This time last year, I was in my senior year of undergrad counting down the days until graduation. Feeling burnt out, I was struggling to get through my course load and reach the finish line. But, when presented with the opportunity to take an optional manifesto writing course, I signed up immediately. I was in desperate need of a platform to engage critically with others and write for fun again—something I hadn’t been able to do for years.
And although it didn’t seem so at the time, taking that course was one of the best decisions I made. It forced me to confront things I’ve been through, situations I’m dealing with, and hopes for this world. It challenged me to leverage my experience and passion as credibility. It gave me the much-needed space to process and reflect.
And after doing so, I wrote a manifesto about a world without war.
Soon after, I pitched my documentary to the Pulitzer Center.
Right now, war is at the forefront of all of our minds as we watch the horrific invasion of Ukraine. Soldiers are killing people, governments are splitting up families and inflicting anti-Black violence at borders, and overwhelming fear and anxiety are gripping the world. Media outlets are offering on-the-ground coverage, social media platforms are giving us first-hand experiences, and yet, many do not—and cannot—understand the complex terrors of this war.
As a refugee, I can only begin to understand it; I came to America when I was three years old. I did not experience the trauma of hiding in the bush or waking up to gunshots or watching family members murdered in front of me like my mom and elders did because of war in Sudan and South Sudan. But, I feel the effects of those wars every day.
As I speak to South Sudanese youth while creating my project, it feels like a continuation of my manifesto. As we discuss pain and anxiety and struggle and guilt and resentment, they remind me that our plight is not separate from war. Or militarism. It is not separate from racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, imperialism, or capitalism.
“The War After The War” illustrates just one effect of war on one age group within one population—and it only scratches the surface. Still, I hope my documentary adds nuance to how we view war and its detrimental impacts on those living through it—and on generations yet to come.