Timberland, Cheadle team up for Darfur

A Hollywood screen star and one of New Hampshire’s best known companies hope to give the boot to the ongoing crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.

“Hotel Rwanda” star Don Cheadle and the Stratham-based The Timberland Company, makers of outdoor footwear and apparel, have joined forces in the creation and distribution of 100 limited edition boots designed to bring attention to the ongoing unrest in Darfur and ignite the civic and political action needed to put an end to the genocide that has been occurring there since 2003.

The black leather boots with a picture of Africa and the words “Stomp Out Genocide” on the soles were given to humanitarian activists, policymakers, journalists and entertainment professionals who have worked toward raising awareness of the cause.

Timberland also has created and made available to consumers “Save Darfur” T-shirts and boot hangtags (available online at timberland.com for $24 and $5, respectively). Proceeds will go to AmeriCares, a longtime partner of Timberland and a leader of humanitarian relief in the Sudan.

“We are inspired and led by Don’s passion to strengthen our global community and bring hope and humanity to the children and families of Darfur,” said Jeffrey Swartz, president and CEO of Timberland. “We are not policymakers, politicians or activists and so we proceed respectfully, sensitively and humbly, but within our rights and obligation as citizens of this planet.”

Considered one of the most troubled places on earth, the Sudanese people continue to suffer the ravages of civil war between the Janjaweed, a government-supported militia recruited from local Arab tribes of nomadic herdsman and the non-Arab sedentary farmers. Death tolls of 400,000 have been reported since February 2003. An estimated 2.5 million more have been forced from their homes. Village burnings, rape and other violent acts are daily occurrences.

Cheadle, who received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who risked his life to save more than 1,200 people during the Rwandan massacre, took on the cause after completing the movie. He has since visited Darfur as part of a congressional fact-finding mission and has committed to working with the Save Darfur Coalition to bring peace to the region.

“It’s shocking to see the kind of devastation that occurred there and to know it is still going on,” said Cheadle. “I am working with Timberland – a company I respect and whose pursuit of social justice I admire – to inspire others to help bring a halt to these atrocities.” — TRACIE STONE

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