Colin Kaepernick just started a Black Panther-inspired youth camp to teach kids to fight oppression

by Claire Bernish

Colin Kaepernick shares a laugh with teenagers at his Know Your Rights camp in Oakland. – Photo: Katrina Britney Davis, The Undefeated
Colin Kaepernick shares a laugh with teenagers at his Know Your Rights camp in Oakland. – Photo: Katrina Britney Davis, The Undefeated

Oakland – After earning both soaring praise and burning ire for sitting out the national anthem, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has turned his protest against police brutality into a positive force for change – by opening an education-based camp to empower kids.

Kaepernick, in other words, wants to teach young people how to be the change – to educate themselves and stay healthy and safe.

On a recent Saturday, Kaepernick hosted a free youth camp called Know Your Rights – a “free campaign for youth to raise awareness on higher education, self-empowerment, and instruction to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios,” the website explains.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick talks with some of the children over lunch at the HUB Oakland on Oct. 29, 2016. – Photo: Katrina Britney Davis, The Undefeated
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick talks with some of the children over lunch at the HUB Oakland on Oct. 29, 2016. – Photo: Katrina Britney Davis, The Undefeated

Hundreds of Black and Latino children attended the camp, which took place in Oakland, according to the New York Daily News, and the quarterback now plans to expand the program beyond the Bay Area.

Kaepernick wants to teach young people how to be the change – to educate themselves and stay healthy and safe.

“We’re here today to fight back and give you all lessons to combat the oppressive issues that our people face on a daily basis. We’re here to give you tools to help you succeed,” Kaepernick told attendees, the Daily News reported. “We’re going to give you knowledge on policing history, what the systems of policing in America were based on, and we’re also going to teach you skills to make sure you always make it home safely.”

About 100 invited youngsters wait patiently for the camp to begin. Kaepernick had been there since 5:30 a.m. setting up. – Photo: Katrina Britney Davis, The Undefeated
About 100 invited youngsters wait patiently for the camp to begin. Kaepernick had been there since 5:30 a.m. setting up. – Photo: Katrina Britney Davis, The Undefeated

With relations between police departments and civilians more tense than ever – and an epidemic of police brutality still growing – the camp aims to instill knowledge-based confidence in kids who might otherwise distrust uniformed officers, who often aren’t members of the communities they patrol.

A child looks up at Kaepernick. What an opportunity to spend time with a celebrity who thinks like a Black Panther! – Photo: Katrina Britney Davis, The Undefeated
A child looks up at Kaepernick. What an opportunity to spend time with a celebrity who thinks like a Black Panther! – Photo: Katrina Britney Davis, The Undefeated

According to the Know Your Rights Camp site, the program’s goal is to “help build a stronger generation of people that will create the change that is much needed in this world.”

Controversy raged over Kaepernick’s bold choice not to stand during the national anthem, as many misunderstood his quiet police brutality protest as a publicity stunt – but details about his plans for the camp evidence quite the contrary.

“Please don’t say anything about it online,” Kaepernick told Daily News reporter Shaun King a few days before Know Your Rights opened. “I’m not doing this for the press and I don’t want it to become a media event so that the kids and the families can feel like this is just for them.”

The program’s goal is to “help build a stronger generation of people that will create the change that is much needed in this world.”

Modeled after the original Black Panthers’ 10-point plan, the camp taught kids they have the fundamental rights to be free, safe, educated, courageous, loved and more.

“It’s exciting for me because I see a lot of hope, I see a lot of what is to come,” Kaepernick told The Undefeated. “And if you look at a lot of movements in past history, it started at a youth level and has built. And that’s really where change is created, is when youth come up and they’re built in that culture of, ‘I know what this means, I know why this is happening and I also know how to help create change now.’”

Modeled after the original Black Panthers’ 10-point plan, the camp taught kids they have the fundamental rights to be free, safe, educated, courageous, loved and more.

Pleased with a job well done, Kaepernick smiles at the end of a long day. He muses: “A lot of these communities have been oppressed for so long and talked down to for so long that it might take one person to spark that thought or that confidence that, ‘You know what, my life matters, what I do matters, and I can succeed regardless of the oppressive nature of the system I have been put in.’” – Photo: Katrina Britney Davis, The Undefeated
Pleased with a job well done, Kaepernick smiles at the end of a long day. He muses: “A lot of these communities have been oppressed for so long and talked down to for so long that it might take one person to spark that thought or that confidence that, ‘You know what, my life matters, what I do matters, and I can succeed regardless of the oppressive nature of the system I have been put in.’” – Photo: Katrina Britney Davis, The Undefeated

According to The Undefeated, kids from all over the San Francisco Bay Area attended the camp – including a number of homeless children living in a halfway house – and heard speakers discuss organic nutrition, holistic healing, financial knowledge, higher education, the history of policing and more.

Not a single workshop discussed sports.

Kaepernick also told the youth how he’d recently traced his roots to Ghana and Nigeria. He provided kits for them to trace their ancestry, free of charge.

Further, the athlete didn’t stop with organizing and funding the camp – and making a simple cameo appearance – he interacted with as many of the attendees as he could, visiting the smaller breakout focus sessions as the day progressed.

“What we’ve done here today in Oakland, we want to do all over the country, in cities all over this country,” Kaepernick told the Daily News, “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.”

And as Kaepernick told The Undefeated on goals for expanding the camp across the country, “This might not be something where I personally can create the change that this system needs. But together we can build this and help organize and create the change that we need.”

Claire Bernish is a San Diego-based journalist who covers issues including the refugee crisis, First Amendment concerns, ending police brutality, and general government and corporate accountability. She can be reached at Claire.Bernish@theAntiMedia.org. This article is free and open source, originally appearing on The Free Thought Project.