DeRay Mckesson is an American civil rights activist, podcaster and former school administrator with Baltimore City Public Schools. A supporter of Black Lives Matter, he has been involved in the movement since its inception. He was active in the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland and has a large and loyal social media following.
On February 3, 2016, Mckesson announced his candidacy in the 2016 Baltimore mayoral election. He didn’t win, finishing with 3,445 votes (2.6%) and placing sixth in the Democratic Party primary on April 26. However, in his running for mayor, he was also aiming to bridge the “belief-gap” that someone like him could be mayor.
His book On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope is a memoir about his life and time as a Black Lives Matter organiser. In the book, he also speaks out about being gay and serving as an inspiration to LGBTQ+ youth.
“One of the important things about being out, especially at the beginning of the protests given my platform, is that I didn’t want people to think that the only way that I had a platform was by hiding,” he told Out Magazine. “I didn’t want any gay young boy or girl or trans person to think that the only way to make an impact is to hide your identity. So it was important to be publicly out really early.”
In 2015, Mckesson and fellow activists Johnetta Elzie, Samuel Sinyangwe, and Brittany Packnett launched “Mapping Police Violence.” The platform collected data on people killed by police brutality in 2014. Later that year, they launched Campaign Zero, a policy platform to end police violence and foster police reform. Mckesson and Elzie earned the Howard Zinn Freedom to Write Award for their activist work.
A portrait of Mckesson has been hanging in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery since October 2019.
He is currently part of Crooked Media and hosts a podcast, Pod Save the People.
He graduated with a bachelor’s in government and legal studies from Bowdoin College and holds honorary doctorates from The New School and the Maryland Institute College of Art.Tags: Activism, Black Lives Matter, Criminal Reform, Diversity and Inclusion, LGBTQ+