Narratives of Modern Genocide

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After the holocaust the world said "never again," and yet genocide is happening in the world right now. The stories we forgot to tell, of the survivors we never knew, will haunt us until we listen and act. 

(static buzzing) (static whooshing) - [Narrator] There are some stories that can never be told

This is one of them

- [Man] The assumption was that all of the people that were there, you were guilty if you had been identified as someone that was anti-revolution

So then they tortured

Electric shock, beatings, waterboarding to get confessions

And if you were brought in, it was you and your whole family

And the people doing this torturing, the people bringing you in were 10 to 12, 14 year old children with AK-47 guns

- [Woman] We say the number six million in the Holocaust

We say an entire population, an entire faith

But the numbers are so big and the stories are so far away and the names in some ways are so foreign to us

And until we actually hear that individual story, we don't realize that it's not about a number

(static whooshing) (soft guitar music) - [Jerry] We need to go out to shop and get that inspection

- Oh yeah? (police radio chattering) - [Jerry] If you wanna do that, we can do that

- You want to do that? - Yeah

- Yeah

Why don't we do that? Yeah

(police radio chattering) We can do it now, yeah

- We'll do that

- Will that be within an hour, two hours limit? Do we need help? Do you have another ventry this afternoon? I have to change

- For me? - No, for me

- Oh, for you? What do you mean? - Yeah

I have to change into a business suit

I want to make myself more presentable

- [Officer] He has to go to another event this afternoon

- Okay

- I'm not presentable

(officer laughing) - We'll do whatever you need to do, yeah

- But if you go do this, will that - [Jerry] I can do that when we get through it

We don't have to do that with them

- Right, but they may wanna see the whole thing

- [Jerry] Okay, we can do it

- But can you do it within two hours? - [Jerry] Yeah

- All right, that's the last of my question

- [Jerry] Okay

We can do that

We will do that

We can make it if I drive

I don't know if we'd do it if you're drivin'

- You cannot drive over the speed limit

(Jerry chuckling) Otherwise, I cite you

I can write you a ticket

You have the car key? - Yeah

- [Sichan] Where you keep the car, Jerry? Oh, right here

All right

- Okay


(police radio chattering) - [Dispatcher] Go ahead

- 91-30 in service

Badge number 9112 and 9271

She didn't respond

- [Jerry] He's still learnin' his way around here

- This is your neighborhood, right? I get lost in San Antonio all the time

She did not know it

I could escape from Cambodia through the jungle, but I get lost in San Antonio

- [Jerry] (chuckles) Yes

- Sichan means a beautiful moon 'cause I was born under the full moon

Yeah and so we have a sort of tradition of looking at the full moon

And they believe that when people look at the same moon, the same full moon, you are connected spiritually

I grew up under heavy French influence

France was the modern country

Everything was from France, for France and of France until 1953 when Vice President Richard Nixon came to visit

Then our teachers told us that there was another country much bigger and farther away in France called the United States of America and my mother brought me up in a very traditional way

She told me to never give up hope, no matter what happens and hope kept me alive in some of the most difficult circumstances

(children chattering) (gentle guitar strumming) (child weeping) (people chattering) - As America was trying to pull out of Vietnam, we started to use Cambodia as a place to keep the enemy from running, from essentially seeking sanctuary

And in 1970, 1971 when President Nixon came into office, he accepted the requests of the United States military to do everything we could to keep the enemy from running into another country, which was essentially a sovereign nation

And the United States did not have permission to go into Cambodia, but we did it anyway

(soft intriguing music) (bombs whooshing) (explosions bursting) I contend

And among historians, we argue about these kinds of things

But I contend that by dropping those bombs on the villages in Cambodia, we set up a situation where it was ripe for revolution

And an organization called the Khmer Rouge came into power by getting the people in the villages to support them

- And my brother-in-law was head of the National Intelligence and he asked me to help translate some of the captured documents from the Khmer Rouge and the Viet Congs and the North Vietnamese into English

And I saw some very, very cruel scenes describe in those documents

So during the time immediately after the war ended, I say the war ended because there was really no winners, no loser

Only everybody was a loser

The people were sort of in a state of euphoria because the war has ended

We have gone through a number of years of war and killings and death and destructions, so everybody was just so excited to see the end of the war

But the end of the war doesn't mean that it's you know, the beginning of peace

I had that reservation because of the documents that I have read

- [Reporter] The crowds of Americans and other foreigners lined up at installations around Saigon waiting for buses which they choose

They told the Vietnamese that this was the end of the line

For most of those who wanted to leave their country, this would be their last chance

- Then in 1973, America pulls out of Vietnam

But by that time, the Khmer Rouge had gained a foothold in the villages all around the main capital of Phnom Penh

Essentially the Pol Pot Khmer Rouge came to power and were able to force the Cambodian people out of Phnom Penh, take the country back to what they call take it back to zero and start an agrarian economy

And that agrarian economy, the plans were to turn it in to essentially get rid of all of the powerful elites

- My mother was a very devout Buddhist

She said that we must have done some bad in our previous life that's why we're suffering this

And I sort of told her gently, "But everybody is suffering

" So it's just the misfortune that our society is experiencing

And we were in a situation where you could not really think straight because nobody has ever seen this kind of happening before, not anywhere in human history

You look through the whole history of humankind, there was not a society that killed their own people, not like what the Khmer Rouge did to the Cambodians

We were sent to build a dam about two hours by foot away from our village

We had to sleep there because it took a lotta time traveling back and forth

And then one day, we were asked to go back to the village

And my brother, my sister were taken away to a meeting

The word meeting is the code word for execution

Later on, we learned

So I decided to leave because sooner or later, they would find out that I worked for an American organization and that would be putting my whole family in jeopardy

So my mother gave me her wedding ring, her scarf and a bag of rice and told me to run

No matter what happens, never give up hope

So I rode a bicycle for three weeks crossing Cambodia using fake passes and false accuses getting through the checkpoints

I was captured early June 1975 near the Thai border

Then they were gonna send me to death because they suspected that I was trying to cross the border to Thailand which was exactly my intention

But a truck driver whom I had met a few days before saved my life

He told the Khmer Rouge that I was an innocent person traveling around looking for my family

So for the next year, I was put in forced labor camps

The whole country was turned into a huge labor camp

We were forced to work 18 hours a day

We were given a bowl of venison soup

At night when I went to sleep, I never knew if I would be alive the following morning

When I woke up, I said I would make it to freedom

So when the a-poch-ee arrived on February the 13, 1976, I was alone in the back of the timber truck

Normally, there was a Khmer Rouge soldier with an AK-47 and another one staying in behind on the logger

But that time, only one of them came

The soldier, he was sitting with the driver and I was alone at the back of the timber truck

They say he took a shower and then he put his Khmer, his scarf over the rear mirror so he couldn't see

He went to see his scarf

By the time he got back to the village, so he tie it over the rear-view mirror

And of course he couldn't see what happen in the back

And I said, "This is now or never

" So I couldn't jump to the left because the driver would've seen me

I jumped to the right, the driver would have seen me

The scarf flap a little bit, then he had a peek through the mirror

So what'd I do? I crawled on top of the timber all the way to the back and just dropped myself

I was caught on a piece of lumber and I must've dragged for a few hundred yards before I was flung off and began to run, to crawl, to walk the same for three days having nothin' to eat

So that may be divine intervention

I had nothing to guide me except the sun, the moon and the stars

I said earlier I wanted to make sure that even I could see the sun, the sun would be behind me in the morning and in front of me in the afternoon and it happened to be the end of full moon

So of course after the sun down, the full moon came up

The same thing you know, the full moon should be behind me early evening and in front of me later in the morning or later at night to early in the morning

I fell in a booby trap which wounded me, but I was able to pull myself out and limped along 'til I got to Thailand

Because there was no border sign you know, I just sat there and listened to the loudspeakers in Thai and Khmer and I was just so puzzled

I said, "If I were in Cambodia, why do they speak Thai? And if I were in Thailand, why do they speak Khmer?" But it was just like many community along the borders, the two cultures sort of overlap

Then I came upon a farmer and I ask him if I were in Thailand or Cambodia

He spoke to me in Cambodian

He said, "You are in Thailand

" I said, "Why do you speak to me in Khmer?" He's like, "Because I were born in Cambodia and everybody around here speak Khmer

" And that's how I got to Thailand

- [Interviewer] What did you think about your family at that point? Did you have any hope that they would-- - I was just hoping to be able to see them again

But the hopes began to fade away

As people who came after me, I was telling

And I saw that, you know? I was there for a year

And little did I know that they were killed shortly after I left

My relief was that my mother, my sister, my brother didn't have to suffer too much there

(soft guitar strumming) (birds chirping) - Kampuchea attacked from here

This Trau Bein, Chau Doc, Tan Chau in the Philippines

Chau Doc

All of thing here is Hang Seng

All of you can see some picture here after they attack Ba Chuc village here

- You can read about this in a book

You can see pictures

But somehow when you're standing there and realize that this is a person who went through these terrible, terrible experiences, they'll never forget that

They'll never forget it

There is always a romantic notion about warfare

And so when we take students to Vietnam where all these things happened and then we take them to Cambodia, they see the real impact of war

- There's a huge advantage to being in a place like that and feeling it, rather than just looking at the pictures online or through books and reading about it

I think you gain more of an understanding by actually being there and seeing it firsthand

I'll give a little bit of background on the prison itself

Everyone could hear me, yeah? - Yup

- Okay

So Tuol Sleng is also known as S-21

It was a secret prison located in Phnom Penh and there was a microcosm of terror, paranoia and brutality that took place across the country under the reign of the Communist Party of Kampuchea from April of 1975 to January of '79

Most prisoners at S-21, they were held there between two to three months

Almost all of them were taken for interrogation

The torture system was designed to make prisoners confess to whatever crimes they were being charged with by their captors which was usually espionage or something made up

Most of them were innocent

- When a lotta people think of genocide, they think of numbers, not actually what this happened

You know, not the thought process behind the killings, you know? It doesn't matter if it's you know, 50,000 people or two million people

I mean if it's systematic killing of people because you don't either agree with what they think, how they look

You know, if they wear glasses, if they're educated, if they're not

If they have you know, mental issues

That's a genocide right there, especially if it's another ethnic group or somethin' like that

I mean whenever we start talkin' about genocide, like I said people really think about numbers

So there has to be you know, in the hundred and thousands of millions for it to be a genocide

It's like no, it just has to be a targeted killing of this group

So you really gotta look at it in that scope instead of you know, a number scope and an analytical scope

So I think when people start looking at it like that and when I started looking at it like that, you start seeing a lot more around the world

(students chattering) (gentle guitarmusic) (singer vocalizing) - [Ron] They move people into Tuol Sleng prison that were considered to be anti-revolution of the businessmen, the doctors, the educated people

In fact, at one time it was a matter of if you wore glasses, you were assumed to have been anti-revolution

Then they tortured people

In terms of numbers, I believe the numbers that I've heard is about 26,000 people were moved in to Tuol Sleng prison over a period of about 3 1/2 years

(gentle guitarmusic) (people chattering) - [Josh] Goin' into those cells and them actually havin' pictures of you know, the people they found in their cells: the iron bed there without the mattress and they still had the chains and shackles there

- [Kaleigh] This was a school

This was a place of education and you know, where people wanted to be and now it's been turned into five buildings of confinement and torture, like almost a hallow ground in a sense

(gentle guitarmusic) (singer vocalizing) (people speaking faintly) - I think it's important for my generation

You know, not everyone can afford or everyone can be able to go see all that stuff because you know, it is halfway around the world

But I think people to learn about it and read up on it and everything and see the evils of what was done there and was done around the world, I mean that's really important

'Cause either you know, half of my generation, if not more you talk to 'em and be like, "Yeah, you know what happened in Cambodia?" They'd be like, "No, what happened? I know there's a country all the way

" You know, some may not be able to point it out on a map if you asked them to

If you didn't have all the names on them, say, "Where's Cambodia?" They would have no idea

So I mean I think on a grander scheme of things you know, along with the genocide, it's just you know, not a cognizant view of the world

(gentle guitarmusic) - [Man] You are standing at a grave where 450 bodies were found

A few steps away is a line of flowering trees that marks the boundary of the actual killing field

This is where the graves are

What you see here today is nothing compared to the horrors found by those who first discovered this place

The stench was unbearable

The graves were mounds like infected sores covering the earth

They had swelled as gases were released by decaying bodies

Some graves had cracked open revealing dreadful sights

(soothing guitar strumming) Some of the pits are now just shallow depressions in the ground

They mark the pits of the mass graves

They are empty now

When one member of a family was murdered, all the rest were often killed too so no one would be left alive to seek revenge

Of all the graves here at Choeung Ek, these may well be the most difficult to think about

The victims who died here were women and children, more than 100 of them

Babies died here too

Many were killed before their mothers' eyes

Do you see that big tree nearby? It is called the killing tree

Soldiers grabbed babies by their legs, smashed their heads against it then tossed them into the pit

Under Pol Pot, as many as three million Cambodians died out of eight million

Wherever you come from, imagine if more than one out of every four people in your country was killed by your own people

That is what happened in Cambodia

- US thought it could happen

They could happen because people forget they've happened before, so that's the point

We need to teach it

Because when it happens again and it will happen again someplace, we need people to know this can go this way

There can be a genocide

There can be crimes against humanity

Unless you're taught that, you might fall back into that comfortable way of thinking that people can't do this to each other and you'll let it go too long before you stop it

Has to be taught

So my calculation always was roughly that there's 2% of the population that is psychopathic

Another 15 to 20% are just rascals

They don't believe in genocide

They're not driven by racial hatred

But they see it as a way to make money and be in power, just personally

Those people surround the psychopaths and we'll support them

Then the other 80% of the population are just afraid and they'll do as they're told and they'll follow that 20% leadership

(people chattering) (soothing guitar strumming) - How are you, man? - Very, very dapper here

- How are you? - This is a good look for you

- (chuckles) Thank you, man

Good to see you

- Oh, look who it is

- How are your kiddos? - They're good

- Hello

- Hello, hello, hello

- How are you? - Hello, how are you? It looks like a reunion

(people chattering) It's a reunion, yeah? - Does it feel like a cross-country or track reunion? Is that what it is? - Both, both


- She was just tellin' me she wants to start running again

She ran yesterday without you

- I used to run home from school

- Not always the same without Gilbert, man

- No, it's definitely not the same

- Hello, hello

- I need a shovel

- Smile please

All right

(soothing guitar strumming) (people chattering) All right, ready and shovel


(people chattering) - Hey, Peter

- Gilbert, how you doin'? Good to see you

- I'm not gonna hug you

I'm sorry

- That's all right

Hello Molly, hello

- I'm starting, handing to you

You're handing to Courtney

She's introducing the video

- Sure

- 'Kay, awesome

And so you'll hear-- - Minus, minus

- It's a very-- - Well no, you're (drowned out by crowd chattering)

You know, you'll fill in any deets that I don't know already

You know why? You might recant when you get that met

(laughs) - What is a big fan? I was like the best friend forever

- Brother from another

(Gilbert shouting) (Pete laughing) My name is Pete Rauch

I am the president of the board of the Gazelle Foundation

I'm the co-founder of the organization and I would first personally thank all of you very much for doing this this evening

In 2009, we did our first project

We are now up to 44 projects that have provided water for 89,500 people in a small area in Songa, Burundi

So thank you very much for your effort in coming out tonight

(guests cheering) 'Kay, I'm gonna have Gilbert come up

I've known Gilbert for too long

(guests laughing) And I've got a date here, I gotta look it up and make sure I get it right

March 25th, 2006

I call it the Gilbert Mafia and a lot of us are here because of our association with this man

But I'd like to impress upon you that well likely first thing he'll say is it's not about Gilbert

It's about changing lives in Burundi

And I encourage you to join me in welcoming him to help other people gain access to clean water in Burundi

(guests applauding) - As you can see I'm really smiling (guests laughing) 'cause he texted me a minute ago with the hashtag BFAM

I'm like, "What is that?" What is that? Brother from another mother

(guests laughing) He just told me a minute ago

I didn't know what it was

It's my pleasure to be with you tonight

It's very moving to see all of you coming to support the Gazelle Foundation

Our mission which is very simple: to give clean water

(guests applauding) Growin' up in Burundi in the mountain of Fuku in the Commune of Songa province of Burundi, it was the best experience of my life

It was not easy, but it was a lot of fun

My daily routine would be getting up in the morning, go fetch the water

After I drop the water, I run six miles to school


It was climbing a huge, huge mountain

Even my neighbors, the Hutus, the Twa, I was always nice

I was always nice to everyone, so everybody kind of yeah, loved me maybe

And I would stay to school for whole day

I would stay and play with my friends

You know, soccer, cards, you name it

Something to make the time go by

One of the thing that stuck in my memory is the story that I had

One chant that I had

Learned from my older brothers and neighbors

Every time we'd see the rain, we'll run fast

And to get to distract each other, we will sing

And of the song was a song about the lion

Here we go

? (sings in foreign language) do you see ? ? (sings in foreign language) 'til you fight ? (Gilbert singing in foreign language) Just kind of a singin' magical sort of breathing

And before I know it, I was home

It was a lot of fun

There was a two component about the song

The song was about you know, to inspire

You know, we have kids that slow

We have kids that fast

How do you get everybody to run together? How do you keep with we call a team? And in every family, mothers or daughter with their kids

Don't ask him, stranger

It's six miles of walk

You know, you have neighborhoods along the way

Some can be mean, some can be nice

But 'cause they're known, parents would tell kids, "Don't ask every stranger

"You see a rain, beat the rain, run fast

" It's about a lion and a runner

So the whole idea was I am that fast and ride a lion

Lion cannot catch me

I'm strong, I'm fast

My goal was I'm gonna keep running

I'm gonna keep studying

In fact, the day that I got attacked, I was going to study

That October 1993 was the day I will never forget in my entire life

That day, I thought it was gonna be a great day

It turned out to be the worst of my life

(gentle guitarstrumming) That day I turned the radio, it didn't work and I knew when the radio doesn't work, it's a sign

That is a cruel data

I went to class, I was so nervous

I had this teacher who hate me

He hated Tutsis and I didn't know why he hates me

So his name is Fil-a-mont, ended up being headmaster

When I went to class, the teammates, a Hutu, who was really like all my friends

He lived nearby the school and he came and he said, "Like what is that? Tonight I'm gonna cut your throat

" I said, "Why?" "You killed our president

" And I had no idea, man

I didn't know

I didn't know the president was killed

But I got scared

You have your best friend say he's gonna cut your throat

The stuff you have been ignoring during the campaign is coming to life

There was a group of people walking towards the school with spears and machetes and kick stick

They're coming to attack the school

My favorite teacher, he was running

He said, "Watch out today

We're going to be killed

" They just took two of our teacher

They are taken to a place where they're gonna burn everybody alive

I'm like, "That's not gonna happen

Nobody's gonna touch me

I've done so great

I have run for the school

I'm the national champion

Nobody's gonna touch me

" We went in the class

No teacher


Finally the physic teacher said, "We are going to die

" The headmaster look in my eyes and he said, he meant everybody but he was looking straight at my eyes and he was like, "You are going to see what Jesus saw on the cross

" This is where you started thinking how am I going to escape

I can run

If I run, I get killed

They already prepared

The whole school has been surrounded

How in the world am I going to get out of this situation? The best solution is to stay with the students

Stay with everybody

Fight together

We don't know what to do

We're like, let's escape here

Nobody's gonna touch us if we walk peaceful enough and not fight 'cause we can't stay here

We were like 2K into the walk going 26 miles

They stop us and when they stop us, they said, "Stop and go back

" They draw a line in the middle

If you cross this line, you dead

Everybody run this way

I ran to the left thinking I would use the forest

There was a forest to the left

I would use the forest to get away and think about 500 kids tryin' to go different direction

Every kid that followed me, we end up being trapped because everybody was after me

If arrows and spear had stuck, go back to school

Of course I didn't get any accusation

I didn't have any guilt

I was like, you know what? I've done great stuff for the school, let me go back

At the same time, they are cutting the ears, they are chopping my teammate

The kids are eighth grade, I was in 12th

I was in 13 grade

And we were walking and they started taking our clothes off

If you have nice jeans, they say, "Give it to me

" If you have nice shoes, "Give it to me

" Then we get to a place where they started roping everybody together

11 people to my left, 11 people to my right

There were rope around here so you cannot move

The headmaster, he locked me in the building thinking you know what? Take everybody to the fire and I have a special torch for this kid, Gilbert

Early on, he said I'm gonna see what Jesus saw on the cross

Pretty suspicious of course

Is he gonna crucify me? Should I resist? You have a million things going on in your head

People outside started getting really angry and like we want Gilbert to be treated the same

He has to go to fire

And I was like, "Okay, kill me

" There's nothing I can do

They created the strongest man around to beat on their necks so everybody that gets inside the fire, you're paralyzed

So when they set the fire, there's no way you can move

This kid, his dad was a general in the army

He thought his dad would come and rescue him and say "I'm not going to fire

" 'Cause you had choices

They say, "Either we chop you into pieces or get in the fire

" And they would form like a funnel

This person misses you, this one miss you

This misses you, this one miss you

And when he refuses, they start to chopping my friend

They chop him in my eyes

He scared me

I jumped and forced myself to jump a bit and the rope came loose and I kept pushing and crawled straight in the building

And so I lay there and as soon as I got there, (gasps) they light the building

I witness my friends and my classmates and my teammates dying one by one

And I was waiting for my turn

I remember after eight hours, I couldn't take it

I want to kill myself

I want to suicide myself

As you can see here

As you can see this arms here, I was trying to cover my head 'cause the fire was coming from the roof

And as you can see also here, and this was bad right here

And my back is the same

Start accusing myself

I didn't go to church that's why I'm being punished

I'm locked in a room

I'm the fastest kid in the country

I'm in a fire

I tried to run, they catch me

If I can ask forgiveness, maybe I'll be forgiven

Sure enough

As soon as I finish forgive me, I came up to a million ideas

I took a dead body

I broke the window

The window was barred

The bars that you need to break one and your head will go through

I broke one and I was scared

They were outside, chanting and celebrating a massacre and I was determined to get out

Then I grabbed the bar

It was hot, leg first and I landed in outside

I look at the people around me


All look the same

Can't even recognize

I just recognize who was here, who was here

In my mind was I'm gonna tell this story

I'm gonna remember these kids

I'm gonna remember Elizabeth

I'm gonna remember Manifique

If I get out, I'll be able to testify

I'll be able to tell what I witnessed

- You need to have domestic politics aroused, engaged by these issues

That's why they need to be covered; they need to be described

When the word genocide applies, it needs to be applied

Or human rights violations or crimes against humanity

Those words get used a little bit too often

When they are used, they should be used deliberately

There's a situation we could not tolerate

- I think one of the things that genocide requires is the dehumanization of a people

There is a propagandization, a brainwashing that renders the aggressors to believe, to be firm in their commitment that these, their victims are not human

- So we had a rough rule in Bosnia

We called it the 1030 rule which applied

In any community if minority was smaller than 10%, they were safe because they're not seen as a threat to the majority

If they're more than 30%, they're safe because they can defend themselves

So that 10 to 30% range where you saw violence happen, when there's no rule of law to stop them and people were feeling threatened

(gentle guitar strumming) - At this point in world history, we have more refugees and displaced people than we have had since World War II and arguably we're well past that point at this point in time

I think there are 65 million or so displaced people and refugees worldwide

Less than 1% will ever be resettled to a third country

Not to the US, to any country

And so it's really a needle in a haystack, you know, winning the lottery kind of chance that any refugee has of being resettled

It's not something they can count on generally and that's a hard reality to face I think as a person and as a human

And I think for us as Americans, but also humans ourselves, we have to be able to understand and I think we do, the position then that families are in if that is their only choice in life, you know? It's stay in a refugee camp or try to be resettled or go back home where I know I will die

- A refugee needed to be sponsored by a family, by a church, by a group of people, by an organization and I was sponsored by a family

They did not know me

I did not know them and they took me in out of the goodness of their heart

Yeah, after I picked apples in Wallingford

I felt like I ate enough apples to last for a lifetime

And I went to work for Friendly's Ice Cream

I was trained to be the manager, a manager but I had to learn how to cook hamburgers, to scoop ice cream, wash dishes, sweep floor, everything

I never seen a hamburger in my life

And I was working the grill and suddenly I was hearing rare, medium rare and I was holding a lettuce and the trainer said, "Hold the lettuce

" I didn't understand

It took me a while to realize that she didn't want me to put the lettuce on the hamburger

And I said "Oh my goodness, this is very difficult

" And then at the cash register, the dimes are smaller but worth more than the nickles

It's very confusing

I said that I had to move on so New York, New York

January 1977, I stood at the corner of a street in Manhattan and all these yellow checkered cabs coming down with the signs at the back, drivers wanted

So I call and they ask me to go and take a test

It's all about directions

How do you get from the Waldorf Astoria to Yankee Stadium for example? I had no idea where these places were so I just check the boxes at the end

I brought the sheet to the examiner

He looked at the boxes, he frowned

He looked at me from head to toe

He shook his head and then he said you've passed so I became a taxi driver

Applied to a number of schools

That includes scholarship to Colombia

I was given a full scholarship for a master of international affairs

In the meantime, I met Martha as I mentioned, on September 15, 1977, and my life changed

She was the moon and I was the rabbit

She was the angel, I was the barbarian

(chuckles) - [Interviewer] We would only got to admire her from afar

- Exactly, exactly

Well I arrived here in 1976 and there was an election, presidential election, I was watching TV with my whole family and I did not understand what was going on

I saw these people wearing funny hats jumping up and down on the chair screaming, yelling and shouting

And my whole family told me, "This is a convention

These are delegates

" And they turned to me and said, "Sichan, if you were interested in this country, you should get involved

" So my chance to get involved was after I became US citizen

It's a wonderful feeling

I felt I had a country

I can no longer be expelled from anything because I always have a country to go back

And after I met Martha, I had two states

I had two home states

I had two home state, Connecticut and Texas

I love Texas

I cannot get enough of Texas

(soft guitar music) (singer vocalizing) So let's find this name

I think it's on the other side

I walked by

I walked by it

Right here, Robert McKinney

- [Interviewer] And he was? - He was one of Martha's ancestors


And the other one was Collin McKinney who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence

I am one who believes that you want to have your voice heard, get involved

Just like what my host family told me in 1976, "If you want to understand this country, get involved

" In 1988, we were living in New York and I volunteered

I just wanted to be involved, so I did everything the campaign ask me to do from making phone calls to stuffing envelopes, licking stamps of those days

You know, they send other information by post

And I just enjoy seeing the process, but you have to express your interest

Some people want to volunteer, but they don't want to work in the government

And I wanted to, so I wrote

Well in fact, they sent me

They send you, "If you are interested in serving in the UN station, please fill out this form

" And I fill out that form

And the timing is important also

I had a friend Jason DeMayo who was the director of the transition personnel, later on became director of prison personnel

He saw my resume the time that they were looking for somebody of my background

Somebody who can interact with ethnic groups or who knows a little bit on international relations, who speak a few language and there I was

He told me later on that if my resume arrived two days earlier or two days later, I would never get that job because there are hundreds and hundreds of resumes

And when somebody ask him, he said, "I have one here

" They look at it, they like what they saw and they ask me to go to Washington

Then Bush 43, I also volunteer in his campaign and the same process, you know? You express your interests and they need somebody who could represent the United States and I arrived here at the right time

And I already spoke five, six languages

I could interact with the French-speaking diplomats, Spanish-speaking ambassador

I have already worked at the White House

I have spoken for the President of the United States and the American people

So it was the right time

It doesn't matter how qualified you are, how much money you have raised, how much you work you done, it's a combination of everything

The United Nation was quite an experience because I had to interact with 190, 192 countries

When I walk in, my colleagues from those countries look at me and they saw America

They saw you

They saw America's strength, her greatness and her future each time I pronounce, "On behalf of the president and people of the United States

" That was my proudest moment

I cannot be thankful enough or be grateful enough for God to have brought Martha and me together

Somebody or divine intervention

So there I was alone by myself

And when I met Martha, my world change

So we benefited from each other

We were one

Yeah when she pass away, I lost 2/3 of myself


(soft guitar music) (birds chirping) - 'Kay, guys

Let's do the warmup drills right here

Float some eggs

Yup, bend your knee up


- Well the first one's hard

The second backwards

- Backs up


Hopping, hopping



You can sing

Go ahead and sing it

- [Teen] Hey Gilbert, are those new shoes? - No, they're not new

I went to represent Burundi University in the university yard which is like Olympic for student where all the colleges' student

They compete all over and it was in Tokyo in Japan

For the first time, I was like you know what? When I was strong, I could make the team

But right now, I'm still wounded

God has a messenger here

He wants me to go spread the message, gimme a life again, seize the moment

'96, I came here in Atlanta, Georgia

I came to train for the Olympic Training Center

I did a lot of research

I did a lot of homework

My homework: learning English

How do you speak hi and so on? I came here after two big major city: Nairobi, Kenya

It's big city, but it's not like USA

Guess where they took me to eat from a country where there's no food

Most people, maybe 30% are malnourished

You come to your country full of everything

You're full of food, convenience, McDonald's

They took me to McDonald

I spoke a little English

I think they wanted too

That was the best way to learn, to be honest with you

First time to place order

Everything has been given

Now I'm gonna order

I'm like okay, the only thing I know was chicken

Okay? There's a number and a number

I order chicken 'cause I'm a chicken person

I order chicken, but it still is a McDonald and French frites which is French fries

So there was this guy, I mean heavy southern accent

You haven't seen it

And he goes, "Yo

" I'm looking my friends

But as you say, they're laughin' so hard and he say, "Here go

" I hear go and I hear here

Those are two words I never couldn't put together

What did he meant? And then my cousin, our second cousin name is Jean-Paul said, "You mean he had to go stupid?" I get a visa to run in the Olympics and also a prospective student

So after the Olympics I start learning English 'cause we speak French and (mumbles)

So I had to learn my English

I had to pass the (mumbles)

So I started taking ESL, English as a Second Language

I end up in Abilene

Best choice ever

I could go into division 1, but Abilene had a lot of to offer

You know, Abilene

It's a Church of Christ School, but the culture is amazing

There's so many international student

I love the fact everywhere you go they have a tradition

There's one in 800

There's one at four by four

This team won a national championship

You will see them

My goal was one day, I wanna be here

Here for my daughter or my son

I'm like, "Well come here or I come back

I'll always see that I made an impact on the school

" So to me, it was really fun

It was a great experience and I end up winning

Maybe I'll win all of 'em

(interviewer chuckling) How's that? Now's that? And also God does a miracle, man

Sometimes you don't have to question it

(medals clinking) Maybe I should wear all of 'em, how's that? How's that? - [Interviewer] You're a little kid runnin' in your village, did you ever think to be standin' here with all of this? - No


No, no way

But my message to all of you youngster out there is to never give up

Don't give up on your hopes

I didn't even think I'd like to be in the United State

But because of hard work and dream big, I made it

You can do it

This is what I could find from college

I have more than that

I'm supposed to have eight

This is pretty cool

Back in '99 before 2000, I went back to Burundi to see my family, to see my girlfriends who I marry today

I was like, "I have to go back

" And when I went back, I thought the tension were over

I thought I could go back and be a normal citizen and work 'cause healing has to take place

It turn out that I was hunted

There's some people that wanting to kill me

They were not happy that I was alive

As soon as I landed here, I applied for political asylum so I can stay here 'cause I don't wanna have to go back

Luckily, I was a geek going to asylum and eventually was to be become a citizen

I chose and decided this is my country as well I'll raise my children

No more goin' back to Burundi

I can help, I can support but no more going back

Coming to Texas, people were like, "Oh man, a cowboy

Texas is so racist

Cowboy gonna kill you, man

They don't like Africans

" Lemme tell you, but I was always wantin' to wear that five-gallon hat

I love Texas

You're not cheating

You stay lower

We are goin' for what? One minute

- Oh

- Oh my god

- I will change 'em up to the words it's comin'

It won't get you

It's comin' from behind, in the front

We are strong and we are amazin'


Kevin, you ready? (Gilbert vocalizing) - [Group] You're right

(Gilbert vocalizing) You're right

- Do you seek? - You're right

- Do you find? - You're right

- Yeah, you

- You're right

- Do you seek? - You're right

- Yeah, you let

- You're right

- Do you find? - You're right

- Run the land

- You're right

- Surname

- You're right

- We awesome

- You're right

- We're amazing

- You're right

(Gilbert vocalizing) You're right

(Gilbert vocalizing) You're right

- Do you seek? - You're right

- Do you find? - You're right

- Yeah, then

- You're right

- Yeah, you

- You're right

- Do you find? - You're right

- Run the land

- You're right

- 10 inch

- You're right

- We awesome

- You're right

- We're amazing

- You're right

- Super fast

- You're right

(Gilbert vocalizing) You're right

- Yeah! (students cheering) That's cool

We done

We done for the day

It took me years to come to a realization that I need to share my story, so the things that happen doesn't happen again

The horrible accident, the horrible massacre that happened

I'll make sure it doesn't happen again

We gotta take the words to prevent it 'cause not many people know about what happen in Burundi

A lotta people know about Rwanda, but not many people know about what happened in Burundi

So it takes people like me to share the experience to testify what I witness, what I saw, so people would learn about 1993

(soft guitar music) - A friend of mine, Manny Dawson, she asked me to go and speak because people who benefit more from my experience and I was very reluctant

I felt that I had to go down a very painful past which I want to forget

I want to forget a painful past so that I concentrate on building new life

But Manny didn't give in and I said, "No, no, no

" But she just kept on asking me

"Sichan, it would be better for you to write down before you forget it and also to speak it out

" So I started speak out, tell my story in churches

Then it became easier and easier

It helped me out

- There's different data out there

But what we most often see is that families spend around seven years in a refugee camp before they will be resettled

That of course means that there are families in camps for longer than seven years

But what happens during that time is that the United Nations is determining for what families there is no other durable solution, as in going back to their home country or integrating into that second country in theory where the refugee camp is

For a lotta families, neither one of those are an option

And the only durable solution is resettlement to a third country, so that third country being the United States

- On that premise, I think the most important wisdom is already printed in our dollar bill: "E pluribus unum

" From many to one

So we are a great nation because we have a great ethnic diversity

There always new blood, new ideas, new creativity

They are born every day, every day in our country and that's what make us strong

It's our ethnic diversity

- I think that you know, as a historian, my greatest fear is that history can be easily rewritten

It can be easily reinterpreted and that it can be easily re-conceptualized to political gain

As a scholar, we hold very fast and firm to evidence: to quantitative, qualitative, to what's in the archives, to what's in the libraries

And I think that we need to hold firm to that

I think that in terms of what's been happening recently in our discussion of immigration, of refugees is in some ways like coming to terms of the mythology that we have always held so true: that we are a nation of immigrants, that we are a nation of the enslaved, that we are a nation of people who are constantly working towards community and towards building a bigger, brighter future

But that is a constant battle and that is a constant struggle and I think what we're seeing is the contestation of how hard that struggle actually is

(soft guitar music) (soothing piano music)

Audio and subtitles


  • English


  • Spanish
  • English

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