DeRay Mckesson: A Life Of Activism and Advocacy

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DeRay Mckesson

As the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival gets ready to kick off its 12th year, it’s no surprise that people who’ll attend will definitely leave with little gems of knowledge. This year will be no different, as The Hip-Hop Institute begins what will be a series of events from July 13-16th 2016. Of course, what would the kick-off be without a keynote speaker? This year’s keynote speaker is none other than educator and Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson.

DeRay Mckesson was born on July 9, 1985 in Baltimore, Maryland. The son of two now-recovered addicts, he thrived under the love and guidance of his father as well as other members of his family. By the time he was a teenager, DeRay became the chairman to Youth As Resources, Baltimore’s only youth-led grant making organization. He also was a founding director of Higher Education’s Baltimore location. By 2007, DeRay graduated with a degree in government and legal studies from Bowdoin College.

The main focus of the justice, innovation and social issues are what keep DeRay driven for change, not to mention that he’s been an advocate for family, youth and children issues for over 15 years. In addition to advocacy, DeRay has helped lead New York City’s Harlem Children Zone and has taught math at the junior high school level in Brooklyn, NY. He’s also served as Special Assistant to the Chief Human Capital Officer for Baltimore City Schools as well as the Senior Human Capital Director for Minneapolis Public Schools.

Following the death of 18 year-old Mike Brown and the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, DeRay gained prominence as a leading voice. He began to challenge the systematic structures which lead to the mass incarceration and police killings of African-Americans and other minority populations. He began his work to enlighten individuals with knowledge and provide policymakers with common sense policies to end police brutality. Fortune Magazine even named him as one of 50 of the World’s Greatest Leaders for 2015.

In addition to his work as an activist, DeRay cofounded the #Ferguson Protestor Newsletter. The newsletter was created to promote and advocate the need to build communities that are empowered to create a new political and social reality that acknowledges black lives. He also cofounded Campaign Zero, which seeks to get the facts on everything that is the 2016 Presidential Election season. In February 2016, DeRay had joined the run for mayor of Baltimore and even though he did not win, he set the precedent for anyone following in his footsteps. 

In light of everything that DeRay has done in his 29 years of living, this is still only the beginning. From his own personal experience of seeing loved ones battle addiction, he knows the ups and downs of how difficult the road to recovery might be. Which is one of the reasons he wants to help change Baltimore, the United States and the world. So make sure you get your tickets and make your way to the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival kickoff on July 13th at Medgar Evers College.