OPINION: Join the Amplify Love campaign. Chef Kevin Gillespie has

Khalil Thompson of Atlanta raises a sign reminding some that he is not a threat. He is human.
Khalil Thompson of Atlanta raises a sign reminding some that he is not a threat. He is human.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

When I left off earlier this week, I’d just introduced you to Nicole and Khalil Thompson, an Atlanta couple who early this month launched Amplify Love, a campaign they created in the wake of George Floyd’s death to dispel negative stereotypes of Black men through storytelling.

“History has shown us the power of storytelling, and it’s time we harness that power,” Khalil Thompson told me.

As Black Lives Matter protests continued across the country, as photos of his wife, children and friends flashed in the background, Khalil shared his own story on TikTok and Facebook.

The response was overwhelming. The TikTok post alone garnered more than 150,000 views.

“There were tons of comments on there from people I didn’t even know saying ‘I see you, I hear you, I stand with you,‘ ” Khalil said. “It made me feel like there’s actually hope for humanity. Because it was so hard for me to understand how or why somebody would kneel on somebody’s neck for so long, I had started to question that.”

In his quest to change negative perceptions of Black people, he asked non-Black allies — individuals, businesses and organizations — to help celebrate their humanity.

ExploreWhy this Atlanta couple wants you to help them amplify love

Celebrity chef Kevin Gillespie was among those who saw Khalil’s humanity and who immediately answered the call, allowing the Thompsons to share their story on his Instagram account.

“I felt this was a great idea because it provided a learning opportunity for me personally, while also giving someone a new, and perhaps larger audience, to speak to,” Gillespie said.

In addition to Gillespie, King of Pops, Refuge Coffee, The Highlander School and J.Rich Atlanta Realty have all agreed to share their platforms as “amplifiers” with more to follow.

Khalil Thompson and daughter Syrai hold statements of solidarity for the family’s #AmplifyLove campaign.
Khalil Thompson and daughter Syrai hold statements of solidarity for the family’s #AmplifyLove campaign.

Credit: John Stephens

Credit: John Stephens

The Thompsons also plan to facilitate “Amplified Conversations” with metro Atlanta community leaders in August to discuss how and when unified, systemic racism can be addressed. Conversations will include topics like policing, diversity in media, voter rights and educational disparities; and folks like realtor Jonathan Rich, King of Pops founders Nick and Steven Carse, and Nataki Garrett-Myers, artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

“Amplify Love” isn’t the Thompsons’ first foray into the dream. Amplifying love had become part of their lifestyle, played out in a variety of social justice projects they’ve facilitated, including organizing an annual Children’s March for Literacy to celebrate reading with children and their families; helping their 8-year-old daughter Selah create and publish her book series, “Penelope the Pirate Princess”; and launching the nonprofit Empowered Readers Literacy Project last year to promote childhood literacy in minority households and encourage diversity in mainstream media.

The family believes a unified, cross-cultural effort to celebrate the humanity of Black people will be a critical next step toward sustainable change against systemic oppression.

ExploreWhen police can’t see a man’s humanity, things can’t help but turn bad

To that end, they hope other Black professionals will add their voices to the Amplify Love campaign.

Here’s why that’s so important.

The Black man Nicole Thompson loves, the one you love or hope to love isn’t the man many people see. They are husbands, fathers, friends.

I asked Nicole to tell me about that, hoping you could see what she sees. Who I see when I look at my own husband and other Black men I know, who she knows.

Nicole remembered the moment their relationship began, their marriage in 2009, moments that revealed his heart, his being.

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.

“Whatever you need,” she remembered Khalil telling her. “I’ll always support you.”

Once, when she told him she wanted to make their daughter headbands, he went out and bought her a sewing machine.

“I couldn’t even sew,” she remembered, laughing and crying. “Anything that I say I want to do, he supports me. Not that he’s throwing things at me, but he’s never stopped believing in me, even in moments when I stopped believing in myself.

“After I had our daughters, I had bouts of postpartum depression. He’d let me cry but he never allowed me to just stay there in that place of darkness. He held my hand, let me cry on his shoulder over and over again and then stood with me until the sun began to shine again.

Author and Atlanta Public School third grader Selah Thompson with her first book, “Penelope the Pirate Princess.”
Author and Atlanta Public School third grader Selah Thompson with her first book, “Penelope the Pirate Princess.”

Credit: John Stephens JAS PHOTO

Credit: John Stephens JAS PHOTO

“And he’s so great with our girls. He’s very intuitive, very hands on. Nothing means more to him than his relationship with his daughters. He’s a protector. He’s a provider. He’s a nurturer. He’s a teacher. He pulls the best out of everybody in our house.

“Our daughter’s book series came about because she said, ‘Daddy, I want to write a book.' And he had a job. And you know, there was some things that went on with that. But despite having no experience whatsoever writing or publishing books and despite the fact that Selah was only 5 years old at the time, he was like, ‘You want to write a book, baby girl, let’s write a book.’

“He sat down with her and patiently helped her capture this exciting kids adventure she had in her head; two years later, we had an amazing product. He just believes in everybody. If you want to do something, he will go to the ends of the earth to see that it happens.”

For some, that Khalil might sound like an anomaly but it isn’t. You just wouldn’t know it if every time you saw a Black man, he’d just ended up dead while in police custody.

“I sit in a men’s group every Tuesday night, and it’s me and 12 other men who are just like me,” Khalil said. “But there is this narrative that’s been created that paints us as other.”

That’s the image Amplify Love seeks to challenge and ultimately change.

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.