by Ashia Ajani
Right before the deadline to submit documents for the Baltimore mayoral race, Black Lives Matter activist and self-described “child of Baltimore” DeRay Mckesson entered his information and joined the fray. DeRay is a Bowdoin College graduate who taught sixth grade math at Minneapolis Public Schools until quitting his job March of last year to become a full time activist. Now, he is running for mayor.
DeRay’s presence brings the possibility of a serious critique of the justice system, racial profiling and other severe issues looming over the Black community. However, within Baltimore, he has some serious reaching out to do.
Although he is a Baltimore native, many claim he’s out of touch with grassroots projects within the local Black community. Some question whether his activist background will translate well to public office. Others believe his candidacy will divide and confuse the Black community. Jill Carter, a member of Maryland’s House of Delegates, went so far as to call DeRay’s bid “ridiculous.”
Personally, I think the positives outweighs the potential drawbacks. What will it say for the future of the country if Baltimore goes from having a Black woman mayor—a woman vocal and unapologetic in her criticism of the Baltimore Police Department—to electing a Black gay man? It could shape America’s idea of who can be elected to public office. How might DeRay’s candidacy revitalize a Baltimore Black community that is sick and tired of under-funded school districts, violence, and food deserts? How could it inspire other low-income, divided cities across America? A strange sort of hope and faith run through my veins.
It is still way too early in the game to start planning DeRay’s political career. Yet in a city that is still tending to the fresh wounds of the Freddie Gray murder and police brutality—a city that needs the promise of a better future—DeRay Mckesson could be the necessary change.