Growing up in New York, Joa Macnalie loved sports. She played college basketball at Southern Vermont College, where she scored over 1,000 points by her junior year and was team captain. After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she attended Liberty University, where she pursued a master’s degree in professional counseling.

“Sports to me have always been an outlet where you can express yourself,” said Macnalie. “I grew up in a dysfunctional family. Sports provided an outlet to manage my anger. It provided a safe space and a positive outlet. Sports was a sanctuary.”

Macnalie began her career as a clinical case manager and beginning therapist at the Salvation Army. She went on to work as a behavioral therapist and substance abuse counselor. Then, her desire to help people found a new focus when she learned about Colin Kaepernick’s willingness to risk his career to speak up for justice.

“I became inspired and motivated by his willingness to walk away from [football] for the greater good of humanity,” said Macnalie. “I thought I should do something greater than what I was doing to both honor him and educate people about why he decided to protest in the NFL. To see him choose justice over fame and fortune fueled me to write these books.”

The result of Macnalie’s vision has been two books about Kaepernick, “The Hero in the Helmet” and “B Is for Brotherhood,” which are targeted for children age seven and up, but have also found an audience among adult readers. She does a lot of school readings, but also is asked to speak on college campuses and at bookstores.

The first book addresses Kaeperinick’s journey to leadership and takes you to the moment where he decides to take a knee. It encourages youth to use their voices to effect change. The theme is believing in something even if it means sacrificing everything. The second book includes other athletes who stood in solidarity with Kaepernick who are using their platforms to speak about justice.

“B Is for Brotherhood talks about racism on another level and how Black people experience racism in America,” she said. “Getting people to talk about it in a way that you move the conversation forward so we can eradicate racism.”

Each book contains discussion questions and a glossary at the end. There are also suggestions on how to address issues such as #BlackLivesMatter.

“I believe in helping children build vocabulary,” said Macnalie, who’s currently writing the third book is this series. “Children are capable beings. They’re able to understand and articulate themselves. It’s important to put words at the end of the book that they can reference and use. It’s a conversation everyone should be having to move us forward.”