DeRay Mckesson

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DeRay Mckesson

DeRay Mckesson, born July 9, 1985 in Baltimore, Maryland, is a high-profile leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as one of the leaders in the activist group We The Protesters and co-edits the Ferguson protest newsletter This Is the Movement with fellow activist Johnetta Elzie.[1]. Associated with Barack Obama and Community Policing initiative.

Meeting with Facebook Officials

Deray Mckesson meets with Facebook officials Chief Operating Officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg, Neil Potts, Blair Imani, Brittany Packnett, Sam White, Samuel Sinyangwe and others to discuss "safety, activism, Russia, & a host of ideas about moving forward" in October 2017.

DeRay Mckesson tweeted in October 2017 that he met with Facebook Public Policy Manager Neil Potts and Facebook Chief Operating Officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg along with radical left activists Blair Imani, Brittany Packnett, Sam Whiteout, Samuel Sinyangwe and others to discuss "safety, activism, Russia, & a host of ideas about moving forward."[2]

The meeting with left wing activists was one of several referenced in Politico last year, including one with the Congressional Black Caucus, who "confronted" Sheryl Sandberg over "the lack of diversity on the Facebook board and the Russian bought ads which positioned Black Live Matter as a divisive wedge":

"Seeking to address concerns over Russian-linked ads that ran on Facebook during the 2016 election, COO Sheryl Sandberg met this week in Washington with leaders from Latino, Muslim-American and African-American rights groups, an unprecedented outreach for the company...Facebook declined to say which African-American and Muslim groups met with Sandberg..."[3],[4]

Protest organizer

From the New York Times:[5]

"Mckesson is a former school administrator who has spent time attending and catalyzing race riots and demonstrations across America. He is best known for his Twitter-based activism.
"Since Aug. 9, 2014, when Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department shot and killed Michael Brown, Mckesson and a core group of other activists have built the most formidable American protest movement of the 21st century to date. Their innovation has been to marry the strengths of social media — the swift, morally blunt consensus that can be created by hashtags; the personal connection that a charismatic online persona can make with followers; the broad networks that allow for the easy distribution of documentary photos and videos — with an effort to quickly mobilize protests in each new city where a police shooting occurs.
"In the process, the movement has managed to activate a sense of red alert around a chronic problem that, until now, has remained mostly invisible outside the communities that suffer from it. Statistics on the subject are notoriously poor, but evidence does not suggest that shootings of black men by police officers have been significantly on the rise. Nevertheless, police killings have become front-page news and a political flash point, entirely because of the sense of emergency that the movement has sustained.
"The movement began with a single image: Michael Brown, lying facedown on the asphalt, a stream of blood running from his head. That picture, combined with the testimony of witnesses who claimed to see the teenager surrender before being shot several times, brought hundreds of people from St. Louis out to the scene of his death the same evening. The following day, Aug. 10, protests began on West Florissant Avenue nearby, as well as outside the Ferguson Police Department; the crowds demanded justice for Brown and that the name of the officer who shot him be released, prompting the police to come out in force. That night, the QuikTrip gas station on West Florissant burned, which in turn brought out the mainstream media and an even more militarized police response. By Aug. 13, images from the Ferguson protests — plumes of tear gas, armored vehicles in the streets, packs of heavily armed police officers wearing military fatigues — were leading the news.
"Mckesson watched all this from Minneapolis, where he was working in the public-school system. He was struck by the distance between the sensational accounts of rioting he saw on television and the reports he was reading on Twitter from people in Ferguson, who claimed that the cops had been firing tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds of peaceful protesters. Mckesson decided to go see the protests for himself.
"On the morning of Aug. 16, Mckesson drove to St. Louis. Inspired, in part, by the Twitter accounts he had been following — at the time, Mckesson had fewer than 900 followers and tweeted inconsistently — he decided to live-tweet the trip. Setting out, he tweeted: “En route.” A couple hours later, he tweeted: “So, this stretch through Iowa has trucks that aren’t very good drivers.” And when he finally arrived in St. Louis, Mckesson noted: “I should’ve gotten gas in Iowa. Much more expensive in St. Louis.”
"Mckesson arrived in Ferguson, and the next day he headed over to West Florissant, where he was tear-gassed. His terse, matter-of-fact updates, which had seemed almost comical when describing the banalities of everyday life, took on a forceful lucidity in the context of the protests, especially when they were accompanied by raw photographs from the scene.
"“Y’all, tons of police,” he tweeted that night. “Tear gas. It has begun #Ferguson.” He added: “Also, the noise sirens are out. Tear gas feels like extreme peppermint tingling. F.Y.I. #Ferguson.” Then, about an hour and 30 tweets later: “Phone is dying. I am nowhere near my car. I am lost in #Ferguson. Really bad car accident. Looting across from it. Pray for me. #Ferguson.”
"Mckesson was radicalized that night. “I just couldn’t believe that the police would fire tear gas into what had been a peaceful protest,” he told me. “I was running around, face burning, and nothing I saw looked like America to me.” He also noticed that his account of that night’s tear-gassings, along with a photo he took of the rapper J. Cole, had brought him quite a bit of attention on Twitter. Previously, Mckesson used the social-media platform to post random news articles that interested him, but now he was realizing its documentary power. He quickly grasped that a protester’s effectiveness came mostly from his ability to be present in as many places as possible: He had to be on West Florissant when the police rolled up in armored vehicles; inside the St. Louis coffee shop MoKaBe’s, a safe haven for the protesters in the city’s Shaw neighborhood, when tear gas started to seep in through the front door; in front of the Ferguson Police Department when shots rang out. He had to keep up a steady stream of tweets and carry around a charger so his phone wouldn’t die.
"Mckesson eventually returned to Minneapolis, but by then he had committed himself to the protests. He started traveling down to St. Louis every weekend. On one of those trips, Mckesson met Johnetta Elzie, a fellow protester who goes by Netta. They became fast friends.
"Elzie is “Day 1,” the term given to Ferguson protesters who showed up on Aug. 9. She grew up all around St. Louis, spending much of her childhood in the beauty salons where her mother worked. The day Michael Brown was killed, Elzie, who had been mourning the death of her mother, went down to Canfield Green, a housing complex near where Brown was shot, to pay her respects.
"The first thing Elzie did was tweet: “It’s still blood on the ground where Mike Brown Jr was murdered. A cone in place where his body laid for hours today. #STL #Ferguson.” She experimented with other networks to see if they could do a better job of spreading what she was seeing. “I took an Instagram photo — there was one teddy bear; maybe three, four candles on the ground,” she told me. “I even tried Tumblr, a social-media platform that I never use. Those videos got hundreds of thousands of reposts.”
"Over the next few weeks, Elzie, who studied journalism in college, emerged as one of the most reliable real-time observers of the confrontations between the protesters and the police. She took photos of the protest organizers, of the sandwiches she and her friends made to feed other protesters, of the Buddhist monks who showed up at the burned QuikTrip. Mckesson, too, was live-tweeting when he was back in Ferguson, integrating video and referring to protesters and police officers alike by name.
"Mckesson’s tweets were usually sober and detailed, whereas Elzie’s were cheerfully sarcastic, mock-heroic and forthright: a

Other voices came to the fore as well. There was Bassem Masri, perhaps Ferguson’s most famous live-streamer, who attracted tens of thousands of viewers to nightly feeds that showed what the protests looked like beyond the media barricades. Another local activist, Ashley Yates, created T-shirts and hoodies that read “ASSATA TAUGHT ME” — a reference to the former Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur — and that became part of the protest iconography. Clifton Kinnie, a senior in high school, organized other students throughout St. Louis. By the fall, these activists and a handful of others had gone from lone Internet figures to recognized faces of the movement.

"Mckesson and Elzie have always insisted that the movement is leaderless, that it is a communal expression of pent-up anguish spilling onto the streets, but over the fall, they were frequently called upon to serve as its spokespeople. Elzie was invited to conferences and panels, and talked with established social-justice activists around the country about the actions in Ferguson. Mckesson, who was dutifully putting out the newsletter during this time while still working at his job in Minneapolis, began using Twitter to announce actions throughout St. Louis. He and Elzie would tweet a time and location and then wait for the people to show up. By October, they were also being followed by the police, who would sometimes arrive at the scene of the action before the protesters themselves.
"Together, Mckesson and Elzie were developing a model of the modern protester: part organizer, part citizen journalist who marches through American cities while texting, as charging cords and battery packs fall out of his pockets. By Nov. 24, when Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor, announced that Darren Wilson would not be indicted on murder charges, a network of hundreds of organizers was already in place, ready to bring thousands of people into the streets with a tweet.


"Mckesson grew up in Baltimore, the son of drug addicts; his mother left the family when he was 3, so his father and great-grandmother raised him and his sister. Starting in sixth grade, Mckesson was elected to the student government every year all the way through college. He went to Bowdoin, the small, elite liberal-arts college in Maine, paying part of his own way through a work-study job in the mailroom. During lulls, he would study the rows of mailboxes in the student union, trying to learn the name of every student on campus, hoping it would give him an edge in the coming campaigns. He also worked as a campus tour guide and diligently honed his patter. When he found that he was stumbling through the list of languages Bowdoin offered, he practiced reciting them. When he saw that prospective students weren’t reacting to his presentation as enthusiastically as he hoped, he tweaked his delivery until he got it right. There is a touching earnestness to Mckesson that makes you want to believe everything he says.
"“There was a whole generation of Bowdoin students who came to the college because of the campus tours DeRay would do,” said Barry Mills, the president of Bowdoin, who considers Mckesson a close friend. “He’s always known how to inspire a group of people, so it doesn’t surprise me that he’s become a thought leader for what’s going on out in Ferguson.”
"After graduating in 2007, Mckesson joined Teach for America and taught middle school for two years in East New York, Brooklyn, before moving back home to Baltimore to work in H.R. for the city’s schools. He developed a reputation as a ruthless administrator — every hiring and firing was justified, in his own mind, by what was best for the kids in the district.
"His career, both academic and professional, was built on an unusual faith in effecting change from within a bureaucratic organization, whether a student government or the city public-school system. But when he saw Michael Brown lying dead in the street, he felt as if he had come up against the edge of that belief. “I kept thinking, Kids can’t learn if they’re dead,” he told me.[6]


"In March, Mckesson and Elzie traveled to Selma, Ala., for the 50th-anniversary commemoration of Bloody Sunday, the pivotal moment in the civil rights era when protesters marching on the Edmund Pettus Bridge were brutally attacked on national television by Alabama state troopers. I stood with Mckesson on the bridge. “We’re really up high,” he said, staring down at the brown waters of the Alabama River. “Can you imagine having all those troopers on horseback riding toward you, trying to beat you down? Where do you run? You definitely can’t jump over the side here.” All day, hundreds of tourists had been walking over the bridge, solemnly touching its supports and snapping selfies in front of its historical markers. If Mckesson was feeling the sway of the 50th anniversary, he betrayed no emotion. Instead, he asked me how far I thought the drop was down to the river, and started searching Google for answers.
"Mckesson and Elzie arrived in Selma and walked to the Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, the starting point for the original march across the bridge. Inside, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. was addressing the congregation. The crowd outside was made up largely of union members carrying placards for their local chapters. Mckesson, Elzie and Packnett, who arrived the night before, tried to find a contact who would take them to the foot of the bridge, where Mckesson would speak. After 20 minutes of confusion, they walked back through the crowd to a small auditorium off Broad Street, where Bernard Lafayette, Jr. was holding a book signing. When they walked in, an elderly woman said, loudly enough for all to hear, “Social media just showed up.”
"In the end, Mckesson did not get to deliver his speech. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who followed Holder, went long, and there was no time left.[7]


From the Huffington Post:[8]

"August 2015, dozens of protesters were arrested Monday outside the U.S. attorney's office in downtown St. Louis during a demonstration against police brutality.
"DeRay Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie -- prominent activists in the Black Lives Matter movement -- were among the 57 people detained during the sit-in. They were released after being issued a summons alleging obstruction of the courthouse doorways, U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said in a statement.
"The rally, which Callahan said included as many as 200 people, was a part of Moral Mondays, a nationwide social justice movement that began in North Carolina in response to the state legislature's conservative shift. The campaign moved to St. Louis this week, calling on the Department of Justice to take action against police violence toward black people.
"This is the first time Mckesson or Elzie has been arrested during a demonstration. Cornel West and the Rev. Osagyefo Sekou were arrested as well, according.