Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

What’s going on with Sudanese youth?

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 7, 2010

There is an interesting article in the Alternet about the Sudanese community in Nebraska. This is the single largest group of former Sudanese refugees in the US. Many of the Sudanese youth are fighting and joining gangs. Reasons for this disturbing trend include their families’ migration from a homeland in conflict, a difficult to adapt to (completely different from their own) US culture, parents who no longer discipline their children due to US laws against beating children, to youth dropping out of school after schools place them in grades way above their education level. In addition this second generation of immigrants has learned English much more rapidly than their parents and are able to manipulate their parents’ interaction with other members of the community, such as school officials and the police.

..early 8,000 miles away from the violence in Darfur [and southern Sudan], Sudanese residents of Omaha are experiencing their own share of turbulence in this unassuming Midwestern city. And they’re fed up with it…

…Bruce Ferrell, a retired Omaha police officer, is the chairman of the Midwest Gang Investigators Association estimates that there are three Sudanese gangs in Omaha right now (More claims there are fourteen.) Ferrell said the first gangs in Omaha began in 2004–MJ, a Nuer acronym for “Dog Pussy,” and Afrikan Pride. Others followed, like MOB, GBLOCK, 402 (the area code for eastern Nebraska), South Sudan Soldiers, and TripSet. Gang members are mostly Nuer and Dinka, and, predictably, live in low-income neighborhoods. They are the children of refugees or are refugees themselves, coming from camps in Ethiopia, Egypt, and beyond, but ending up adrift in the middle of America…

…”They’re doing graffiti, they’re wearing colors, they’re identifying by specific group names, they’re participating in crimes that are against rival Sudanese gangs. We’re seeing that more [in the past year].”… Read more here

I think what is good about South Sudanese is that they have a strong identity and pride in their culture. Sometimes pride can also be a downfall – for us all – as in the old proverb “pride does often go before the fall”, but I think what’s happening here is a generation who doesn’t yet know who they are. Are they South Sudanese or America? Trapped between? Its a hard road to travel.

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