Steve Aschburner reports on why Luol Deng is in all probability the most interesting NBA player still playing in this years playoffs. Joakim Noah has an interesting backstory too, but not as deep a tale as Luol Deng’s:
A member of the Dinka tribe, Deng was born in the Republic of Sudan as one of nine children. He remains devoted to his homeland through his Luol Deng Foundation, which focuses on charitable work in Chicago, in London and back home. He is especially active in the Lost Boys of Sudan efforts to help.
• His father, Aldo, served in the Sudanese parliament and was the country’s Minister of Transportation before sending his family to Cairo, Egypt, to avoid Sudan’s civil war.
• While in Egypt, Deng received basketball instruction from former NBA center Manute Bol, another Dinka tribesman.
• When Deng was 8 years old, his father was granted political asylum in England. That explains his participation in international competition with the Great Britain national team, with an eye on the London Games in 2012.
• He came to New Jersey at age 14, sent with his older sister Arek. They enrolled at Blair Academy, a prep school in Blairstown, which promptly became a serious basketball threat. Arek went on to play at Delaware, their brother Ajou played at Fairfield and Connecticut and Deng spent the 2003-04 season at Duke.
He averaged 15.1 points and 6.1 rebounds for the Blue Devils and became the seventh pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. (Phoenix traded his rights to Chicago for Jackson Vroman and a 2005 first-round pick that became Nate Robinson.)
In January, Deng was cheered by fellow relocated Sudanese at a makeshift polling station on the city’s North Side when he voted on a historic independence referendum for that country. At one point, he draped the Southern Sudan flag around him. The effort was successful and in July, the southern state will officially secede and Deng’s proud father Aldo will be there.
“It’s OK for people to take basketball seriously,” Deng told a New Jersey reporter after practice Monday. “It’s not something to resent or lecture them about, ‘Oh, you take all this for granted.’ … But I know how good I have it. Sometimes people struggle, even here in Chicago, and it’s no more than bad luck.” •
Oh yeah, we almost forgot: Deng is President Obama’s favorite NBA player.
Keji is 20 years old and is married. Her husband is a business man. She has 3 children and her children go to school. With the extra profits from her loan, she hopes to be able to open up a bar.
About BRAC BRAC’s holistic approach to poverty alleviation and empowerment of the poor encompasses a range of core programs in economic and social development, health, education, human rights and legal services, which are delivered through an extensive network of village organizations. BRAC has become one of the world’s largest NGOs as measured by the scale and diversity of its interventions.
Location: Buluk, Juba, Southern, South Sudan Repayment Term: 13 months
Activity: Mobile Phones Repayment Schedule:
Monthly Loan Use: To buy more phones to sell
Victoria Stephen is currently in the business of selling mobile phones and is requesting a loan to stock more phones to sell. Victoria is 25 years old and is married to an electrical engineer. She has two children and her children go to school. With the extra profits from her loan, she hopes to be able to build up an internet cafe.
BRAC’s holistic approach to poverty alleviation and empowerment of the poor encompasses a range of core programs in economic and social development, health, education, human rights and legal services which are delivered through an extensive network of village organizations. BRAC has become one of the world’s largest NGOs as measured by the scale and diversity of its interventions. In 2007, BRAC started operations in Southern Sudan. The microfinance program, which is targeted towards returning war refugees, has already formed 418 village organizations with more than 14,000 women members.
After raising themselves in the desert along with thousands of other “lost boys,” Sudanese refugees John, Daniel and Panther have found their way to America, where they experience electricity, running water and supermarkets for the first time. Capturing their wonder at things Westerners take for granted, this documentary, an award winner at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, paints an intimate portrait of strangers in a strange land.
Wow, what a moving film. Not treacle, but still caused us to weep a few times. Don’t expect the film to fill in much of the historical backdrop of the Sudan war, nor the Darfur refugee crisis, that is not contained in the scope of the movie. Instead, just marvel at the resiliency of the human spirit.
Stephen Holden of the New York Times:
“God Grew Tired of Us,” a sober, uplifting documentary that follows the resettlement in the United States of three young men uprooted as children by the civil war in Sudan, is the softer, Hollywood-sanctioned version of an earlier documentary, “The Lost Boys of Sudan.”1 A National Geographic production, directed by Christopher Quinn and narrated by Nicole Kidman in her loftiest A-student elocution, “God” won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. How could it not? Handsomely photographed and inspirational, but not cloyingly so, it is the rare contemporary documentary that doesn’t leave a residue of cynicism and outrage.
As it balances excruciating images of hardship, suffering and starvation with wry observations of newly arrived immigrants learning to use electric appliances and visiting their first supermarket, you are won over by the charm, good manners and nobility of its three subjects, John Bul Dau, Panther Bior and Daniel Abul Pach. Each is a member of the Dinka, the Christian, animist, agricultural people in southern Sudan driven from their land by Islamic government forces from the north. Except for a couple of sentences about the hasty British partition of Sudan, the film offers no historical background.
“Does Santa appear in the Bible?” wonders a recent Sudanese refugee, confronting the bewildering spectacle of Christmas shopping at a mall in Syracuse, N.Y. He knows what Christmas is; it was celebrated with rituals and dancing every December in the Kenyan relief camp where he has lived for the previous 10 years. But what is the connection, he wonders, between this fat man in a red suit and the birth of Jesus Christ?
For American viewers, moments like those may be the most pungent in Christopher Quinn and Tommy Walker’s documentary “God Grew Tired of Us,” which follows a small group of Sudan’s “lost boys” into their new American lives. The young men in the film have never operated an electrical appliance or a water faucet, never been inside a building of more than one story. On their first plane voyage, they clownishly stumble on and off escalators, eat the margarine and salad dressing out of their little plastic pouches, wander through the vast corridors of airports in Nairobi, Brussels and New York in single-file amazement.
But the comedy of their journey from one world to another is not cruel. Instead it is wrenching, pathetic and noble, and along the way the three men at the heart of “God Grew Tired of Us” come to stand for more than themselves. Like all of humanity, they have come out of a pre-industrial age and into a postmodern one rapidly. For most of us in the West, the process began with the birth of our grandparents or even great-grandparents. The lost boys made the journey in two days instead of 100 years or more, but their dislocation in the world of swimming pools, supermarkets and Santa Claus is nonetheless familiar to us.
Why is it, as one of them wonders aloud, that using Palmolive dishwashing liquid does not turn everything in your kitchen green? Why is it green at all? During a tour of an enormous Pennsylvania grocery store, they commit the phrase “hoagie rolls” to memory as an important element of American culture. One man peers dubiously at a mountainous pile of waxy, green cucumbers and inquires, “Is this edible?” Another comes to understand that Americans prefer potatoes that have been cooked, sliced into fine slivers, heavily salted and stored in a colorful plastic bag.
So much history and geography is covered in “God Grew Tired of Us,” and the human story it conveys is so moving and so charged with ambiguous moral lessons, that it seems almost irresponsible to complain about it on formal or historical grounds. Let’s put it this way: This is an important film. It’s amazing that it exists, and the events it recounts are still more amazing. Everybody should see it.
It isn’t relevant, really, but the Chicago Bulls starting small forward, Luol Deng, is also from the Dinka tribe of the Sudan. What a difference of circumstance from the Lost Boys of Sudan.
When he was young, his father Aldo, a member of the Sudanese parliament, moved the family to Egypt to escape the Second Sudanese Civil War. In Egypt, they met former NBA center Manute Bol, another Dinka, who taught Deng’s older brother, Ajou Deng, how to play basketball while also serving as a mentor for Luol himself. When they were granted political asylum, his family emigrated to South Norwood in London, England. Deng developed an interest in soccer and basketball, and was invited to join England’s 15-and-under teams in both sports. During this time, he began his career at Brixton Basketball Club. At the age of 13, he played for England’s squad in the European Junior Men’s Qualifying Tournament, averaging 40 points and 14 rebounds. He was named the MVP of the tournament. Next, he led England to the finals of the European Junior National Tournament, where he averaged 34 points and earned another MVP award.
Deng is involved in numerous charities. He has been noted for his work on behalf of the Lost Boys of Sudan and other refugees. During the summers of 2006 and 2007, Luol went to Africa, Asia and Europe with the NBA for their Basketball Without Borders Tour. He is also a spokesperson for the World Food Programme. “He really does epitomize everything I had hoped for as a person and a basketball player,” general manager John Paxson said. “I think it’s one of the reasons we’ve gotten to the level we’re at this year. I’m truly proud of him. I think the world of him as a person and as a player.”