Just moments before the deadline to enter Baltimore’s mayoral race approached, prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson on Wednesday jumped into the contest in hopes of becoming the city’s 50th mayor.
Mckesson — a former public school administrator in Baltimore and Minnesota who is now a member of the Campaign Zero team that seeks to end police brutality in America through accountability, community oversight, and representation and demilitarization — was the 13th and final candidate to enter the race that already includes City Councilman Nick J. Mosby (husband of State’s Attorney for Baltimore Marilyn Mosby), City Councilman Carl Stokes, former Mayor Sheila Dixon, and state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, to name a few.
While many candidates already have a lead on the activist — recent polls show Dixon as the front-runner in the Democratic primary, followed by Pugh and Stokes — it’s Mckesson’s access and desire to change the trajectory of “traditional” politics in order to make “transformational change” in the once-embattled city that appeals to voters. In his official announcement on Medium.com, Mckesson expounded on that change, saying that if the city of Baltimore continues to “rely on this traditional model of politics, we are rewarded with consistent, disappointing results.”
“I have come to realize that the traditional pathway to politics, and the traditional politicians who follow these well-worn paths, will not lead us to the transformational change our city needs,” he wrote. “Many have accepted that our current political reality is fixed and irreversible — that we must resign ourselves to accept the way that City Hall functions, or the role of money and connections in dictating who runs and wins elections. They have bought into the notion that there is only one road that leads to serve as an elected leader.
“It is easy to accept this, because those of us from Baltimore live and experience the failures of traditional politics and pathways to leadership. Too often the elected individuals we put our public trust in, disappoint us. We have lived through lofty promises and vague plans. We have come to expect little and accept less.”
It’s a message not lost on those familiar with the Black Lives Matter movement — a movement built to challenge the status quo for the betterment of Black and brown people. In a city like Baltimore, recently the center of protests and unrest after the death of an unarmed Black man who suffered a severed spine in police custody, Mckesson’s announcement and his plan to “usher [the] city into an era where the government is accountable to its people,” was received warmly by millennials and social media members who acknowledge that change needs to come.
“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 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 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 30-year-old’s announcement was met with mixed reactions from existing candidates; Dixon told the Baltimore Sun Wednesday she had not heard of Mckesson, while Mosby welcomed him into the race, saying he “looks forward to the discussion about building a better Baltimore.”
Mckesson plans to release a policy platform in the weeks ahead.
Volunteer and donation information for Mckesson’s campaign can be found here.