A story of challenges

Ocen kicks off new series

As a part of a new speaker series, which is funded through an innovation grant to promote diversity and equity, founder and director of I Live Uganda, Benson Ocen was brought in order to highlight the key messages of the Los Medanos College’s upcoming production of “Ruined.”

“For people going to see the play … , it would help them understand what’s happening in the Congo right now, what’s happening in that part of the world and to meet somebody who’s actually on the forefront of making the world a better place,” said drama department chair Nick Garcia.

From a young age, Ocen experienced violence in the Congo. War began in his country when he was 6 years old.

“The rebels began to abduct children, killing [them].” said Ocen.

When Ocen was seven years old, the rebels came to his community and started to attack. People were running away only to run into the rebels with guns. He didn’t know where his mother or father was and ran away with his little sister. He ran into his grandma and went home with her.

“The play ruined deals with women who are victims of severe violence in the Congo and they all find kind of sanctuary at this bar/brothel,” said Garcia. “So the play really highlights them and their struggles.”

And Garcia said Ocen’s personal experiences involve situations like these.

“He’s the head of an organization that deals with that exact conflict or those types of conflicts on a daily basis,” said Garcia. “He got some of his training and works with a lot of places in the Congo as well as Uganda. So, the two events are directly tied with each other.”

Benson Ocen talked about the trauma people go through in Africa — relatives are fighting relatives and neighbors fighting neighbors.

“The issue of Africa is no longer poverty. The issue of Africa is no longer disease,” said Ocen. “We have only one problem in Africa – true leaders.”

Jake Teal, an LMC Honors student, has known Ocen for many years, finally got to see Ocen in Uganda over the summer and witness first hand what he does as a trauma counselor. Now, other LMC students can appreciate those experiences as well.

“I thought he was great. He was so dynamic, intelligent, and his personal experience was touching,” said Taylor Gonzalez. “I went to see him because I had heard of the work he was doing in Uganda from Jake Teal and I wanted to know more. I’m really glad that I went.”
LMC student Alyssa Reyes echoed these sentiments.

“He spoke with a lot of emotion that gets lost in the news or history lessons, and I think we were all privileged to have [an] opportunity to hear his story,” said Reyes.

Ocen was the first of 10 in a series of speakers with a theme of love, strength, survival and hope,

which was organized and put on by LMC faculty from the drama, English and honors departments.
The next events are a free panel discussion following with a  performance by Samba Funk Nov. 11 at 12 p.m. in the Little Theater to celebrate the African Diaspora: Diversity within our Community, and then a $15 comedy show Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. in the LMC Little Theater featuring Lenard “the KYD” Jackson and Friends.