By Sheryl Estrada
DeRay Mckesson during an appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”
Minutes before the deadline to file for Baltimore mayoral candidacy lastWednesdaynight, popular Black rights activist DeRay Mckessonjumped into the race.
Mckesson, 30, became the 13th and final candidate for the Democratic nomination in the April 26 primary.Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake last year announced she would not seek re-election.Sheila Dixon, a former mayor of Baltimore, is the current front-runner in the Democratic primary. Other leading candidates include lawyer Elizabeth Embry, state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, businessman David L. Warnock,and City CouncilmenCarl Stokes and Nick J. Mosby, who is married to prosecutorMarilyn Mosby.
Mckesson is known for his vocal participation in the#BlackLivesMattermovement and his advocacy of civil rights.Heresigned from his positionin school administration last March to become a full-time activist.
“I am an activist, organizer, former teacher, and district administrator that intimately understands how interwoven our challenges and our solutions are,” he said. “I am a son of Baltimore. I have come to realize that the traditional pathway to politics, and the traditional politicians who follow these well-worn paths, will not lead us to the transformational change our city needs.”
The native of Baltimore and son of two recovered addicts, graduated from Catonsville High School in 2003 and attended Bowdoin College. He pursued education working within three public school systems. Mckesson eventually became senior director of Human Capital with Minneapolis Public Schools.
In an essay published on Medium.com on Wednesday, Mckesson explains why he decided to run:
I am running to be the 50th Mayor of Baltimore in order to usher our city into an era where the government is accountable to its people and is aggressively innovative in how it identifies and solves its problems. We can build a Baltimore where more and more people want to live and work, and where everyone can thrive.
Mckesson’sparticipation in activism began with the driving down to Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 to protest the police-related death of Michael Brown and continued during the aftermath of the police-related death ofFreddie Grayin his hometown last spring.
He also participated in a sit-in at the St. Louis Justice Center in downtown St. Louis on Aug. 10 to mark the anniversary of Brown’s death. Shortly after Mckesson posted photos and videos on his Twitter account of activists Johnetta Elzie and Kayla Reed being taken into detention, he was arrested.
Mckesson has close to 300,000Twitter followers. He tweeted in September that he isnot a formal memberof the BLM organization known as the BLM Network, rather “a part of the movement.” McKesson uses social media to promote activism and well as converse with political figures, including presidential candidates.
In a tweet to Democratic presidentialcandidate Bernie Sanderson Aug. 9 he said, “The ‘violence’ framing in the initial draft of the Sanders Racial Justice platform is powerful. & I look forward to seeing him expand this.”
The following day, the Sanders campaign responded to Mckesson’s tweet saying it would like to work together in regards to issues of importance to Black Americans. One of Mckesson’s followers responded:
“@BernieSanders With your quick response to #BlackLivesMatter & outreach to activists, you now have my vote & support.”
In August, Mckesson was part of a team that launchedCampaign Zero, which seeks to end police killings in America.
He and other activists have met with both Sanders and presidential candidate and former senator Hillary Clinton whocalled Mckesson a “social media emperor.” He said requests were also sent to meet with Republican candidates U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Floridaand surgeon Ben Carson.
Mckesson has appeared onnational television including “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and in interviews with news outlets such as CNN.
He admits he’s a non-traditional candidate as he has not held political office nor does hecomefrom a well-connected family, and hisbid for mayor has generated some criticism.
A member of Maryland’s House of Delegates, Jill Carter,said in an interviewhis bid is “ridiculous.”
He “has no authenticity and no base other than Twitter followers,” she said. “I’m a little worried that his decision is another self-serving scheme that will further divide our justice movement.”
While, former Baltimore mayor, Dixon, who was forced out of office because of a theft conviction, said shenever heard of Mckessonbefore he filed for candidacy.
Other mayoral candidates welcomed the competition. Calvin Young tweeted, “One candidate to another, welcome to the race @deray. Let’s get this good work in for Baltimore.”
Candidate Mosby said, “I welcome anyone to the race and look forward to the discussion about building a better Baltimore.”
Mckesson said in the weeks ahead he will release a policy platform and a plan for Baltimore.