We’ve long admired Colin Kaepernick for his leadership and activism. But even before he and Eric Reid first took a knee together on September 1, 2016 to protest police violence, Kaepernick and his partner, Nessa, were dreaming up ways to empower and support Black and Brown youths.
Colin Kaepernick and Nessa made that dream a reality in October 2016 with the founding of Know Your Rights Camp (KYRC). It was an honor for us to partner with Kaepernick last year and support KYRC with a brand-new vegan flavor, Change the Whirled—with proceeds going to ensure that KYRC can take its mission to dismantle white supremacy and systemic racism to communities all across the country.
In honor of Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid first taking a knee, let’s take a closer look at some of KYRC’s accomplishments over the past five years.
Promoting Fundamental Human Rights
KYRC was built on, and continues to be guided by, a foundation of 10 essential human rights, rights that are inspired by the Black Panther Party’s Ten Point Program:
- 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 to 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
Camps that Help Youth Thrive
Helping young people make it home alive from interactions with police was at the heart of KYRC’s original mission. But as those rights make clear, it isn’t enough for Black and Brown youths simply to survive—they must be able to thrive. That’s why KYRC’s curriculum evolved to include not only legal training but also financial self-defense, history, technology, health and wellness, and college prep—areas that equip young people for holistic success.
- All youth who attend a camp receive book bags, school supplies, books, shoes, and DNA kits to better understand their roots. (DNA kits helped Kaepernick find his roots.)
- Almost all the youth (98%) who attended left saying they have a better understanding of their rights.
Nessa and Kaepernick have taken KYRC’s message to eight cities across the country and the world (Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Oakland, and Amsterdam). Attendance at the camps increased every year, reaching a high of 500 at their last camp in Atlanta, prior to the pandemic.
When the pandemic forced KYRC to push pause on hosting additional camps, they shifted gears and started focusing on helping communities of color being hit hardest by COVID-19.
Kaepernick personally donated $100,000 to kickstart the KYRC COVID-19 Relief Fund. So far, more than $1 million has been raised, with funds going to provide food and shelter to disproportionately impacted communities, as well as mutual aid and education programs to help people understand how structural racism has exacerbated the COVID-19 outbreak.
With transmission rates exceptionally high in jails and prisons, the pandemic has ravaged incarcerated populations as well, which is why KYRC, with matching funds from the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Foundation, has dedicated $1 million to community bail funds around the country in an effort to get people home and out of harm’s way.
As the pandemic raged, police continued murdering Black and Brown people with impunity. Then, after George Floyd’s lynching by the Minneapolis police, officers repeatedly attacked and terrorized people around the country who had taken to the streets to protest the violence of policing.
To help provide legal assistance to protesters being harassed, arrested, charged, and locked up, KYRC launched a Legal Defense Initiative. KYRC also found lawyers across the nation to take on cases at KYRC's expense for anyone who was arrested and charged for protesting.
The pandemic and the ongoing fight against police violence led KYRC to expand and deepen its connections to organizations and activists doing important work on the ground to empower and lift up their communities.
Overall, KYRC dispersed more than $2 million to people and groups in need, but their support wasn’t limited to fundraising and grants:
- Partnered with Nike to distribute backpacks and apparel to school children and unhoused communities.
- Distributed more than 160,000 meals to food-insecure people and families.
- Provided more than 50,000 high-quality, reusable face masks to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
- Launched a special activation, thanks to Change the Whirled, to support local businesses around the country. (This included a mural commissioned by Ben & Jerry’s in Tampa Bay, Florida.)
KYRC’s Vision for the Future
Nearly five years old and stronger than ever, KYRC has big plans for the future. Hosting camps again, as soon as COVID-19 allows, is the first item on the list. But the pandemic has shown how powerful and effective collaborations can be, and KYRC wants to build on the relationships with community leaders and organizations that it either developed or deepened over the past year and a half.
KYRC’s mission seeks to identify opportunities to launch bold initiatives that focus on supporting and empowering Black and Brown communities and attacking white supremacy and systemic racism, all in the service of abolishing policing and creating new systems of accountability that center healing and care.
KYRC has shown us all how to build a justice movement rooted in love and joy and community. Join KYRC on the journey to justice and liberation today.