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Memoir Of A Black Lives Matter Activist

DeRay Mckesson in St. Louis, Missouri in 2015.
Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images
DeRay Mckesson in St. Louis, Missouri in 2015.

Officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO on August 9. Activist DeRay Mckesson moved to Ferguson on August 16.

He told NPR’s Michele Martin about what compelled him to uproot his life and help the Black Lives Matter movement take shape.

When I got into the street, it was the first time that I had seen so many people committed to working this way and I realized that I had a platform and that people were listening to me in the protest. I was like, I gotta figure out how to use it for good, and the rest, I guess, is history.

The well-known blue vest Mckesson wears now was a wardrobe staple of his as a protester in Ferguson. He says he continues to wear it as a reminder of the intense conditions under which demonstrators had to strategize and operate.

“If we stood still for more than five seconds we were arrested,” he says.

Mckesson’s new book is about more than the organizing and outspokenness that made him famous in the activist realm. In “On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope,” he opens up about his family (his mother, Joan, left when he was three) and being a black gay man. The book is the first time he’s written about his sexuality.

He told Out Magazine about that experience.

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. 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. With that said, I spent so much time on the issues of policing and writing about structural things that I just wasn’t writing about myself at all.

What’s the future of the Black Lives Matter movement? How has he balanced his relative fame with his principals? And how does he stay hopeful?

Produced by Paige Osburn. Text by Gabrielle Healy.


DeRay Mckesson, Activist; author, “On The Other Side of Freedom: The Case For Hope”

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

© 2018 WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio.

Copyright 2018 WAMU 88.5

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