The Darfur Teenager Who Came Home a King
At sixteen, Abbas Yahya left his small hometown in Western Darfur, dreaming of making it in the big city. In one magical summer, he did just that.
Illustrations by Hertz Alegrio
Abbas Yahya does not like to remember the past. A refugee from Darfur, he does not want to dwell on war, on poverty, on death. Still, sometimes, it is worth it for him, on the twenty-minute drive home from his warehouse job in east Baltimore, to turn on an album he played again and again as a teenager. Sometimes he lets the somber, swaying voice of Mohammed Wardi drift around in his car, emanating from the dashboard’s built-in speaker and soaking the night air, and he remembers the summer of 2001, when he was sixteen, and he found glory in the form of a boombox.
The village in which Abbas had grown up was called Noye. Noye was a loose affiliation of five hundred houses situated at the far western edge of Sudan. It had once been part of Dar Masalit, a rebellious, scrappy kingdom chronicled by historian Lidwien Kapteijns, and residents still boasted of their ancestors’ triumph over the French in 1910, but as long as Abbas had lived there it had been a rural …