Colin Kaepernick has earned the right to rock that ‘GQ’ cover uniform and Afro He may be wearing it on the cover of a fashion magazine, but it is not just for fashion

On Monday, GQ magazine released its Men of the Year issue naming former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as its Citizen of the Year. Continuing his strategic silence, Kaepernick’s words are not featured in the piece. Instead, he guided GQ to interview 10 of his “closest confidants” — including director Ava DuVernay, hip-hop artist J. Cole, Women’s March co-organizer Linda Sarsour, and civil rights activist and entertainment icon Harry Belafonte — to provide intimate insights into Kaepernick the human being.

I was honored to be one of the 10 people interviewed for this piece.

While reading the article, I found myself fixated on the images that accompanied the piece. Photographed in Harlem, New York, by Martin Schoeller, the images were intended to “evoke the spirit of Muhammad Ali’s anti-Vietnam War protests in the neighborhood during the late ’60s.”

But for me, there was so much more encoded in the photographs, particularly the cover. There was so much beautiful black history and politicization hidden in plain sight.

Kaepernick’s Afro shined like a crown of black consciousness on the cover of GQ, serving as a crucial component for framing his unspoken love for black aesthetic affirmation. But if one picks through the historical roots of his natural hair halo, they will find a legacy of powerful black women affiliated with the Black Panther Party.

Arguably, the most iconic Afro of all rested atop of the head of the women engaged in black revolutionary praxis — most notably, Angela Davis. Unfortunately, many reduce her natural hair choice to simply a style to be easily emulated and not a powerful symbol that reflected a departure from the politics of respectability that served as a visual hallmark of the civil rights era, nor as a choice that combated Eurocentric standards of beauty that waged war on the self-esteem of black children, women and men in America.

As Davis noted, “I am remembered as a hairdo. It is humiliating because it reduces a politics of liberation to a politics of fashion.” This reduction that Davis sees as humiliating anchors the important implications involved in the multilayered nature of the Black Power-era mantra, “black is beautiful.” It was not just about looks, it was about liberation.

However, as Kim McNair, a postdoctoral scholar at USC who teaches in the departments of American studies and ethnicity, and history, poignantly points out:

Kaepernick’s choice in style links him not only to the idea of “black is beautiful” but also connects him to figures such as Frederick Douglass and Bob Marley, two biracial figures in the long black freedom struggle. These men also wore their hair long, and Marley’s choice in particular was part of his Rastafarianism that also became a political movement. Hair politics among mixed-race black people carries a weighted history of questions around legitimacy and racial authenticity. This is why Kaepernick’s choice in hairstyle is purposeful — not superficial, as many would like for us to believe.

I can recall an impromptu conversation that Colin had with the youths invited to one of his Know Your Rights Camps in Chicago. During a heated debate about young men and the need to look presentable, Kaepernick peacefully yet passionately interjected, speaking to the young black folks in the crowd about the importance of loving themselves — specifically their hair. He spoke directly to those who were stigmatized for making the choice to wear their hair in locs, or in some iteration of an Afro, highlighting how this cultural criticism about natural black hair was just one of the many ways that anti-blackness attacks your sense of self, leaving a trail of self-hate for something that was given to you from birth: your hair.

The children returned the love via a roaring round of applause.

Colin’s homage to the aesthetics of the Black Panther Party on the cover of GQ continued via his adorning a black turtleneck and a black jacket with a peaked lapel, symbolically connecting his image to the likes of Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale and many others wearing the Black Panther Party uniform, presenting themselves as a unified group moving in solidarity in the fight against systemic oppression.

Seale complained that with the increase in Panther visibility, many wanted to wear the impressive Panther uniform of the black beret, black pants, blue shirt and black turtleneck, but only to posture and pose “with a mean face on, their chests stuck out and their arms folded.” They wanted to be seen as helpers of the people without putting in the work and making sacrifices for the people.

Colin, by way of the work that he has committed himself to for social justice, and the sacrifices that he has made, has earned the right to wear that uniform and rock that Afro. Even though it is on the cover of a fashion magazine — it is not just for fashion.

As one delves deeper into GQ’s photographs of Kaepernick, it impossible to miss the image of Colin wearing a dashiki top while in a crowd of beautiful black and brown faces. This, of course, is a re-creation of the iconic image of Muhammad Ali in 1974, among the people of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is also a remix of photos taken of Colin while on a trip to Ghana. As Colin let the world know on July 4 via an Instagram post, and an accompanying video:

“In a quest to find my personal independence, I had to find out where my ancestors came from. I set out tracing my African ancestral roots, and it led me to Ghana. Upon finding out this information, I wanted to visit the sites responsible for myself (and many other Black folks in the African Diaspora) for being forced into the hells of the middle passage. I wanted to see a fraction of what they saw before reaching the point of no return. I spent time with the/my Ghanaian people, from visiting the local hospital in Keta and the village of Atito, to eating banku in the homes of local friends, and paying my respects to Kwame Nkrumah’s Memorial Park. I felt their love, and truly I hope that they felt mine in return.”

I was there with him in Africa. I was there when he and his partner Nessa personally picked out that dashiki while paying respects to African ancestors who were stripped of their lives in the Goree Island slave castles. This dashiki was not a piece picked out by a stylist — it was a part of his personal collection.

This was again, a moment of Colin telling his story pictorially in the GQ article without opening his mouth. The pictures are frozen moments of living memories, archiving a man of the people and his reluctant ascendance into the pantheon of iconoclasts, engaged in the struggle to attack oppressive beliefs and norms held by racist individuals and the traditional institutions that they control.

The employment/reconstruction of the iconic likeness of freedom fighters of the Black Power movement serves as a pathway that not only reminds us of the past, but the contemporary relevance of the image of Kaepernick on the GQ cover also shows how, in troublingly tangible ways, many things have not changed in America. Colin’s clothing in the GQ article honored the ancestors and challenged contemporary anti-blackness in the present. It was an icon of today paying respect to icons of the past while investing in the youth, the icons of the future.

Colin said a lot without saying anything at all.

Bill Cosby’s sexual assault mistrial was as much about power as it was about rape Cosby’s silence speaks of his wholesale betrayal

If you ever needed proof that rape is as much about power as it is about sex, a Pennsylvania courtroom just handed it to you. On the day that Bill Cosby’s sexual assault case was declared a mistrial, his spokesperson Andrew Wyatt came right out and proudly preached to the world, “Mr. Cosby’s power is back. It’s back. It has been restored.”

While the blind comedian stood behind him, Wyatt methodically explained, whether he knew so or not, exactly why misogyny and toxic masculinity keep scores of women from never reporting their attackers.

In the words of Huey P. Newton: “Power is the ability to defy phenomena, and make it act in a designed manner.” Wyatt then repeated it. After the aforementioned declaration of the return of Cosby’s power, he continued: “The legacy didn’t go anywhere, it has been restored.”

It’s impossible to forget any of the steps that got us here. The initial accusers. The payoffs. The subsequent accusers. The pound cake speech. Hannibal Buress. All the other shenanigans that Cosby’s lawyers tried to pull to make sure this very trial would never come to light.

Ultimately, Andrea Constand was allowed to confront her accuser and a jury simply couldn’t bring themselves to convict a man who legitimately admitted to violating her when she was unable to move. Cosby was so obsessed with his invasive conquests that he told his accuser’s own mother about what he did to her.

It’s hard to describe what happens to people when they get to control things. Most men live their whole lives not realizing how much opportunity and unjust right they are given to power. But when they get it, they believe they deserve it. Bill Cosby, apparently since the age of 11, has been consumed with controlling women. When he agreed to pay Constand’s school costs, as an offset for his actions, he insisted she maintain a 3.0 GPA. Even in admitting wrong, he had to have some level of say in her choices.

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” were the words of Lord Acton, the 19th-century British politician. Cosby’s world and mind were so incredibly corrupted that he didn’t even believe that what he was doing was wrong. Woven into the fabric of his existence is a world in which women were in his life for the purposes of being his sexual objects. Most men are taught to think this way. He thought this was OK. From the way he talks, as a man of power, he thought it was his right.

I don’t need a courtroom full of people to come to a decision for me to know that Cosby is a scumbag. That was clear ages ago. In a time in America in which the legal system is so obviously perverted toward the maintenance of patriarchal power structures, nobody on earth thought this man was going to be convicted.

The odd irony of the entire thing is that Cosby knows his spokesman is lying. His eyes are failing, not his mouth. He made a living with his voice but would rather let someone else do his bidding at this stage of life. It’s a very cruel twist on rape culture that he should be allowed to be silent when he spent so many years silencing dozens of women who cried out to be heard.

No one man should have all that power. But only men do.

On this day in black history: Michael Jordan, Jim Brown and Huey P. Newton are born and more Black History Month The Undefeated edition Feb. 17

1891 — Butter churn patented
Inventor Albert Richardson created the tall wooden cylinder with a plunger handle to improve the butter-making process. Richardson realized the up-and-down movement caused oily parts of cream or milk to separate them from the water portions.

1902 — Opera singer Marian Anderson born
Born in Philadelphia, Marian Anderson performed at the Lincoln Memorial in an open-air recital after her concert at Constitution Hall, which was controlled by the Daughters of the American Revolution, was canceled after they refused to allow her to perform. At the age of 17, Anderson placed first over 299 other singers in the New York Philharmonic competition. In 1930, she traveled to Europe after she was awarded a Rosenwald Fellowship, allowing her to study abroad for a year. Three years later, she debuted in Berlin and performed 142 concerts in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Anderson signed with the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955.

1936 — Happy birthday, Jim Brown
Over the course of his nine-season tenure with the Cleveland Browns, Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown enjoyed three MVP seasons. The St. Simons Island, Georgia, native was a staunch civil rights activist and the founder of a plethora of organizations aimed at helping the disenfranchised.

1938 — Activist Mary Frances Berry is born
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Berry went onto become the first woman to serve as a chancellor of a major research university at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She has been an active face in the fight for civil rights, gender equality and social justice. During four presidential administrations, Berry served as chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Berry was also the principal education official in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

1942 Black Panther Party founder born
Huey P. Newton was born in Monroe, Louisiana. As a response to police brutality and racism, in 1966, Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther group. The organization was founded to build self-reliance for the black community. At its peak, there were approximately 2,000 members in city chapters across the nation. In 1971, Newton proclaimed that the Black Panthers would dedicate themselves to providing social services to the black community and adopt a nonviolent approach.

1963 Happy birthday, Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan, considered by many the greatest of all time, was a six-time NBA champion and Finals MVP, five-time NBA MVP, 14-time NBA All-Star, three-time NBA All-Star MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and more. He retired with the NBA’s highest scoring average of 30.1 points per game. He owns the Charlotte Hornets and created the Jordan Brand for Nike.

As Michael Jordan turns 54, take a look back at the three times in his career he scored 54 points.

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1967 Happy birthday, Ronnie DeVoe
Ronnie DeVoe was the fifth member of New Edition, and introduced to the group by his uncle, their former manager. DeVoe later became a founding member of R&B group Bell Biv DeVoe with two other New Edition members, Michael Bivins and Ricky Bell.

1973 — First naval frigate named after an African-American commissioned
Ensign Jesse L. Brown was the U.S. Navy’s first African-American pilot and was killed in combat during a mission in Korea. Brown earned his pilot wings, unlike his Army aviator colleagues, who broke the color barrier with the Tuskegee Airmen. Brown, the son of a Mississippi sharecropper who used to steer mules in cotton fields, saved his money up so that he could attend Ohio State like his idol, Olympic track superstar Jesse Owens.