DeRay Mckesson, Black Lives Matter activist turned hopeful future mayor of Baltimore, has been making headlines since his February 3rd candidacy announcement.
A graduate from Bowdoin College with a degree in government and legal studies, Mckesson left his job as a Minneapolis school administrator to take a radicalizing trip to Ferguson during the August, 2014 protests surrounding the murder of Michael Brown. There, Mckesson realized the documentation powers of social media and began a campaign, mainly on Twitter, of informative updates from scenes of police violence across the country.
Since, he has traveled to many cities that have felt the pain of police brutality, chronicling each experience while gathering followers and allies. He, with a team of core activists, has pioneered the 21st century movement of civil rights. Using his media presence for radical change, he has discovered a way to internationally connect common thinkers in the struggle for Black justice.
His efforts, of course, have been met with criticism from some. In Charleston, South Carolina, while standing in solidarity with the victims of the church massacre in 2015, the hashtag #GoHomeDeray urged him to leave the city and stop “race-baiting”, prompting him to claim “Racism is alive and well...in towns across America.” The hashtag has resurfaced due to the campaign announcement, featuring bigots from across the country voicing their opinions on his past and politics.
His supporters, however, are just as vocal. Mckesson’s mayoral campaign raised $50,000 in the first 48 hours of its existence, and many are hopeful for a victory. For masses of people both in and outside of Baltimore, this is a representation of a change in the political atmosphere. On his campaign website, Mckesson makes clear that he is “not a former Mayor, City Councilman, state legislator, philanthropist or the son of a well-connected family,” and it is for those reasons exactly that his success as a mayoral candidate is growing. When someone who has proven themselves to be committed to social change asks for reciprocation of the support they have given, their allies respond.
DeRay does not have a ‘traditional’ political background. His qualifications do not include wealth, status or power. He is confident in his opinions and unapologetic about his identity. He is an activist, an organizer, a teacher and, most importantly, a representation of a new generation of politics, one that is built from and by the people, that has seen the struggle first hand and knows from experience how to make things easier. This generation of politics does not consist of ever-extending branches of the same wealthy families and conglomerates. It does not depend on monetary restitution from its people and it does not fuel its fires with control and power.
DeRay Mckesson’s mayoral campaign for the city of Baltimore is the personification of the building energy of national change-seekers, proof that as a conscious and aware people, we have the ability to organize against hatred by placing in positions of power people who will accurately represent the identity of a mass movement. It is evidence that the Black Lives Matter campaign is not a media fad, it is here to dramatically impact the social and political climate.