Controversial former NFL San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick came into the global limelight for protesting against racial injustice and inequality in America. His symbolic kneel during the national anthem caused a national discussion about patriotism, troop disrespect and police brutality. He has gone on to spark even more controversy when he featured in Nike’s campaign ad dubbed “Believe in Something. Even if it Means Sacrificing Everything”.Kaepernick’s appearance in the campaign led to country wide outrage and destruction of Nike products by mainly Caucasian Americans who felt the brand was remiss in supporting him.
Kaepernick has also donated and helped raise millions of dollars for the fight against social injustice, and founded the Know Your Rights Camp to raise awareness on self-empowerment. Notably he was also named 2017’s “Citizen of the Year” by GQ magazine putting alongside sport greats such as: Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson, both athletes who “risked everything to make a difference,” the magazine stated.
For all his activism he will receive the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal at a ceremony in Harvard’s Memorial Hall on October 11th. “The medal honors those who have made significant contributions to African and African-American history and culture, and more broadly, individuals who advocate for intercultural understanding and human rights in an increasingly global and interconnected world,” the Hutchins Center said.
The W.E.B. Du Bois Medal is Harvard’s highest honor in the field of African and African American Studies. It is named after the scholar, pan-Africanist, NAACP founder and first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard. The William Edward Burghardt “W.E.B.” Du Bois medal honors individuals from around the world in recognition of their contributions to “African American culture and the life of the mind.”
Other recipients of the Du Bois Medal will include: comedian, actor, and producer David Chappelle; Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and a managing director of General Catalyst; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson; philanthropist and founder of Avid Partners, LLC, Pamela J. Joyner; psychologist and author Florence C. Ladd; Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; and artist Kehinde Wiley.
“In the year of the 150th anniversary of his birth, W.E.B. Du Bois would be proud of the eight individuals being recognized at this year’s Hutchins Center Honors,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center. “Emerging from a variety of backgrounds and professions, each represents the quest for knowledge, freedom of expression, and pursuit of truth that are foundational to black history and culture, and that were foundational to Du Bois as a thinker and activist.”
Glenn H. Hutchins, co-founder of North Island and chairman of the National Advisory Board of the Hutchins Center, said, “The Hutchins Center Honors celebrates the innovators and trailblazers who seek, each in their own way, to nudge the arc of history toward justice.”