HUNTINGTON BEACH, California, April 8. AS the Olympic Torch gets ready to make its way through San Francisco, Calif., the threat of protest grow more imminent by the minute. Between unrest over violence in Tibet to the genocide in Darfur there is no shortage of outrage for protesters.
One member of Team USA is lending a hand in the way of fighting back by joining forces with Team Darfur. Genai Kerr, a goalie for the USA Men's Senior National Team and a 2004 Olympian has been a part of the organization for some time and was recently interviewed on the topic for ABC World News Tonight with Charles Gibson.
Kerr is just one of my notable names from the world of athletics to entertainment such as actor George Clooney who have been outspoken on the situation in Darfur. Here in his own words, Kerr describes why he got involved with the organization, what he does to help, and why he stays involved.
After traveling through Egypt with my best friend and 2004 US Olympic Water Polo teammate Dr. Omar Amr to visit his family I witnessed true hardships of poverty. Omar's family is from Egypt and Sudan. I felt a strong connection when I started seeing news coverage and documentaries about the genocide taking place in Darfur in Western Sudan. I was overwhelmed and filled with a sense of helplessness because I didn't know what to do. When Brad Greiner first contacted me last year and explained how he and Joey Cheeks had started Team Darfur is an international coalition of athletes committed to raising awareness about and bringing an end to the crisis in Darfur, Sudan I was excited.
Since becoming a member of Team Darfur I have attend conferences to try to figure out tangible ways to assist in ending the atrocities. I spoke at an event at the Los Angeles Coliseum and then passed the torch to a survivor from Rwanda who then spoke about escaping a similar horror. I make small donations and I wear the Team Darfur wrist bands and jacket in hopes of sparking interest in other people who may want to help.
The current crisis in Darfur, a region of Western Sudan the size of Texas or France, began in 2003. After decades of neglect, drought, oppression and small-scale conflicts in Darfur, two rebel groups mounted a challenge to Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir. These groups represent agrarian farmers who are mostly non-Arab black African Muslims from a number of different tribes. President al-Bashir's response was brutal. In seeking to defeat the rebel movements, the Government of Sudan increased arms and support to local tribal and other militias, which have come to be known as the Janjaweed. Their members are composed mostly of Arab black African Muslims who herd cattle, camels, and other livestock. They have wiped out entire villages, destroyed food and water supplies, and systematically murdered, tortured, and raped hundreds of thousands of Darfurians. These attacks occur with the direct support of the Government of Sudan's armed forces.
I hope to see the crisis end before thousands more innocent people are murdered. If world powers feel pressure from their citizens that actions need to be taken hopefully the governments will respond.
Team Darfur calls for a celebration of the Olympic spirit and is not a boycott. With lives being taken everyday the media attention that the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing brings will help Team Darfur to educate the global public through the unique voice of elite athletes. Team Darfur brings together the world's Olympic and professional athletes to put international pressure not only on Sudan, but also on those countries that support the policy of inaction in the face of this dire humanitarian crisis.
When an ABC reporter asked me if I can make a difference even if water polo players are not "super stars" like NBA and NFL athletes I reminded him that anyone can make a difference like Martin Luther King Jr. If anybody is interested in learning more please visit TEAMDARFUR.ORG.
Kerr who is a University of California-Irvine graduate can relate to those at the forefront of Team Darfur as the organization was co-founded by his friend and former UCLA water polo player Brad Greiner. The organization is based solely around an international coalition of athletes that are committed to raising awareness and bringing an end to the crisis in Darfur according to their website www.teamdarfur.org
Currently Kerr is in a group of athletes in contention for a spot at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.
Special thanks to USA Water Polo for contributing this report.