South Sudanese in Massachusetts celebrate 10 years in the making


Left to right (Akol Aguek; Buoi Majak; Mangok Mach; Bol Deng Kok; Mayen Deng and his daughter; Gai Yol; and Garang Ayiik)

(Boston, MA NSV) - On June 19, here in the City of Boston, the well deserved excitement and pride of the South Sudanese and their American friends cannot be overstated because of what they have accomplished over the past ten years. The celebration entitled “celebrat[ing] 10 years in the making” was organized by the Sudanese Education Fund and South Sudanese Community Center in order to show how hard work and dedication to the pursuits of American dream could become a reality as demonstrated by these young people who started rebuilding their lives here in the Common Wealth of Massachusetts just about a decade ago. The celebration highlighted mostly those who have acquired some kinds of formal education one way or another but not mentioned during the celebrations were other hard working young Sudanese who are still working on their careers and will certainly receive the same recognition upon completions in the near future. On the other hand, there are some individuals in this community who have had successful families; and who have acquired properties here in Boston area which also underscored other ways to achieve American dream.

The story of these once impoverished young Sudanese truly showed America as the land of opportunities where an individual can become what he/she wants to be with hard work and dedication to success. It also showed the tremendous generosity of American people who made it their priority to see these young people succeed and thrive here in the Common Wealth of Massachusetts and their vision of how they hoped these young people could become is being fulfilled as evidenced by the recognitions of close to 100 individuals who have made academic achievements in the course of 10 years here in Massachusetts.

The ceremony featured great speakers such as Carl Berke, the Sudanese Education Fund Board Chairman; Susan Winship, the Executive Director of the Sudanese Education Fund; Sasha Chanoff, the Sudanese Education Fund Board Member; Richard Chacon, the Common Wealth of Massachusetts Director of the Office of Immigrants and Refugees; and Yar Buol Ayuel, a mother of 4 year old son who just graduated from college with her Bachelor’s degree from Pine Manor College here in Massachusetts. The ceremony was closed by David Chanoff (Sasha’s dad), and of course, the father of Sudanese Community in Massachusetts whose work in helping the Sudanese in Massachusetts succeed is rivaled by nobody else’s other than that of his own son Sasha Chanoff who has dedicated his career to help not only Sudanese but also other refugees in troubled places around the world.

The featured speakers underscored different themes during the ceremony. Carl Berke, served as the master of ceremony for the entire event. Susan Winship talked about the accomplishments by the Sudanese Community over the past decade since their arrival here in 2001 and also the role that the Sudanese Education Fund has played in supporting Sudanese efforts to pursue their dreams of college education. Sasha Chanoff discussed how far the Lost Boys of Sudan have come in their growths and pursuits of American dream compared to when they were back then in 2001 when he (Sasha) worked with them at Kakuma Refugee Camp giving cultural orientation lessons to help educate young refugees get ready for their new homes at different cities across the United States of America. Richard Chacon who spoke on behalf of Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick, emphasized the importance of the United States of America as the land of immigrants and also the land of opportunities. He narrated the stories of many immigrants who have come here with empty pockets and have been successful in building their lives and become what they wanted to be. That kind of American dream is what the Sudanese in MA have demonstrated with their strides toward success in different aspects of their lives, according to Mr. Chacon.

The only Sudanese to share the platform with the mentioned American dignitaries was Yar Buol Ayuel,a Sudanese woman married to Ayiik Deng, and who has just completed her degree at Pine Manor College here in Massachusetts. She gave the most emotional speech by narrating the story of how hard she and her husband, Ayiik Deng, a graduate of Umass Boston, worked to ensure that she achieved her dream of college education. Her speech was very important because it underscored many success stories of different married Sudanese couples who are juggling child care, work, and pursuits of education, which is very very hard to do but they are being successful in achieving their American dreams. Her story spoke to the fact that being parents should not mark the end of pursuit of higher education; and that means many families who are in similar situations should know that they can achieve what both Yar and Ayiik have been able to accomplish in their family.

Yar also emphasized how her son, Deng, made it worthwhile for her to work hard because she kept her going and doing what she needed to do; and she is now successful and has become one of the few highly educated Sudanese women in the US; a population that will change the perception of women education back in Sudan.

The Sudanese Community was able to recognize the service of two American friends: Janet Cohen and Mimsy Beckwith who dedicated their times to visit a Sudanese who was jailed here in Massachusetts and whom through their helps and upon his request was recently deported to Sudan. Those awards were offered by the Sudanese Community Board member, a current graduate program administrator at Brandeis University; and also a Master of Science in Finance student, Mangok Mach Bol.

The celebration proceeded with the recognitions of all Sudanese who have accomplished their education dreams here in the Common Wealth of Massachusetts. The non-exhaustive list named 93 individuals who have been able to achieve their education dreams ranging from nursing assistant certificate to medical degree and to mention a few of those who have earned degrees beyond the level of undergraduate education, they include Dr. James Yai Atem Garang (MD from Umass Medical college); Panther Alier Akuei (MA in International Development, Brandeis University); Achier Mou (MPH at Tufts University); Ter Mar (graduate degree from Harvard University); James Modi (MBA from American Intercontinental); and Peter Chambang (graduate degree from Boston College).  It is worth noting that many individuals who have completed their undergraduate education have begun or are about to begin their graduate education at different institutions here in the Common Wealth of Massachusetts and so is the case with those who have begun or about to begin their undergraduate education. It is now clear that the young Sudanese progress has no end in sight because each is moving to the next level of their accomplishments.

The ceremony was closed by David Chanoff who had much to say about what the next challenges are for the community he had worked so hard to see succeed. With his sense of humor and knowledge of Sudanese cultures, he was calling people by names during his closing remarks but the most apparent theme in his address had to do with the importance of parenting and raising children in America. David challenged all the Sudanese parents whose numbers are growing day-by-day with kids being born every now and then to raise children and instill the values that will ensure the young Sudanese Americans do not lose their Sudanese identity because that is what make them unique and be who are they are here in American society.

The logistics of the entire event was managed by South Sudanese Center Management Team of Susan Winship; Lwal Baguoot; Agum Madut and other Center staff who did their best to make the flow of the event the best it can be. 

As usual with Sudanese celebrations, the Bor Dinka dance followed outside Arlington High School Park where the celebration was held; and later by reception and party with Sudanese Music at The Trinity Baptist Church, Arlington, MA.  Of course, the celebration would have been lively and way long into the night but it was cut short by the breaking news of the passing of the legendary Sudanese basketball player, Manute Bol, on the same day at the University of Virginia Teaching Hospital, Charlottesville, VA.

Akol Aguek Ngong is reporting for the NewSudanVision.Com from the City of Boston, Massachusetts, USA