On Saturday October 30th, 2021 , I was awakened past midnight. My iPhone’s WhatsApp was dinging with messages. My heart fell with anticipation. There are only a few people who contact me through WhatsApp and one is a Sudanese living in Khartoum.
I quickly placed on my glasses. Yes, it was from my friend whom I hadn’t heard from since the military coup arrested the Prime Minister and a couple dozen of government officials. My friend works with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
Since Monday, October 25, I had contacted people I knew who might know of my friend’s whereabouts, people from the New York Times, people from non-government agencies (NGOs) in Washington D.C. No one had heard from him. People I talked with where concerned.
My Sudanese friend had lived in the United States for over twenty-five years. His life had been threatened by President Omar al-Bashir, and he had to flee Sudan. He eventually became a U.S. citizen. Living in Washington D.C, he worked steadfastly for decades with NGO’s and government officials to bring change in Sudan.
My life as a writer has educated me and aided in personal growth in ways I never would have dreamed. It is sometimes easy to talk about agents, getting published, making money or the lack thereof. I have attended many conferences where we discussed character development, plot, dialogue, market trends, and again how to land an agent.
Twenty-four years later, I still think about those things, but they are not what motivate me to continue to write, writing novels that for me take five to ten years to complete. I spent seven years writing Out of the Shadows. Granted, I started the novel while I was pregnant, and three years later had another child slowing down the process. Granted, the novel took tremendous amount of research.
The book jacket blurb of Out of the Shadows reads:
After a devastating loss, Jamie Shire accepts a mysterious live-in job with an equally mysterious employer in the wine country of Northern California. At Fallow Springs Estate, Jamie struggles to understand what her employer, Akasha Duvall, wants of her and who Akasha really is. As secret after secret unravels within Fallow Springs, Jamie discovers healing by addressing the suffering of others. Beneath an African sky, among the Darfuri people, whose land and loved ones have been violently ripped away, Jamie finds the strength to reclaim her life and the courage to step forward into her greatest passion. Suspenseful, heartbreaking, inspiring, and deeply moving, Out of the Shadows both surprises and satisfies, vividly immersing the listener in wrenching, yet uplifting, human experiences that take place in worlds apart.
In a profound way, I became my protagonist. My protagonist, an activist to help end the genocide in Darfur, went to Sudan to learn about the people of Darfur. I too spent much of ten years on activism. I flew to D.C., drove to Sacramento, dedicated much of my time, talent, and money to the cause.
I became good friends with a man who stayed in my home a few times, who was from Darfur, who worked in Washington D.C., who later moved back to Khartoum after the citizens in Sudan removed the dictator Omar al-Bashir. My friend became the interim Secretary of Foreign Affairs. He worked daily with Prime Minister Hamdok. He traveled extensively. He helped get Sudan off the U.S. terrorist list and so many other steps toward Sudan’s democracy.
I would not have met this man if it were not for my love of writing, of creating story and meaning in my life.
On Monday October 25th, the military coup under the leadership of Military Chief General Abdel Fattha al Burham imprisoned Prime Minister Hamdok. On the next evening I received a phone call from the founder of Genocide No More, Save Darfur, Marv Steinberg to tell me about the coup and that our friend may be in prison.
My texts and WhatsApp messages where not shown as opened. I read that General Burhan had shut down the internet and phone lines. I heard from other sources that people in America and the UK were not able to contact family and friends.
I know President Biden as well as the United Nations are putting pressure on Burhan, asking him to pull back and place Prime Minister Hamdok back in power.
After the people of Sudan removed dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019, the country has been controlled by the military and a civilian government. Both the military and the civilian government were supposed to be working toward democratic elections.
On October 30th, the night I was awakened, I read his short messages coming in one to two sentences at a time. He wrote that he was ok and laying low. He wrote that he was doing what he could to put an end to the madness.
The first time this Sudanese man came to my home was about ten years ago, I was ecstatic. I made sure my home was cleaned and there was plenty of food. I worried my children would misbehave. One might think George Clooney was coming for dinner with my excitement and attention to detail. When I met him at the door, he had a few snowflakes on his short black hair. He smiled and thanked me with his beautiful Sudanese accent. Instantly our connection was deep and meaningful. He told me I was his African sister, and I believed him.
I would not know him. I would not know the trials of Sudan or even cared about the genocide in Darfur if I were not a writer.
Writing may not have made me famous. Writing as of now doesn’t pay for my kids’ new shoes. It has placed me on a path to be a more knowledgeable, conscientious, and caring.
My thoughts and prayers are with you my dear friend. Please stay safe.