Colin Kaepernick Shares First Look at His Kids' Book Inspired by a 'Revelatory' Childhood Moment

Colin Kaepernick shares an exclusive first look at I Color Myself Different with PEOPLE, as well as a never-before-seen photo from his childhood

Colin Kaepernick kids' book
Colin Kaepernick. Photo: Amari Kenoly for Kaepernick Publishing

Even before Colin Kaepernick took a knee in protest in 2016, he's been fighting hard for what he believes in.

Now, the football player and activist is channeling his voice in a new way with his first children's book, I Color Myself Different, which was inspired by a transformative moment in his childhood.

In celebration of the book's publication on Tuesday, Kaepernick shares some of the interior illustrations with PEOPLE. He's also giving fans an exclusive first look at a never-before-seen photo from his childhood, as well as insight into his favorite book when he was growing up.

"I Color Myself Different explores the intersection of identity, adoption, and self-love — an intersection that's deeply personal to my own experience as a child," Kaepernick, 34, tells PEOPLE in a statement about his kids' book, the first in a multi-book publishing deal from his company Kaepernick Publishing, in partnership with Scholastic.

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Colin Kaepernick kids' book
Scholastic/Kaepernick Publishing

"When I was 5-years-old, I was given an assignment in school: 'draw a picture of yourself and your family.' I drew my white adoptive family with a yellow crayon and then picked up a brown crayon to draw myself."

The athlete continues: "This revelatory moment taught me an important lesson about embracing my Black identity through the power of self-love and eventually helped me to understand how my brown skin was connected to my Blackness. Above all, I hope that I Color Myself Different can inspire young people to embrace their power, love themselves and walk in the truth of their own path."

Colin Kaepernick kids' book
Young Colin. Courtesy Colin Kaepernick

I Color Myself Different shows how a young Colin proudly embraces his identity as a Black boy after his teacher asks him to draw a picture of his family. The book teaches young readers to stay true to themselves and advocate for change, even at a young age, according to the book's description.

The kids' book, illustrated by Eric Wilkerson, is in line with Kaepernick's own journey as an activist. Six years ago, Kaepernick first took a knee during the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner" to protest the violence experienced by Black and Brown people at the hands of police across the United States, sparking the #TakeAKnee Movement.

Colin Kaepernick kids' book
llustrations by Eric Wilkerson from I Color Myself Different (Scholastic/Kaepernick Publishing) ©️ 2022 by Kaepernick Publishing

The year following his polarizing protests, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Since then, he has been unable to sign with any NFL team. (Kaepernick and fellow athlete and protester Eric Reid filed grievances with the league in October 2017 that accused owners of colluding to prevent him from signing with a team. The pair settled with the league in Feb. 2019.)

The quarterback has since become a global icon for his fight against racism and social injustice. He's also founded three organizations — Know Your Rights Camp, Ra Vision Media, and Kaepernick Publishing — that "together advance the liberation of Black and Brown people through storytelling, systems change, and political education," according to the book's press release.

For Kaepernick, representation has always been important, especially in books. He wishes he'd had more access to books featuring characters that looked like him when he was growing up, he explains.

"My favorite book growing up was We'll Never Forget You, Roberto Clemente by Trudie Engel," says the Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award winner. "This book was really the first time I could relate to a character in a published story."

Colin Kaepernick kids' book
llustrations by Eric Wilkerson from I Color Myself Different (Scholastic/Kaepernick Publishing) ©️ 2022 by Kaepernick Publishing

Engel's book was part of the inspiration behind Kaepernick's own foray into publishing.

"I always loved reading but I wish there could have been more books at my disposal that reflected my own identity and experiences," Kaepernick says in a statement. "In part, this is why I wrote I Color Myself Different. I want young readers — particularly young Black and Brown readers — to see themselves as central to the stories we tell."

I Color Myself Different is on sale now.

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