DeRay Mckesson stands as the most recognizable name and face of Black Lives Matter. This decentralized movement has evolved over the past two years and continues to grow increasingly visible. Tensions between these protesters and police have obviously run high throughout the country, and civil unrest has — time and time again — followed incidents of police brutality being brought to light via modern technology and the internet. Most people watched these events unfold on television from the comfort of their living rooms, but Mckesson (and others like him) have placed themselves on the front lines in an effort to try to bring about some form of change.
Mckesson made the switch from observer to protester in August 2014 following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. He’s been a staple at similar protests around the country, including his native Baltimore, in response to Freddie Gray‘s killing. The movement’s end goal is seemingly simple — for law enforcement to stop killing the unarmed citizens it’s tasked with protecting — but it remains elusive.
In addition to being an activist, Mckesson’s also an educator and a storyteller. As you can probably imagine, his life these days is a busy one, but when we asked him to speak with us about Black Lives Matter, current events, and a few other random subjects, like his love of spaghetti, he happily obliged.
Don’t worry, I won’t ask about your signature vest because I know you hear that question a lot.
[Laughter] (Editor’s note: Mckesson has previously stated that the vest makes him “feel safe.”)
What inspires you to devote your life to activism, day after day?
There are so many incredible activists, organizers, and protesters across the country, and I’m inspired by them every time we work together. I think about the jail cell in Baton Rouge. You know, in the cell for those 17 hours, it was powerful to be with people who were understanding their own power and their own voice in a different way for the first time. And it’s those moments that remind me most that we have so much work to do, but there are people committed to do this work. And I think all of this, the last two years have been a question and a test that we can organize, that the movement has proven that we can mobilize, proven that we can activate. But can we offer a different type of model of organizing? I think that is the question we are posed with at this moment.