BE Modern Man: Meet “The Protestor” DeRay McKesson

Name: DeRay McKesson

Profession: Activist / Protestor

Age: 29

One Word That Describes You: Ready

DeRay McKesson had never been to St. Louis. However, after seeing the city in protest, he made a decision to become a part of it. Upon arrival, he joined the ranks in protest, saw the events taking place there, and distributed this information to the world through social media.  Although Mr. McKesson’s time in St. Louis involved many “firsts,” such as experiencing the effects of tear gas for the very first time, he became even more committed to building a lasting movement.

Before coming to St. Louis, McKesson was in the process of building a career in education, but when he learned about the events surrounding Mike Brown, via his news feed, his life would never be the same. “Mike Brown was killed by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer on August 9, 2014, and that changed my life,” McKesson tells BE Modern Man. “Police violence is more common and more pervasive than I’d ever known before August 9th. I  decided to leave my career in education, and commit my time and energy, to fight to end police violence.” McKesson’s battle against police brutality has made him one  of the most recognizable social media presences, and has helped keep the public up-to-date about protests throughout the country.

To filter the massive volume of news reports, and to chronicle the movement going forward, McKesson started a newsletter to connect people. Then he along with another young activist, Johnetta Elzie  send out articles, action alerts, photos, and tweets to keep everyone informed. I am hopeful that we can leverage social media, and other technology platforms, to continue to re-imagine political power and community in blackness,” says McKesson. More than simply leveraging social media through his newsletter, McKesson provides an activist point-of-view to the, often times, rushed information provided to news consumers.

Education is something McKesson is very familiar with. As he continues to enlighten others with his newsletter, McKesson emphasizes that exposure is a necessity. “I’d argue that education is fundamentally about exposure and skill-building – and this happens both in and out of the traditional classroom,” McKesson tells BE Modern Man. “It is necessary that we continue to push ourselves to be our best selves, by intentionally exposing ourselves to new ideas and new experiences, and by actively sharpening and developing new skills.” By educating, he hopes to call people to action. Tools and resources, such as the use of hyperlinks that direct readers to where they can purchase products related to movements, like T-shirts, or donate, tweet, and share, is what continues to support the movement’s growth. “There is an epidemic of police violence in communities all across the country,” says McKesson.” It is hard sometimes to remember that the fight to end police violence will not end quickly and that as we fight, the police continue to kill people.”

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