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Fall Sick and Die
Nov 22, 2003

A lot of people know me as the mod of Laissez's Fair and one of the few black posters there. We recently had a sort of off-the-cuff funny thread about posting on the internet while being black and it spurred some real discussion which I didn't feel would be dealt justice by Laissez Fair's sort of ironic and stupid attitude towards everything because a lot of people just use it as an excuse to be 'ironically racist' for comedic effect. That is how things run in LF and I'm not going to complain about not being taken seriously there but I thought that people might like to hear a story about my life, growing up as an African immigrant/refugee and my life in America and what it's like to be the first and only black mod on SA which was actually a pretty big deal not really Obama level but maybe on par with Michael Steele

I was born in Southern Sudan and my people are Dinka, which is just one of the many ethnic groups in the area, but one of the most politically powerful and numerous. If you're unaware, Sudan is a colonial construct of a nation which threw together groups like the Muslim Arabs in the north, the Muslim Fur in the west and about 12 million black Christians and animists in the south, and the whole country has basically been the Arabs trying to keep the country tied together since then because the south at least has a lot of oil and water resources. My people have been some of the leaders of the conflict against the Arabs and hence we've been the target of massacres. if you've heard of the Lost Boys of Sudan they are from this same group.

It's hard for me because I know that I escaped the worst of all that and I lost members of my family, so I feel a lot of guilt for having pretty much gotten off easy. When I go and visit a white friend's family or something and they trot out that loving Lost Boys of Sudan documentary like, "Oh, won't this be fun to watch. It's about your people John, was this what happened to you?" So I sit down and watch it and it haunts me and I have to think about the fact that I don't even know what happened to my mother and at the end they turn it off and yawn and maybe have some ice cream before bed but boy what a sad story huh? This is one of the things that I think most white people really don't get because you don't have this sort of hardship in your history, and it makes black people pretty upset.

When I was 8 or so (I don't actually know my birthdate or my exact age) I was taken by a missionary with the Episcopalian church to the United States and given to a foster family who I think of as my family, call mom and dad etc. And yeah he does look a lot like Kurt Vonnegut. I really love them very much and they've never treated me any differently than their biological children except for one point in my mid-teens when I became conscious of the fact that they introduced me as their black adopted son and I got pretty upset about it and they agreed that it sounded a bit insensitive and have just introduced me as their adopted son ever since.

I don't remember my old family very well and I don't remember much of the Dinka language. I came here with a few other children but they ended up being sent to other states and I don't remember ever having met another Dinka until I was older. On the one hand I am glad I was able to come here but on the other I feel as though a lot of my language and culture was stolen from me by my white family, because it later turned out that there was a Dinka family in our town and that my parents actively kept me away from them because they wanted me to fit in and not cling to another culture, though they claimed this was because they thought I would be very unhappy if I couldn't assimilate completely.

So for the most part I grew up fairly normal and did the school thing. I am extremely gifted and was one of the top students in all of my classes which I know that a lot of white students resented in a way that they never would have felt about say, Asian students. I had a brief flirtation with Afro-American culture and got into hip-hop and started dressing like a thug but it really wasn't who I was and not growing up in a town with a large black population I never really got called out for 'acting white' so after that little rebellious flirtation with gangster culture in high school I started dressing in Eddie Bauer and a lot of Polo shirts and khakis which is pretty much where I am at now.

The mission that brought me over kept track of my family as best they could and they actually ended up in northwest Kenya, having been driven from Sudan into Ethiopia, then out of Ethiopia. My mother may be dead or she may have returned to Sudan, we're not really certain, but in 2004 I was given a graduation present of a trip to Kenya to visit my father and brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts along with a bunch of cousins I have never met, all those who had travelled together to the Kakuma area where they were living. Here's a few pictures that I think are pretty interesting, one thing that struck me is I thought it would be a lot worse than it was... things looked pretty orderly actually, Africans are naturally very proud of their homes.

Leaving Dulles on my way to Nairobi

My sister Bor who was very excited to see me

My sister Bor again in the center, and on the right is my father Deng Deng

Whoops this isn't Bor it's my aunt Awa, taking care of some of the kids

My father Deng Deng again, it was very hard for me because I could only speak a few words of Dinka and we couldn't really communicate, and he is mostly blind. He has aged more than I could imagine and seeing him like this was probably the worst part of the trip, but life is hard out here.

The Deng household, this is the traditional Dinka structure with the conical roof

This is the unlucky cow that was killed in celebration of my trip!

Here is me and a bunch of my nieces/nephews

And here they all are dressed up in honor of my visit, I cried a little at this point

Partying until it's almost dark! There is not a lot of wood for fires and no electric lights so people pretty much quit when it gets dark

Saturday was market day, even for a refugee camp it was amazing how much stuff was for sale here, I pictured it being nothing but misery and degradation

African 7-11

On the other hand this was where they got all of their water so that pretty much sucked

On Sunday morning literally -everyone- gets together for church

This was actually a pretty bad part of the trip and my father stormed out of church

The minister of the local church wanted me to stand up before the whole congregation and tell people how blessed I was and how God had smiled on me and how lucky I was. There was only one problem though, I'm an atheist. He spoke English and had attended some sort of theological training program in the U.S., here's a picture of him with his family (note on the left that is his wife, not his daughter) and I swear he looked like some kind of black Puritan.

In any case I told him that I couldn't say all of that because I don't believe in God and that I honestly thought that it was ridiculous that these people spent so much of what little money they had paying him to pray for sky juju and building and maintaining the church which was the largest building in town and the only one made out of brick.

He told me that I would be dishonoring my father if I did not give blessings and thanks to the Lord for the wonderful life I had received but I just sort of shrugged and said that my father would have to deal with it because I was not going to say something I knew to be untrue. If he cared so much about the people why didn't he spend his time and effort helping them to create a collective seed distribution system that would allow people to be self-sufficient in food even if one farmer had a bad crop, or to create a clean water network which could have easily been had for probably 1/10th the cost of the church, or any of a host of other things. He had no answer and I ended up telling a bunch of my family about being an atheist and how there was no God and no afterlife and that this life was it so they shouldn't just be praying for things to get better, they had to actually try to make them better.

None of them had ever heard of Marx or theories of socialism, which is pretty funny because the traditional African village was heavily collectivized and non-hierarchical, with strong networks of social support that to most socialists would seem like a paradise. I tried to tell them how they could organize things better and how the minister was taking advantage of them and stealing from their production but I really had no idea how things were getting through to them because of the language differences, and the fact that so many of the concepts I was trying to impart to them had no analogue in their language in the first place. I tried to explain that collective ownership of the means of production was best for everyone and that only when they overthrew the old systems of exploitation could they be free, and how the petty ethnic and religious rivalries which made living in the area somewhat dangerous were all created just to keep people apart, and I think the thing I said which got through to them the most was that anytime anyone told them something they should ask, "Who does this benefit?" So when the minister wants money to build a new church, who does it benefit, him or the people?

This is little Deng, Bor's son. He is 3 1/2 years old and very cute

We stopped at the shores of Lake Victoria on the way back to Nairobi

And this is Thon and Malith saying farewell to me at the airport

It was nice for me to reconnect with my roots and I realize that I was really lucky to have this because most African-Americans will never get this chance, they don't know who their people are, could never visit Africa and feel the same sense of connection that I did. I have kept in contact with Bor and I hope that she and little Deng will be able to come and visit me, and I am even trying to figure out some way to bring them over so that they can live here in the U.S., sponsor them or something but I have just moved out on my own and my apartment is pretty small and I use the second bedroom as a computer room. I don't have a lot of time anyway to take care of people, especially now that I am a mod in case you don't realize it's a lot of work and the last thing I need is people accusing me of being lazy. One interesting thing I heard from her lately however is that the minister and his family were all killed by the people in the town and I think that some of the stuff I said may have had something to do with it because Bor mentioned that they smashed up the church and were selling the bricks to have enough money to dig a new deep well so that everyone can have clean water.

Other than my trip to Kenya my life probably isn't that much different from anyone else on SA's. I go to work and post and probably watch all the same TV shows and movies and anime, listen to the same music and care about the same stuff. I am actually thinking of doing a flash movie about my life experiences and my return to visit my family sort of like Waltz with Bashir, documentary style, so if anyone is interested in that I will keep you updated on that project as it keeps going, it might actually be SomethingAwful's next big film production. I guess if anyone has any questions about being a black mod on SA or what it's like to be black in general I guess you can ask them. Just to head off one question I don't care about 'the n-word' and I think that people who pay too much attention to it give it more power than it needs and it's pretty hypocritical to say that we can say it but white people can't.

Fall Sick and Die fucked around with this message at 21:16 on Feb 13, 2009


Puppy Galaxy
Aug 1, 2004

Wow, you have an incredible story!

Puppy Galaxy fucked around with this message at 21:41 on Feb 13, 2009

Free Headcrab
Jan 3, 2009

by FactsAreUseless

Fake post. gently caress you

Free Headcrab fucked around with this message at 03:38 on Feb 15, 2009

Fall Sick and Die
Nov 22, 2003

It's not a joke it's just a part of my life

Stupendous Man
Jan 10, 2008
Defender of Freedom! Advocate of Liberty!

This was fascinating to read. Thanks for sharing!

Sep 21, 2008

Plants are the best ergo Sylvari=Best

This is really interesting, I always wonder what life is like in other countries.

May 31, 2006

Your adoptive father is Kurt Vonnegut

Fall Sick and Die
Nov 22, 2003

Free Headcrab posted:

Great read, thanks for sharing. Did things eventually smooth over with your father?

Yeah we had a pretty tender goodbye even though I don't think he really understood what the whole conflict was about. I don't know what it is like for him to lose so much of his family, he had 13 children by three wives over the course of his life but only 5 of them were there with him at the camp. He lost his wife (my mother) and 8 children, well only 7 now really since I am not just the one who disappeared off to America anymore.

Lobotomy Inc.
Jan 10, 2009

Why you gotta be such an rear end in a top hat to the priest?

Ciprian Maricon
Feb 27, 2006

Pretty cool, except for the part where you insulted an entire congregation, that's kind of hosed up

Nov 16, 2005

Fish Steer a Dhow posted:

I am even trying to figure out some way to bring them over so that they can live here in the U.S., sponsor them or something but I have just moved out on my own and my apartment is pretty small and I use the second bedroom as a computer room.

well i'd like to help my impoverished african family computer

Apr 21, 2005

Deceive, inveigle, obfuscate.

That was a really interesting read! I like how you caused a bit of unrest in your family's village. I think the missionaries have a lot to answer for, for forcing people into religious submission and elevating priests/ministers etc as effective feudal lords.

Coitus_Interruptus posted:

Pretty cool, except for the part where you insulted an entire congregation, that's kind of hosed up

It's pretty obvious these people live in what can only be described as poverty while supporting the church and the minister. A good kick up the arse would be beneficial. Propping up this kind of bullshit is an obvious waste of money.

modeski fucked around with this message at 21:26 on Feb 13, 2009

Jul 7, 2003

by Jeffrey of YOSPOS

Wow cool, I had no idea there was a black mod let alone one of such immediate African descent.

That was pretty cool of you to try and educate them. I think that the effect it has goes to show the effect that education can have on people.

crime fighting hog
Jun 29, 2006

That was a really cool read. Thanks for this. Those kids are cute as hell

Feb 3, 2008

Man, what a change in your life it could've been, had you never made it here to the U.S. It's sort of crazy to think about it. All those people back in your homeland, a lot of them could probably never imagine the kind of things you have now, and the kind of life you have lived. It's all so foreign to them. Yet you're still one of them, and you've just experienced everything so differently by being here. It's just crazy to think about, that you could've had a life like the rest of them, yet you're here, and you're a goon. Thanks for the read. Post more pictures if you have them! I;m actually becoming pretty intrigued by this

Edit: I also just realized the thread title says "Growing up black" when I originally read it as "Growing up back". When I came in here, I expected it to be pictures of back in the day when Internet was young, and life of growing up on it.

DaJe fucked around with this message at 21:29 on Feb 13, 2009

Mar 17, 2008

Noone Stops the Clockwork Orange

Puppy Galaxy posted:

I can't tell if this is a joke or not but I am enjoying the post!

Why would it possibly be a joke?

Anyway, great post! I went to Kenya back in December 2007 and found it absolutely fascinating, although your family is technically South Sudanese. Also, it may be me, but I think you look a bit like your father.

Flavor Bear
Jan 13, 2008

Bear Love is Best Love

Deng Deng is an awesome name.

Fall Sick and Die
Nov 22, 2003

Most of my other pictures are just of random family members and the village so I didn't think they'd be that interesting to people but if people really want to see them I can post them.

Mar 24, 2005

Man the last two guys that sent you off at the airport look pretty pissed. Then again, if someone came to visit just for a bit then went back to their lavish US lifestyle while I lived in a mud hut id be pretty pissed too.

How come none of the other little kids in the family get sent over to the US like you did?

Feb 22, 2003

by Ozma

you seem like a really cool guy. thanks for sharing.

Dec 14, 2006

I like how the guy in the last picture is wearing a Virginia Tech shirt... I mean... How does that make it to Africa?

Bip Roberts
Mar 29, 2005

NO YOU SHUT THE gently caress UP DAD
good read

Darien Fawkes
Jun 4, 2004

Aww, crap.

BoomtownRat posted:

Why would it possibly be a joke?

It isn't a joke, Wishes For Death has always been nothing but 100% straight and honest with us. Glad to see more of your stories, man, you've led one hell of a life!

Aug 15, 2008

***Space Bomber Corps***

Awesome story, and really cool pictures

Nov 28, 2008

I have to commend you on not being a tool and being genuinely concerned about them enough to tell them that praying isn't going to fix their situation at all, and gently caress they even believed you. Although I guess it's easier to think about it when they can't just plug their ears and turn on the TV to forget about what you said. It seems a little overboard killing the minister though. How do you feel about potentially having caused that?

Jan 23, 2006

by Y Kant Ozma Post

Cool thread, but let me ask you about dinosaurs.

First, what is your favorite dinosaur?
Second, what is your favorite prehistoric animal in general (this includes prehistoric mammals and animals from the Paleozoic)?
Third, how popular are dinosaurs in Sudan?
Fourth, dinosaurs are pretty cool: agree/disagree?

Mar 17, 2008

Noone Stops the Clockwork Orange

timb posted:

I like how the guy in the last picture is wearing a Virginia Tech shirt... I mean... How does that make it to Africa?

I don't know if it's exactly the same, but the film T-Shirt Travels should explain it. Basically all the clothes people put in those clothes donation bins get sent to Africa (in the movie it's Zambia specifically) and get bought by the Africans. Eventually it forces their textile industry out of business and then people just make money selling the hand me down clothes from the states.

Sep 24, 2004

The Mad Beumber

Awesome trip, thank you for posting.

Did you have any issues with drinking the water? When I went back to Russia for the first time after leaving when I was 3, I had the screaming shits for a week.

Dec 5, 2003

I love to argue by using all caps. I feel it helps keep people from noticing that I have little or nothing to add to any given conversation. I also

Fish Steer a Dhow posted:

I tried to tell them how they could organize things better and how the minister was taking advantage of them and stealing from their production ... I tried to explain that collective ownership of the means of production was best for everyone and that only when they overthrew the old systems of exploitation could they be free...

Are you loving serious?

Jun 18, 2008

This was actually really interesting to read.

I also find it interesting that you were taken out of the country on the good will of a Christian missionary, at the young age of 8, and yet here you are now, an atheist.

I mean, I'm an atheist, and I'm happy to see that you are too, but you often don't see people like you who just stop believing in God from experience, especially since they may consider the relieval of their plight a gift from God. Also consider the fact that your foster family treated you well and it's really quite amazing. I'm guessing the foster family is also episcopalian?

Synonamess Botch
Jun 5, 2006

dicks are for my cat

Excellent read, you are a drat lucky person to have such a good (and interesting) life.

I like hearing stories like this, I know lots of immigrants, the great most of them African. Mostly Togolese/West Africans who are spoiled and noisy. But I knew a Sudanese immigrant whose life in Sudan was miserable and life in the U.S. isn't much better. I won't get into lengthy details, but apparently the Sudanese bring over more young children, and they get caught up in hip-hop and gang culture and end up becoming thugs and criminals or whatever. This was corroborated, and most of the Africans I know agreed that it's a big problem for Sudanese-American youth. I don't suppose you have any insight into this, do you?

Also why you gotta hate on the congregation? Man it's all they got but each other

Code Jockey
Jan 24, 2006

you can call
but I seldom answer after all

Excellent thread, FSAD, great pics and a great read.

Jun 24, 2004

I will be there to receive the new mind

Just curious, have you ever read the book What Is the What?.

Jul 22, 2007

Fish Steer a Dhow posted:

And here they all are dressed up in honor of my visit, I cried a little at this point

Interesting pictures. Why are some kids in suits and the others in what I can only assume is some type of traditional African dress?

Feb 7, 2005

Arrest us!

Wake_N_Bake posted:

Are you loving serious?

Why wouldn't he be, Wake_N_Bake?

blunt for century
Jul 4, 2008

I've got a bone to pick.

This was really interesting. Little Deng is adorable!

Jun 9, 2003
I was a teenage abortion

Wow, thanks for posting this thread. Sucks you got the minister and his family killed, but he sounded like a dick anyway.

Anyway, pretty interesting stuff. I would definitely watch a film about this.

Feb 10, 2005

Really interesting ... what a contrast of cultures from where you came from to where you are now. Thanks for taking the time to put this together, it was a good read.

Nov 16, 2005

Ormi posted:

Why wouldn't he be, Wake_N_Bake?

Because he went to a poor African village and tried to show them the light of communism and atheism. Just think about that for a little bit, thanks.


Mar 30, 2005

Grimey Drawer

FSAD thanks for the awesome post.