Never let it be said that the only way Colin Kaepernick is acting on his political beliefs is by kneeling during the national anthem. On Saturday, the 49ers quarterback hosted a “Know Your Rights” camp for underprivileged children from the Bay Area.
With the 49ers on a bye week, Kaepernick used some of his down time to organize and host the event, held at an Oakland community center with the help of several volunteers. “We want to teach you today about financial literacy, how you can pursue higher education, how you can be physically fit and healthy,” the quarterback told the campers (via the New York Daily News). “We will talk about police brutality, and what to do about it, but we also have lawyers, professors, health and fitness experts, because we want you to be able to live the life of your dreams.”
According to the Daily News, the camp included “hundreds of black and Latino kids from Oakland, San Francisco, Richmond and other cities throughout the Bay Area.” Kaepernick set out to give them “lessons to combat the oppressive issues that our people face on a daily basis,” as well as “tools to help [them] succeed.”
Inspired by the Black Panthers’ “Ten-Point Program” (per the Daily News), Kaepernick offered the campers a list of 10 rights they should know:
- You have the right to be free.
- You have the right to be healthy.
- You have the right to be brilliant.
- You have the right to be safe.
- You have the right be loved.
- You have the right to be courageous.
- You have the right to be alive.
- You have the right to be trusted.
- You have the right to be educated.
- You have the right to know your rights.
“This is just the beginning, man,” Kaepernick said. “What we’ve done here today in Oakland, we want to do all over the country, in cities all over this country, by bringing together local leaders, local activists and local youth, and not only giving them the skills and lessons they need, but we want to show them how much we love and value them.”
Kaepernick has become something of a hero to many in the African American community because of his practice, begun during preseason games in August, of kneeling during renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest racial injustice and police brutality, as well as his outspoken comments. Other athletes, in the NFL and elsewhere, have also begun staging protests.
“It was something that was really just a personal decision where I didn’t agree with what was going on,” Kaepernick told The Undefeated. As for some of the criticism he has experienced for his protests, the 28-year-old said that “part of the oppressive system is you’re going to have that backlash for trying to fight for people.”
The camp also included tips for the children on healthier eating, as Kaepernick noted that many underprivileged communities amount to “food deserts.” In addition, the campers received forms to have their ancestries revealed through DNA analyses paid for on their behalf, so that they would know where they “came from before slavery.” Kaepernick, of mixed race and raised by adoptive parents in Milwaukee, told the attendees that he had learned his biological father’s ancestors came from Ghana and Nigeria and that knowledge “changed everything,” even inspiring him to grow an Afro.
“He cares. I can just tell,” one of the campers, a freshman at a local high school, told the San Jose Mercury News. “He’s not one of those conceited stars.”
Some have wondered how Kaepernick could possibly express any resentment at the U.S., given how much money he has made in the NFL, but he credited his “financial stability” with being able to put on an event such as the one Saturday, and teach others how to achieve financial independence. “To be able to have that independence, and to be able to provide for our own, that’s something that has to happen in order for us to be able to really put pressure on systems to change and to respect us and treat us as human beings,” he told The Undefeated.