CHICAGO – Thousands of jubilant Sudanese refugees living in the United States turned polling places into victory parties Sunday as they voted on a historic referendum that could separate their homeland, Southern Sudan, from the north and create the world’s newest country.
In Chicago, basketball star Luol Deng arrived at the office-turned-polling station on the city’s North Side to a hero’s welcome, drawing cheers when he briefly draped himself with a flag.
Deng, a native of Sudan, moved to London as a child to escape the conflict. “A lot of people have fought for this day, a lot of lives have been lost over this … and now we have a say,” Deng said. “All we could do in the past is run. Now we’re here today to show we’re not running, we’re here to make a difference.”
In the U.S., thousands of Sudanese traveled to polling sites in Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Nashville, Tenn., Omaha, Neb., Dallas, Phoenix and Seattle to vote. Many of those voting are among the 3,800 war orphans known as the Lost Boys of Sudan.