DeRay Mckesson's book-jacket photo shows him wearing his iconic blue vest. "I needed something to wear that would keep me warm, but that I'd never have to pack," he writes about the insulated vest he bought during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police killing of teenager Michael Brown. "I got used to wearing it, like a safety blanket of sorts. But it also serves as a reminder. I've worn it every day since the winter of 2014."
It is with this sort of introspection and self-awareness that Mckesson takes us through the stories of his life, especially the years he ended up spending in Ferguson. "I'd only planned to be in Ferguson for the weekend," he tells us. "It only took those first two days for me to realize that I'd stay longer than a weekend--indeed, that I'd stay in the streets for as long as it took."
Mckesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist and co-founder of the anti-police-violence group Campaign Zero, was raised by his father, grandmother, and great-grandmother (his mother left when he was three, and his house burned down when he was nine) in Baltimore, Maryland. His father, who graduated from high school but never attended college, saved and borrowed to make sure that DeRay and his sister, TeRay, could get a good education. After graduating from Bowdoin College in Maine, Mckesson went on to work in the public school systems of New York City, Baltimore, and Minneapolis. He was the human resources director for Minneapolis Public Schools in 2014, when he left to observe and document the protests in Ferguson.
In On the Other Side of Freedom, his first book, Mckesson seeks to share what he has learned. "In each generation," he writes, "there is a moment when young and old, inspired or disillusioned, come together around a shared hope, imagine the world as it can be, and have the opportunity to bring that world into existence. Our moment is now."
That word "hope" is spread throughout the book, from its subtitle to its final essay, "Letter to an Activist." "Hope," he explains in the books opening essay, "is the belief that our tomorrows can be better than our todays." He stresses that it is not the same thing as faith. "Faith is rooted in certainty; hope is rooted in possibility--and they both require their own different kinds of work."
In his series of essays, Mckesson discusses racism, whiteness, his own experience with bullying, and his sexuality. He also examines the history and role of policing in our society...