In 1987, escalating war forced an estimated 17,000 Sudanese boys to flee their villages, many after seeing their parents killed. Only one-third survived a 1,000-mile, three-nation journey to a Kenyan refugee camp. In the last several years, nearly 4,000 of these "Lost Boys" have been resettled in the U.S.
Believed to be home to more Lost Boys than any other American city, Phoenix is the sole recipient of federal funds for the creation of a refugee resource center. The public is invited to its grand opening on Saturday, April 12.
Emphasizing education and community, the AZ Lost Boys Center, 1918 West Van Buren, houses a computer lab, study area, library and rec room. Artworks by the boys adorn the walls; authentic African art and furniture fill the rooms. Tut Gatyiel, president of the Lost Boys Leadership Council, says the center "represents the final destination of our journey."
Church of the Beatitudes, in partnership with the Lost Boys Leadership Council, led the project's development. "Hopefully, a lot of people from the public will come to the opening, so these guys will know that people care about them," says project director Ann Wheat. She speaks of the optimism and energy that overtook the boys as they shaped the center's development: "They've got hope. They'll find their way to everything else."
Deng Deng Koch embodies that hope. "My future dreams are very many," the Lost Boy says. "If I describe them, I can even write 20 papers..."
Group representatives will make welcoming remarks at 2:30 p.m.; a ribbon-cutting and raffle drawings will follow. Between 1 and 4 p.m., the young men will lead public tours of the facility and perform tribal drumming and dancing, and Lost Boy Philip Chol De Nhialatungtil will read his poetry.
An excerpt from "If the World Were One": I can't remove from my mind: my traditional culture, sentimental scarring, folktale of childhood, Antinov bombs, mass killing, crocodiles, the hunger, the distance I walked, persecution...I can't go back till I see the light, till I build my new home, till I can help myself. From the hilltop of humanity... we see the great nation of the world, U.S.A.... Your generosity saves the world, Americans. -- Jill Koch
The 13th annual Sunday on Central street festival is due to pop off this weekend, with a flurry of unorthodox and possibly phobia-inducing entertainers. The City of Phoenix has booked a diverse group of performers for this year's carnivalesque fete, including an entire stage of Ringling Bros. Clown College alumni (no Krusty this year, kids). Culte du Feu, a group of side-show performers who walk on glass, breathe fire, charm snakes and demonstrate other safe family activities, is scheduled to appear. Other oddities include the Zooperstars, inflatable doppelgängers of famous athletes; Skyriders, an acrobatic trampoline team that freaks the springs with snowboards, skis and other sharp-edged objects; and the Jump Rope Warrior.
A few conventional acts will be present, such as dance ensembles representing various cultures, and party bands Zowie Bowie and Boogie Nights. But for the most part, attendees can expect an amalgamation of strange sights. Sunday on Central takes place April 13, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Central Avenue between Virginia and Osborn. Admission is free; see www.ci.phoenix.az.us/CALENDAR/soc.html for a schedule. -- Brendan Joel Kelley
Comicon returns bigger and better
In the world of comic books, nobody quite grows up or grows out of the hobby -- they just evolve. For us, it was a natural progression from Archie to G.I. Joe and Superman to Weirdo and Tank Girl. And although we'll always dig superheroes, we'll never run out of comic genres to explore, including sci-fi, fantasy, Japanese manga and indie titles. It's enough to make us feel like a giddy kid again. So the second annual Phoenix Cactus Comicon, on Sunday, April 13, comes just in time to give us a healthy dose of comics; the event is more than twice the size of last year's debut. Along with vendors selling books, toys and model kits, about a dozen and a half talented guest artists will be on hand to talk about their art and sign autographs. Activities from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. include a costume contest, two panel discussions, an "Art-on-the-Spot" contest, and a live auction. Admission is $6 (free for kids under 10) at the Glendale Civic Center, 5750 West Glenn Drive in Glendale. For details, visit www.phoenixcomicon.com or call 602-697-4007. -- Michele Laudig
"Wow, what is that delicious smell?" you wonder. As a mouth-watering aroma wafts in the warm April breeze, you follow your growling stomach to Scottsdale, where you discover that the Valley's chefs have all convened to cook up their prized dishes - and to your utter delight, they're all there to feed you.
No, this isn't a foodie's dream. It's this weekend's reality at the Scottsdale Culinary Festival, an ode to eating at the Scottsdale Civic Plaza and local resorts.
Cuisine choices range from gourmand to gourmet, depending on your budget. At the bargain end of the spectrum, try the Great Arizona Picnic and the Southwest Festival of Beers, each $5 admission, at the Civic Plaza on Saturday, April 12, and Sunday, April 13. The family-friendly picnic features food samples from all kinds of local restaurants for just $1 a plate, while the beer bonanza gives you 200 different specialty brews to try.
Several other festival events let you get dressed up for fancier feasts with wine tastings, cooking demonstrations and chic eats from swankier boîtes. Prices range from $40 to $175. Visit www.scottsdaleculinaryfestival.org or call 480-945-7193 for details. -- Michele Laudig