Two days ago, prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson announced his run for 50th mayor of Baltimore. And if you didn't know his name before, you know it now.
The modern civil rights movement, Black Lives Matter, is a direct response to the growing spotlight on documented police brutality against black people in this country. To date the movement has caused more than its fair share of public disruptions in efforts to be recognized while remaining largely faceless.
DeRay Mckesson is arguably the Black Lives Matter movement's most visable face recently appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where he was able to sit in the iconic chair to ask Stephan Colbert about his white privilege.
The 30 year old former school administrator and proclaimed son of Baltimore has decided the best way to impact the system is from the inside out through elected public service.
As he posted on Medium.com:
It is true that I am a non-traditional candidate — I am not a former Mayor, City Councilman, state legislator, philanthropist or the son of a well-connected family. I am an activist, organizer, former teacher, and district administrator that intimately understands how interwoven our challenges and our solutions are.
I am a son of Baltimore.
Many have written off the Black Lives Matter movement as misguided, angry, unfocused, and even as a hate group subject to prosecution.
But if Deray Mckesson successfully rises to the mayorship of Baltimore, Black Lives Matter could be much more than marches, protests and highway blocking. It could be the launching pad of a generation. A generation who witnessed firsthand a black president. A generation who witnessed a black attorney general, a black secretary of state, black business moguls, athletes, and astrophysicists.
We're witnessing the blossoming of an underserved and erased culture's inevitable rise into their positions of influence as the historic barriers of progress fall away. Today's barriers are more economic than specifically racial, but make no mistake - our country is founded and built on pure American racism. Home grown.
Even if Deray Mckesson isn't elected, the symbolism is clear. A community is stepping up to be a part of the very system built to keep people like him out.
I understand that issues of safety are more expansive than policing, and that to make the city as safe as we want it to be, we will have to address issues related to job development, job access, grade-level reading, transportation, and college readiness, amongst others.
I also understand that transparency is a core pillar of government integrity. We deserve to know where our city services — from housing and sanitation, to schools and police — are doing well and falling short. To this end, we must invest in a broad range of systems and structures of accountability and transparency, including the release of the internal audits of the Baltimore City Public School System along with annual and timely audits of all city agencies.
I am not the silver bullet for the challenges of our city — no one individual is. But together, with the right ideas, the right passion, the right people, we can take this city in a new direction.
The last time I went to visit my father in San Antonio we sat in his living room as he watched Fox News as he so often does. I don't recall the story on the screen, but I do remember my father suddenly saying, "I don't try to change no one. The world is messed up, but there's nothing you can do about it. The world is going to be messed up. So why try to change it?"
"Slavery was changed. So there's that." I responded.
Win or no win, it still stirs the soul when a person rises up and proclaims their belief that things can be different. Life can be different. Maybe our visions don't align, but at least through the hope in the power of change things have a chance of being better for more and more people.