Retired NFL star Martellus Bennett recently spoke with EBONY about writing his children’s book, Dear Black Boy, and how his multimedia production company, The Imagination Agency, is creating outlets of escapism for Black and other children of color.
Dear Black Boy was illustrated, written and distributed by Bennett, 32, who said he has always seen himself as a creative who happened to be an athlete. The book is an adaption of his 2016 open letter of the same title published by The Players’ Tribune following the shooting deaths that year of two Black men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, by law enforcement officers.
Those national stories had an impact on the former Patriots player, as did the lack of diversity he saw when he read books to his daughter.
“I started The Imagination Agency, and it’s really about creating a Black escapism experience through the things that I create where that’s apps, games, movies [and] books,” the former baller said. He hopes the platform is at the “forefront of storytelling for kids of color.”
“I want to give Black women in the world the freedom to use their imagination. They’ve been strong for so long, it’s just time to go on these adventures,” he added. “With Dear Black Boy, I wanted to encourage BIack boys to dream outside of sports and think differently . . . introducing them to the possibilities is really what the book is [about].”
The message that sports and entertainment careers are low-hanging fruit is something Bennett wants to push. He said that often when people become professional athletes, they don’t think about what will happen when that career is over.
“If you play sports, use sports,” he advised. “So many of our kids get used by the game and then get nothing out of it. Use it as a tool to open up other doors that you want to open in life.”
Bennett felt using sports metaphors throughout the book would create a conversation about the “game of life” and preparing Black boys to understand the obstacles they face because of how they are viewed in the United States.
“When I saw Alton Sterling, I saw myself. But other people don’t see him [that way, necessarily],” Bennett said of how Black men are seen as violent. “They don’t see what [Black people] see when we see each other. We see dreamers. We see dancers. We see magnificent people, but a lot of people just see danger when they look at the Black boy.”
Watch the full interview above to hear the former NFL star connect his book with Nipsey Hussle’s “marathon” slogan and other projects.
Dear Black Boy is available for purchase on The Imagination Agency’s website along with the Hey AJ series, books and apps based on Bennett’s daughter.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.