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CAUSE CELEBRE

NBA star's toughest point

November 12, 2008|TINA DAUNT
  • AMONG REFUGEES: Tracy McGrady of the Houston Rockets walks with an African boy in ?3 Points.?
AMONG REFUGEES: Tracy McGrady of the Houston Rockets walks with an African… (Josh Rothstein )

With the economy in the tank, foreign policy issues (other than the war in Iraq) are as hard to sell in Hollywood as they are in Washington.

Certainly, voters in last week's election had little but layoffs and plunging home prices on their minds when they went to the polls. But a cadre of dedicated celebrity activists is still hoping to make a place for issues -- such as the genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur -- in the American conscience.

NBA star Tracy McGrady over the weekend called on human rights activists, studio executives and his fellow players to help raise awareness about Darfur, where more than 500,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million more have been displaced since fighting broke out four years ago.

The Houston Rockets all-star made his pitch during a private CAA screening of "3 Points," a documentary about his trip last year to Darfurian refugee camps in Chad. He's hoping to build schools for the children in the camps, but he needs funding and support. His effort, called the Sister Schools Initiative, would also link American students with Darfurian children via the Internet.

"I kept hearing about Darfur, and I decided I wanted to go over there and see for myself," said McGrady, who was accompanied by human rights activist John Prendergast. (Participant Media paid Prendergast's way.)

"I was touched, really touched by the children," McGrady said in an interview after the CAA screening at the agency's headquarters in Century City. "There are so many children and families suffering there."

He's asking his fellow players to watch the documentary, which captures both the devastation and the resilience of the children caught up in the battle. (It also paints a candid, and sometimes funny, portrait of McGrady, who was very nervous about camping out in a war zone.)

"I was definitely out of my comfort zone," he joked. "When we were leaving, the army had their tanks lined up ready to fight someone. I was freaked out."

Safely back home, he hopes to have the funding in place to begin building the schools in January.

He is also looking for a studio to distribute his film, which could be a challenge. Darfur films are not exactly in demand these days.

He's leaning on his basketball buddies to step up, and so far they've been receptive.

About 190 people -- including NBA players Baron Davis and Carl Landry -- attended the CAA screening. Also attending was former NBA great Reggie Miller, as well as actress Emmanuelle Chriqui, who plays Sloan on "Entourage."

She met with Prendergast at the Darfur Now Roundtable on July 15 hosted by Don Cheadle and Lakers guard Derek Fisher. She is now working with ENOUGH on Darfur and is a campaign ambassador for the Raise Hope for Congo Campaign ( www.raisehopeforcongo.org.)

Nancy Tellem, president of CBS Paramount Television, was also there, as was Participant's Bonnie Abaunza and Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey.

Said McGrady: "I'm not ashamed to say that I didn't know what was going on in Darfur. But now that I do, it's my job to help get the word out."

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tina.daunt@latimes.com

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