THE WASHINGTON POST — Colin Kaepernick has been busy. Sure, he hasn’t played professional football since 2017, but since parting ways with the San Francisco 49ers, the former quarterback has held his own in the media, sometimes even on his own terms. .
Among his projects: co-creating with Ava DuVernay a Netflix series based on his teenage years, Colin in Black and White, and leading a non-profit group called the Know Your Rights Camp, a youth empowerment organization that aims “to advance the liberation of Blacks and Browns through education”.
This week, the 34-year-old activist is taking his message to a younger audience: kindergarteners (and under).
His picture book I Color Myself Different tells the story of a five-year-old child named Colin who looks a lot like his creator: he loves to read, play football and hang out with his friends. He barely registers that he is biracial and looks different from the family who adopted him.
“But one day,” said the little boy, “I had to learn that being different takes courage.” That day — which Kaepernick says is based on real-life experience (and shares the image to prove it) — he was asked to draw his family.
He was proud of his creation, in which he colored himself with a brown crayon, while his parents and siblings are yellow. But the kids in her class had a lot of pointed questions.
At first, Colin was surprised and belittled, but – in life and on the page – the experience proved to be defining, in a good way.
“The moment I chose to color myself with brown crayon was a defining moment in my life,” Kaepernick wrote in an author’s note.
“I knew I was different from my family and I loved myself because of it. I began to understand that my brown skin was tied to my black identity. It helped me recognize that the world doesn’t value not always darkness.
Via email, Kaepernick answered questions about her book, her childhood and her career. (This interview has been edited for clarity and length).
Q: Why did you decide to write this book?
A: I think it’s safe to say that even though I Color Myself Different was in production for 18 months, the book actually took many years to write and reflects my own evolution of thinking about identity, l adoption and self-love.
I hope the book will encourage young people – especially black and brown young people – to embrace their unique power to change the world.
Q: And create a publishing house. What’s next for Kaepernick Publishing?
A: I founded Kaepernick Publishing in 2019 with the goal of raising a new generation of writers with diverse opinions and voices.
I Color Myself Different, which is a collaboration between us and Scholastic, is our second title and our first children’s book. Our first title, Abolition for the People, was released in October 2021.
It’s an anthology that argues for a future without and beyond the police and prisons.
Our third title will be released on October 18. It is called In the Blink of an Eye and is the autobiography of NBA legend Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. It’s really powerful.
Over the next few months, we plan to announce two more titles that we will release
Q: Your book explores how a child (you!) struggles to look “different” – not just at school but also in your own family. How did you find how to fit in and stand out?
A: I’m not sure I ever understood how to “fit in” and “stand out”. I think all we can really do is trust who we are, embrace our power, find our people, and follow our path.
Ultimately, that’s the lesson I hope to convey in I Color Myself Different.
Q: What are your favorite children’s books?
A: There are too many to mention here, but a few that immediately come to mind are Hair Love, by Matthew Cherry (illustrated by Vashti Harrison), The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson (illustrated by Rafael López) and Wutaryoo, by Nilah Magruder. These books are awesome.
Q: Given the current cultural climate, are you concerned that children in some school districts may not be allowed to read it?
A: Literature will always be challenged because literature is powerful. And literature that centers Blacks and Browns will always be doubly challenged and scrutinized because we live in an anti-Black world.
Books – not to mention literacy itself – have the power to help us imagine a better future and then take action to make it happen.
I Color Myself Different is truly about the empowering power of self-love. Honestly, I can’t think of anything less controversial than this.
Q: Do you hope the kids think of you as a writer or a footballer or something else?
A: My profession, whatever it may be at any given time, will always be rooted in my principles.
So whether I’m quarterbacking, writing children’s books, running my non-profit, or doing something else, I hope young people will see me as someone who is passionate and determined, someone who’s willing to stand up for myself. .