan.

Despite immense adversity in his early life, Jal went on to emerge as a recording artist, achieving worldwide acclaim for his unique style of hip hop with a message of peace and reconciliation. This year, Emmanuel co-starred with Reese Witherspoon in the film ‘The Good Lie’ which describes the journey of four young Sudanese refugees who win a lottery for relocation to the US. He also speaks regularly about his extraordinary experiences at major global conferences.

EMMANUEL, HOW DO YOU JUMP START YOUR DAY?

I prepare and empower myself before I take on the day. I drink water, stretch and go for a light jog to get my mind ready. I start by eating Jal Gua – a superfood smoothie. I invest in myself first then get on with my work.

WHAT IS THE GREATEST LEAP OF FAITH YOU HAVE EVER TAKEN?

To think that tomorrow is going to come is a great leap of faith for me. Coming from a past of such uncertainty where I witnessed so much suffering and death, it took courage, hope and faith to believe that tomorrow will come.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST UPLIFTING MEMORY?

With my music, I see heaven and become like a child again: to me that is uplifting. When I am so hungry and I eat, I am uplifted. When I meet someone and have a good connection, I feed my soul. It comes through giving a gift, talking to my kids, smiling and being smiled back at, watching a movie that makes me cry, or listening to a joke that makes me laugh so hard. Did you know that laughing boosts your immune system for 48 hours?

WHAT MUSIC PUTS A SPRING IN YOUR STEP?

Any music that can move my bottom, my legs. Music that is fun. Even though I am not the best dancer, I love to dance. I get a spring in my step from reggae, hip-hop, African and Indian music. Music is the language your brain, soul and spirit understands.

WHAT MAKES YOU JUMP WITH FRIGHT?

Nothing really, as I dealt with all things frightening when I was a kid. From bullets to spiders, I got used to them. What really frightens me is poverty and the fact that it is still the greatest threat on our planet.

Poverty creates desperate measures: things like drugs, crime and prostitution. The damage poverty does frightens me. No one cares about you when you are poor. We need to have compassion and understand why people do bad things and then help change their situation for the better.

WHAT GROUNDS YOU?

My past grounds me. My past is very painful and my country is still at war now. People are suffering. I believe that I have survived for a reason, to make a difference and change lives.

My brothers are starving and scattered all over. These things hold me back. I say to myself, “I am here in Canada today not because I love Canada but because I am a refugee. What am I doing for those who are suffering?” That is what grounds me.

PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES AND VIEWS IN THE COMMENT SECTION

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