Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Outcasts United

Greg Moore (SMBA ’11)

We were fortunate enough to have author Warren St. John in class today to discuss his national-bestselling title, Outcasts United. The book examines the town of Clarkston, Georgia, which transformed from sleepy southern town outside Atlanta to a unique mixture of racial diversity once it was designated a refugee center in the 1990s. St. John reports the story of Clarkston through the eyes of Luma Mufleh, an American-educated Jordanian woman who starts a youth soccer team to unify the town’s refugee children.

St. John told us of his experiences while spending 6 months in Clarkston with the many refugee families, Coach Luma, and with the team affectionately labeled the ‘Fugees’. His efforts resulted in this book, but also in a multi-piece article for The New York Times. As St. John said when explaining his choice in covering the Fugees to tell the story of Clarkston, “Sports causes people to behave in ways they normally wouldn’t. Sports are a truth serum. People reveal things about themselves that they normally wouldn’t.”

Outcasts United beautifully tells the story about how children from war zones in Liberia and Sudan to Iraq and Afghanistan come together through the teachings of their fiery female coach. St. John captures the Georgia town’s struggle to adapt and his time with the Fugees continues today. He still stays in touch with some of the families and, of course, Coach Luma, via Skype and phone calls.

Since I spent 5 years in book publishing and graduated with a Journalism degree, Warren St. John's story was especially compelling. It was an honor to hear first-hand from St. John, especially when he reinforced the idea of the power of sports and how it can transform even the smallest of towns.

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