“DeRay Mckesson will not be the next mayor of Baltimore,” reads the opening of the New York Times Magazine profile of the Black Lives Matter activist who announced his candidacy two months ago, to much fanfare. “He’s a 30-year-old with no experience in city government who registered less than 1 percent in a recent poll. He has no clear local support network and has been rejected by his most likely constituency — the city’s young black activists.”
And yet, despite Mckesson’s many disadvantages in the mayoral race, he’s managed to rack up several high profile endorsements, as well as plenty of national media attention. So what, exactly, is Mckesson up to?
Greg Howard’s profile offers some of the best insights to date on Mckesson, who two years ago was an unknown educational administrator in the Twin Cities, and now has been to the White House so many times he doesn’t even get nervous anymore. (This profile, in Five Thirty Eight, is pretty good, too.) At the same time, Mckesson admits that he’s struggled to parlay his national profile into local support in Baltimore. Particularly interesting is how Mckesson, who has a large youthful following online, has clashed with Baltimore’s young, activist community. “We don’t need Superman,” one young protestor told Howard; he plans, he said, to vote for Pugh.
Another telling moment: As Howard canvasses for votes with Mckesson, the people they meet are more interested in discussing trash pickup and utilities, rather than big-picture issues like police brutality and education reform. Is that because voters lack imagination, as Mckesson alleges? Or because the office of mayor is much more concerned with day-to-day city management than sweeping change. And yet, as Howard notes, Mckesson and his fellow protestors have made a difference: Every presidential candidate has been asked whether black lives matter. So maybe Mckesson doesn’t need to become mayor in order to make a difference.