LEWISTON, Maine — In a show of solidarity with Bates College students of color and their ongoing activism, National Football League quarterback and social justice activist Colin Kaepernick has given them a slew of sweatshirts from his “Know Your Rights” campaign, along with a handwritten letter urging them to “stand strong and stand together.”
The black sweatshirts, emblazoned with “I Know My Rights” on the front, list on the back the 10 rights articulated by Kaepernick and his Know Your Rights Camp, a campaign designed to raise awareness among youth of color about interacting with law enforcement.
“Dear Bates College Office of Intercultural Education,” the note, handwritten in pencil, reads. “It is imperative that you not only know your rights, but be willing to fight for your rights and the rights of others! Stand strong and stand together!”
Christopher Petrella, a lecturer in humanities and associate director of programs for the Office of Equity and Diversity at Bates, became friends with Kaepernick as the two worked for equity, justice and against racism, and said he mentioned to his friend the “impressive student activism around anti-racism, equity and justice” taking place at Bates, prompting Kaepernick to ship them sweatshirts and a handwritten note.
“The students have been very active in this particular political moment, particularly in the aftermath of this presidential election,” Petrella said Tuesday. “That has taken the form of rallies, protests and adjudication to ensure that Bates College would make a statement on the immigration policies coming out of the White House … Students have pushed back against systemic racism, xenophobia, and exclusionary immigration policies.”
Kaepernick, 29, who led the San Francisco 49ers to the 2013 Super Bowl, gained global attention when he “took a knee” during the national anthem prior to each game of the 2016 football season to protest racial and social injustice.
He is currently a free agent, and the fact that he has not caught on with another team since leaving San Francisco at the end of the season has caught the attention of both filmmaker Spike Lee and President Donald Trump.
This week Kaepernick, working with Ben Stiller’s charity, The Stiller Foundation, secured a 60-ton cargo plane to send food and water to Somalia, one of four African countries in which 20 million people face famine and starvation in what the United Nations has called the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945.
“Amazing news,” Kaepernick said in an Instagram video. “Turkish [Airlines] granted us an airplane to fly to Somalia. A 60-ton cargo plane, so we can fly there with food, with water for these people. Now we have started a GoFundMe page to allow anyone to help us. Donate food. Donate water. We’ll make sure every cent goes to helping these people. This is a victory for the people. This is victory for the people of Somalia. It was done out of love, out of respect for these people. We wanted to bring structure to this. So now we are going to use the name Love Army for Somalia. So use the hashtag #lovearmyforsomalia.”
As of Monday morning, the GoFundMe campaign had raised $1.9 million in three days.
In January, Petrella visited a camp Kaepernick hosted at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights in Manhattan, the site of the assassination of Malcolm X — “an incredibly powerful, sobering experience that really shook me to my political and spiritual core,” he said.
Petrella said the sweatshirts will be distributed at Bates on Thursday, and Kaepernick’s letter will be displayed in the Office of Intercultural Education.
“We’ve got a lot of great students who are doing good things,” Petrella said.