Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp came to Chicago at a crucial time.
A few weeks earlier, I had a Twitter discussion with a former Chicago Tribune colleague about the city’s violence. We talked about how people who are most affected by shootings can channel the outrage into some sort of social change.
And Mother’s Day is coming up. Last year, eight people were murdered, while another 46 were wounded in shootings across the city that weekend. Multiple local media outlets reported that the Chicago Police Department said it was the city’s most violent weekend in eight months at that time.
Kaepernick’s camp gave Chicago’s marginalized black and brown communities a blueprint to help themselves.
“We want to give you the tools to uplift yourselves and uplift your communities. It’s going to be you who is going to change your communities,” Kaepernick told the campers.
Over 200 students from the Chicago area packed into the auditorium of The DuSable Museum of African American History last Saturday on Chicago’s South Side. The museum is named after Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a Haitian man was the first non-Indian settler of Chicago.
The camp was the third one Kaepernick and his foundation held since last season (Oakland and New York).
The camp had breakout sessions that gave the campers advice on how to deal with police officers when detained, financial literacy, holistic health and college preparation among other things.
The camp’s tenets are as follows:
- 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.
The list of rights is an adaptation of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s Ten-Point Plan.
One of the sessions gave the campers a detailed history of why Chicago is America’s most segregated city, while another told the campers the perils of processed food and why there’s so many fast foods restaurants in black and brown communities.
After the camp, Kaepernick gave out back packs that contained ancestry kits and a copy of the Autobiography of Malcolm X.
It seems that the moment that Kaepernick realized that he hadn’t had knowledge of self was similar to the experiences Malcolm X had in prison when he converted to Islam, which is detailed in his autobiography.
“For me the growth in my knowledge through some of the research my woman helped through,” Kaepernick told the campers. “I was able to identify myself with my community. With my lady, I was able to trace my ancestory and my lineage back to Ghana, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. My existence wasn’t a slave. I was an African man. I was from a culture of kings, queens and pharoahs.”
Rapper and actor Common, the South Side’s native son, attended the camp to support Kaepernick.
“Last year, I saw Colin standing up for us as a people. I always say that it was one of the most courageous acts I’ve ever seen,” Common told the campers. “No one in the spotlight had taken that chance since Muhammad Ali and Muhammad Ali is one of my heroes. And now, Colin Kaepernick is one of my heroes.”
Before the camp ended, Kaepernick told the campers that when and if they decide to take a stand in their communities, forces around them will try to intervene.
“And what they will try to divide you and separate you,” said Kaepernick. “When you talk about what happened last year, they tried to eliminate ( San Francisco 49er teammate) Eric [Reid] from the narrative to make it as a one person movement as opposed to a group of people moving to together. Realize that you have to stick together in your movement. You have to stick together because they will try to divide you.”
Chicago’s problems are well-documented and highly politicized.
And Kaepernick seems to put on blast the things that our elected officials and the social media trolls refuse to acknowledge - the systemic issues that has led to violent communities.
Hurt people in hurt communities tend to lash out against each other.
The campers learned a lot of things that aren’t taught in America’s schools. Being financially solvent and how to eat to live are some of those things. Especially the schools that are populated by black and brown children. The answer to why that is could be a column for the another day.
At this point in time, Colin Kaepernick is giving America’s kids the silent weapons to fight quiet wars.
Not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes, they wear “I Know My Rights” t-shirts.