Thursday, August 26, 2010

Must Watch: Luol Deng Goes Home

I first heard about this via TrueHoop: Luol Deng Goes Home

"I've never been in a place where I've walked in the street and actually feel home, where I don't feel like a refugee." Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng says.

It's been two decades since Bull forward Luol Deng fled worn-torn southern Sudan, where he was born. Two million people have died, as the region was brutalized by government-sanctioned forces. In January, southern Sudan will vote on a referendum to secede from Sudan and become an independent nation.

Deng recently visited his native land for the first time in 20 years. The BBC documented Deng's trip, and produced a report you can watch on BBC World News America on Thursday at 7p ET on BBC America. An audio slideshow of the journey can be seen here.

I ended up DVRing it because I had softball playoffs last night. (We won.) I watched it this morning and it definitely worth a look. Here's an online version (Click for video):

NBA superstar Deng returns to his Sudan roots

Luol Deng returns to Sudan for the first time since he fled 20 years ago

Luol Deng is getting drenched. While most sports stars spend their off-season on the beach, Britain's NBA superstar is soaking up a Southern Sudanese wet-season deluge.

There is a solemn ritual to it. A United Nations Refugee Agency official hands him an umbrella. Luol accepts it, waits a few seconds, quietly walks over to a line of dripping schoolchildren and then hands it over. The children gaze up, and up and up, smile, and take shelter.

Watch our audio slideshow

Luol ambles back to the centre of the muddy field, where the welcoming ceremony continues. Within a minute, as his XXXL t-shirt turns ever darker with rain, a further umbrella is proffered, only to end up in the hands of another teenager.

Now that southern Sudan's most celebrated refugee has at last returned home for the first time in 20 years, columns of children run through their sweetly drilled routine. "Welcome, welcome," they sing. "We are happy to see Luol Deng today". As they sing, they march in lilting step.

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