Deray Mckesson

Civil Rights Activist. Running for Mayor Baltimore



Hello everybody -- I'm DeRay Mckesson, I'm an educator, organizer, protestor and a current candidate for Mayor in Baltimore, Maryland -- my hometown. The thing that holds all this work together is my fundamental belief that systems and structures must work better for people. In getting us there, social media is/has been an essential tool. Social media allows people to tell, see and hear the truth, and that is a necessary precursor to people acting. Social media allows people to be in the conversation. Is it 'enough'? No. But is it necessary? Yes... So ask me anything! Look forward to some more truth telling with y'all.
Jennifer Grygiel@jmgrygiel · Assistant Professor, @NewhouseSU
Do you believe that Twitter has become central to the democratic process? If so, how do you think we can help to ensure its future as a communications channel? @jmgrygiel, social media prof
A@alyssamrrendon · Student, UCSB
@jmgrygiel Where do you teach?
Jennifer Grygiel@jmgrygiel · Assistant Professor, @NewhouseSU
@alyssamrrendon Newhouse at Syracuse University
Lejla Bajgoric@lejlahunts · Intern, Product Hunt
Thanks for being here @Deray! Huge fan of yours and of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. If you do become the mayor or Baltimore, how hopeful are you in the change that can be instituted through present day systems? Mostly, I'm curious about your faith in reform, as opposed to the creation of new, likely Black-owned institutions, and where you lie on that spectrum.
@lejlahunts I think that there are things that we can do to change people's lives today, tomorrow and the day after. We can end cash bail, for instance, which would ensure that people aren't in jail simply because they're poor. We can expand coverage of Head Start and Pre-K to make sure that kids have opportunities from birth, and we can end mandatory minimums which will help lessen the mass incarceration pipeline. I don't think that this work has to be either/or -- we can focus on making changes that impact people's lives today and tomorrow while also planning for long-term changes that will fundamentally alter the entire landscape.
Brandon Sanders@brandon_sanders · Morehouse College Student
What do you see as the biggest challenge transitioning from movement work to political work of a major city?
@brandon_sanders protest is fundamentally political work, too. With regard to seeking elected office, the biggest difference is that the support that I'm asking for is explicitly in the form of a vote, this time. So much of the work in protest is about telling the truth in public and that doesn't change now. I think that my platform is a reflection of the commitments that I've held for years: (1) a focus on children, youth, and families; (2) thinking about how we do this work at scale; (3) a focus on details and ways that we can change people's lives today, tomorrow, and the day after. With regard to the single biggest challenge -- there are many people who aren't tuned into local (or national) politics and campaigning is about tuning them in. I think there's incredible opportunity here and I'm excited about leveraging these opportunities so that we can win!
Kyle Taylor@kftaylor · Product, Upfront Ventures
Hey @deray, diversity in tech is an important issue to some right now, but still not very important to others. A lot of people talk about it, but wrt action and results there still seems to be few examples of success. I saw you spent some time at Slack a couple months ago who from the outside is setting a great example of building a diverse workplace culture. 1) Have you seen effective ways to communicate importance of diversity in spaces that are traditionally not? 2) Have you noted any best practices or policies being put in place at companies / orgs to instill a culture of diversity?
@kftaylor We have to differentiate between diversity and inclusion -- diversity is about changing the identity (i.e. race, gender, sexuality) make-up of an organization and inclusion is about changing the culture. Both are important and it's important to note that they're different because the work is different. // With regard to best practices, I've seen templates for hiring questions and exercises that are intentionally equitable, I've seen recruiting done in non-traditional spaces and ways that focus on finding talent wherever it is not just where it "normally" is, and I've seen opennesses around conversations about inclusion that actually allow the people within the organization to plan.
Kyle Taylor@kftaylor · Product, Upfront Ventures
@deray thanks for splitting out diversity vs inclusion. I've sent many companies I work with the Clef employee handbook because of their intentional language wrt inclusion
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · Words @ProductHunt & @AngelList
@Deray you are one of the 10 people @Beyonce follows on Twitter, how did that come about? 🤔
@nivo0o0 @beyonce I'd like to believe that it was a result of her awareness of the protests and wanting to remain informed of what was happening. In terms of timing, it happened shortly after the #BaltimoreUprising.
Ross Blankenship@rossblankenship ·, CEO and Partner
Hey @Deray... Ross Blankenship here... Winslow's husband, you went to Bowdoin together. Great to see you on Product Hunt! :) I'm based in Washington DC and I'm an active angel investor in many top startups across several verticals (biotech, cybersecurity, SaaS). Two questions for you: (1) Wondering if you look at your candidacy in Baltimore as a "startup" in the sense of entering a very crowded space (20+ candidates), and if so, what tips would you give to entrepreneurs who want to get a journalist/reporter to cover their story? (2) What steps would you take to bring more startups to Baltimore, as many angel investors I know believe there's tons of unnecessary regulations and quite high taxes for small businesses to get started there. Thanks and let's re-connect soon. Ross D. Blankenship Partner,
@rossblankenship yes, in many ways I think that the campaign is a start-up. I think of the movement, too, as a start-up in many ways. In the past 18 months, I've been thinking about the difference between infrastructure and a formal organization and how, at the core of this work, is a need for deep infrastructure. And I think that, too often, we are seduced by the trappings of an "organization" without ever thinking about how to build infrastructure. And with regard to tips for an entrepreneur, I think that so much of this work is about being present and being thoughtful about building relationships and having a story worth re-telling. And folks shouldn't be afraid to ask their friends to help them talk to people -- that matters. With regard to more startups, I think that there just hasn't been a focus from City Hall on tech in a thoughtful way. And I'm excited to build a tech plan for the city that addresses issues of access and pushes us to think about how we want tech to live and breath in the city. For so many industries, including tech, we have to make sure that bureaucratic excesses don't prohibit innovation.
Eric Willis@erictwillis · Working on something new
Hey @Deray. Thanks for doing the AMA. Can you tell about the moment when you first thought of running to be the mayor of Baltimore? Was is an immediate "I'm doing this" or what is something that you deliberated over for a while before you were certain?
@erictwillis I was born and raised in Baltimore and I've lived through administrations make promises to people but I haven't seen the outcomes actually change. So, in thinking about how to get us to a place where the city becomes a place where more and more people live and everyone can thrive, the Mayor's Office became the key lever of change. In the days leading up to the decision, I had conversations with many people in Baltimore and they influenced the final decision. There was lots of deliberation before I actually filed the paperwork.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · PMM @Twitter // Previously @ProductHunt
When you're elected Mayor, do you have plans to improve the tech scene in Baltimore and get kids excited about entrepreneurship?
@andrewmettinger there is a strong tech community in Baltimore already and I'm looking forward to partnering with them to help support existing programming and infrastructure and also to help think of new ways to use technology to leverage change. I also think there's an opportunity to create new avenues of access to entreprenuership and skill-based tech fields like coding and I plan to work with the school system to create wrap-around programs. And we have an opportunity to encourage micro loans to increase small businesses and entrepreneurship.
Jason Meeks@jasonkristofor · Making vision a reality @ISMConnect
Do you think true Democracy exists? Going deep on this one. .
Jordan Gonen@jrdngonen · trying my best.
If you were in college right now, what would you focus on ?
@jordan_gonen I went to Bowdoin and I loved it. And I became a reader in college -- I was exposed to so many new ideas and ways of thinking about the world that have fundamentally changed the way that I live. So, I'd encourage you to expose yourself to as many ideas as possible. The way we think about the world informs the way that we should up in the world. With regard to race, I'd say to still read widely: bell hooks, Baldwin, and so many others. And organize. People are ready to have these conversations about race and social justice -- we can't be afraid to jump in.
Danielle Newnham@daniellenewnham · Founder, The Junto Network. Author
Deray - I have 2 questions. 1/ You do so much. What do you feel is your mission in life? 2/ You inspire so many but who/what inspires you?
Web Smith@web · E-commerce and Branding
@Deray as a friend, I'm concerned about your wardrobe. Will you make a solemn oath to the American people that you will increase your down vest's color selection once you take office? Please don't take this matter lightly.
@web there's just one vest to rule them all!
Hash_tag_jeff@jeffumbro · Book Marketing and PR - get in touch
Hey @deray, which journalists do you make sure to always read?
@jeffumbro I check Mashable and Blavity every day. And I've read The Baltimore Sun every day since I was in high school. I also love Nuzzle, as it keeps me informed on what my social network is reading. And I also love Flipboard.
Hash_tag_jeff@jeffumbro · Book Marketing and PR - get in touch
@deray So you read outlets as opposed to individuals?
@jeffumbro in thinking of how to respond to your question, I realized that I don't actually have favorite journalists so much as I have favorite publications.
Benjamin YoungSavage@benjancewicz · Zerflin
Can you talk about your strategy for winning the Mayoral race in Baltimore? What are the challenges? What are you best strengths for the job?
Benjamin YoungSavage@benjancewicz · Zerflin
What things do you think have held Baltimore back historically? Growing up here, what was your impression of the city?
@benjancewicz I think that we've historically spent a lot of time talking about the problems in new ways and not enough time thinking innovatively about solutions. And I think that there was a period where the city's approach to problems was solely to make new programs instead of also focusing on addressing systemic and structural issues. Over the past two decades, we've seen that focusing solely on programs works for subsets of populations but doesn't address these issues at scale. We've got to do both -- it's not an either/or.
Fred Rivett@fredrivett · Co-founder @ The Dot
Hey Deray, thanks so much for joining us, and for your integrity and resolve in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. I'm sure you feel very human in it all, but I applaud you for it nonetheless. My question is: As you state in your intro, tech (social media) has played a big part in spreading awareness of what's really going on. This may not be an easy question to answer, but are there any specific problems or types of problems you want to see tech entrepreneurs trying to solve? Or put in another way: is there any way we can help with the #BlackLivesMatter and similar movements, from a tech perspective? Appreciate your time.
@fredrivett I have so many thoughts about this: 1. I think that there are a host of data projects that could emerge to push people to think about this work differently. 2. I'm always thinking about how we use tech to create more skill-based experiences. So much of social media, for instance, is focused on information sharing and information acquisition and not, yet, skill development. I'm fascinated to see the first platform that transitions into addressing skill-development. 3. I think that we're on the cusp of digital organizing. I think there are ways that we can create communities in tech where people can post issues they're working on and needs in communities and we can match the appropriate skill to the need. 4. I'm always thinking about issues of scale. With so much of this work, we know what the right things to do are, but we haven't figured out how to do these things at scale. I believe that tech can help us out with the scale question. 5. When I think about municipal budgets, there has to be a way to make these more accessible and transparent. And for us to quickly identify areas of waste or areas that we just need to think about differently. There are more things I'm thinking of but there are the initial thoughts.
Fred Rivett@fredrivett · Co-founder @ The Dot
@deray Wow, that's some great thoughts, starting points for people to get to grips with how we can help. Thanks for taking the time to answer, and thanks again for your commitment to honesty and transparency. All the best with your campaign.
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@deray thanks so much for joining us today, I would love to hear how you have gone about building your own personal brand at the start and throughout the campaign? Best of luck btw!
@harrystebbings I don't think of this work in terms of building a brand. You know, a lot of people ask about the blue vest and the reality is that I wore it because it was cold. And I've worn it for so long that it makes me feel safe -- I know it's irrational, but it's true and was definitely important in the midst of the death threats that I received for so long. So much of what we've done in the past 18 months is tell the truth in public and if I have a brand, that's what I want it to be -- telling the truth.
In the time that you have become well know, how have you been earning a living?
@nerditry I made $110,000 as the Senior Director of Human Capital with Minneapolis Public Schools and have used my savings and also cashed out my retirement -- these, combined, have been important. And the combination of speaking engagements and supports from friends and family have been able to allow me to eat and sustain for the last year.
prince campbell III@chartreuseb · ceo explosives
Big fan! One of the interesting things the mayor of NYC is doing tech-wise is changing all the cities old payphones into free high-speed hotspots. What are your plans for the tech infrastructure in Baltimore?
@chartreuseb I saw the free high-speed hotspots in NYC and I think it's an incredible idea. Check for some of my plans re: innovation and tech.