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Sierra Leone Civil War Survivor to Speak at OCU
OKLAHOMA CITY — A former Sierra Leone child soldier, now an award-winning writer, will give a presentation at Oklahoma City University at 7:30 p.m. April 14 as part of the Distinguished Speakers Series. The event is free to the public. Ishmael Beah fought in his native country’s civil war for two years beginning at the age of 13 in the early 1990s after his parents and two brothers were killed. He was eventually rescued by the UNICEF peacekeeping forces and placed in a rehabilitation home. After completing his rehabilitation, Beah won a competition to attend a conference at the United Nations to talk about the devastating effects of war on children in his country. Laura Simms, a professional storyteller from New York, adopted Beah after meeting him during the conference. Beah wrote a book titled “A Long Way Gone” and has been travelling on speaking engagements to talk about his experiences as a child soldier. The presentation at OCU is called “A Long Way Gone: A Story of Redemption and Hope.” It is organized by the Distinguished Speaker Series. Harbour Winn, series committee member, said Beah’s inspirational story has had an immeasurable impact on the international effort to eliminate child soldiering. “Beah has enlarged the world’s understanding of the devastating violence that can alter a child’s experience of life,” Winn said. “His widely read memoir tells of attacking rebels brutalizing his family in a civil war, of wandering for days through a land rendered unrecognizable by violence, of becoming a child soldier and performing atrocities required by threatening rebel soldiers, and eventually of undergoing extensive and excruciating rehabilitation for several years. In regaining his humanity, he has shown us the power of redemption and hope.” His book is considered by many to be the most descriptive account available of what life is like as a young child who is asked to take up arms and fight his own people. “Perhaps all that need be said about Beah’s skill as a storyteller is that while we know how he made it out — the book in our hands is proof of that — we are glued to every page by the very real possibility that this story is not going to end happily,” a book review in Newsweek magazine stated. “Read his memoir and you will be haunted… It’s a high price to pay, but it’s worth it.” Former OCU student Diana Silver advocated for the book as part of a university reading series. “Beah’s story is one of a childhood that is worlds away from what most any American has ever known,” Silver said. “The book is a harrowing tale that cannot be forgotten, and Beah brings with him a message that must be discussed.” Beah’s speech will be held in the Petree Auditorium in the Kirkpatrick Fine Arts Center at N.W. 25th Street and Blackwelder Avenue. A book signing will follow the lecture. Full Circle Bookstore will have books available for purchase at the event. In anticipation of his appearance, OCU will screen the movie “Blood Diamond” at 7 p.m. April 13 in the Kerr McGee Auditorium of the Meinders School of Business. The movie is a fictional treatment of the Sierra Leone civil war. For more information call (405) 208-4956 or visit