Deray, Say It Ain’t So


Deray, Say It Ain’t So

Beyond Figureheads: Supporting Authentic Grassroots Leadership

I said I wasn’t going to say anything. Truth be told most Baltimoreans over 40 don’t even know who Deray Mckesson is.

Mckesson, a freelance activist and internet phenomenon that rose to national celebrity status after the death of Mike Brown and Freddie Gray, has decided to endorse J.D. Merrill over longtime activist, freedom fighter, AKA “The People’s Champion,” Senator Jill P. Carter in Maryland’s State Senate race in Baltimore’s 41st legislative district.

I wrote about Mr. Mckesson here when he decided to run for Mayor of Baltimore. In my article titled, “Deray: Who Sent You and Who Will You Serve?” I raised my concerns about Deray – who and what brought him back to Baltimore and ultimately who would he serve.

I don’t have a problem with one being a freelance activist per se, but one must be clear about who they are accountable to. As Dr. Barbara Ransby wrote:

“An independent or freelance activist may share their opinion, and it may be an informed one, but if these words are not spoken in consultation or conversation with people on the ground, they are limited as a representation of a movement’s thinking and work. When a leader-organizer puts him, her or themselves on record as being a part of a larger whole, that group can say, “You can or cannot speak for us…That is accountability.”

As I have written before in regards to #BlackLivesMatter and decentralized movement building — decentralized movements that lack barriers to entry and strong community-centered principals and accountability, opens itself up to white liberal institutions and corporate media to pick their “darlings.” The “chosen” are then provided national visibility and by default become recognized as national leaders, even if their own community doesn’t recognize them as such.

Dr. King wrote about white leadership and how the majority of Black political leaders don’t ascend to prominence with mass support. But of course this just doesn’t only apply to Black political leaders — activist, talking heads and other spokesperson types fit this description as well.

Dr. King stated in 1967 in The Black Power Defined:

The majority of Negro political leaders do not ascend to prominence on the shoulders of mass support. Although genuinely popular leaders are now emerging, most are still selected by white leadership, elevated to position, supplied with resources and inevitably subjected to white control. The mass of Negroes nurtures a healthy suspicion toward this manufactured leader, who spends little time in persuading them that he embodies personal integrity, commitment and ability and offers few programs and less service. Tragically, he is in too many respects not a fighter for a new life but a figurehead of the old one.

Beyond Figureheads. Supporting Authentic Grassroots Leadership.

Black folk don’t have an insult level.

My big brother, Dr. Tyrone Powers use to always say, “Black folk don’t have an insult level.” We continue to align ourselves with folks that use and abuse us and we still find ourselves coming back to the table as if we have not been violated.


Jill P. Carter “ The People’s Champion”

Well today, I am extremely insulted on a couple of fronts. For one, 27 year old white male Democrat, J.D. Merrill who just happens to be the son in law of our former Governor and Mayor of Baltimore City — Martin O’Malley, has decided to run for senate in a majority Black district against the People’s Champion, Senator Jill P. Carter, a Black woman, daughter of a legendary freedom fighter Walter P. Carter and the only politician the community refers to as the People’s Champion. For those of you who may not know, it was Martin O’Malley who brought “zero tolerance” law enforcement practices and policies to Baltimore City resulting in the “illegal arrests” of over 750,000 people in Baltimore. Jill P. Carter was on the forefront opposing these sort of policies. “My efforts to stop illegal arrests of the 750,000 persons from 1999–2006 led to negative political repercussions,” Carter said. “But, it also forced the change of policy we have today.

Needless to say Merrill has the support of his family, is well funded, and has used his funding to launch a smear campaign against Senator Carter.

But here’s the kicker. On last week J.D. Merrill posted a tweet that read, “ J.D. is endorsed by civil rights activist @deray: “J.D. won’t just talk about civil rights and social justice, he’ll build the coalitions necessary to deliver real results for our communities.”

J.D. won’t just talk about civil rights and social justice, he’ll build the coalitions necessary to deliver real results for our communities? ..huh? Is Deray suggesting that Senator Jill P. Carter is just a talker. And whose community is Deray referring to? As Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III tweeted, “To imply that @jillpcarter just talks about social justice & civil rights without delivering results is not only insulting to her extensive record, but also to the countless number of us who’ve been in the trenches w/her as she’s fought for us for more than 20 years!”

So let me just set the record straight. When we worked with local activists to host Youth Justice Sunday and organize against Martin O’Malley’s plan to build a $100 million jail in Baltimore City, Jill P. Carter was the only politician we gave the mic to. Like in all cases involving justice, she didn’t have to be persuaded to stand with the people, because she is one with the people.

In 2007 Rev. Heber Brown spoke with Jill P. Carter who had spent seven nights in the community where a home had been firebombed. I’m not sure where J.D. was, but we always know where we can find Senator Jill P. Carter.

But don’t just take my word for it. The community has responded.


Now of course Deray has the right to endorse anyone he chooses, but as a person that has gained national attention off of the tweeting of #BlackDeath, It is not too much for the community to ask where his allegiance lies.

As for J.D. Merrill, if he believes in racial equity, if he believes that a Black woman, in a majority Black district, who has always been on the front-line is qualified to serve the citizens of Baltimore – then he should do the decent thing, have a seat and take the blue-vested one with him.

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Founder and Curator of the Black Theology Project. 2.0. Social Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist | Minister of Information| Founder @kineticslive @fitcbaltimore | Organizer w/ @Bmore_United

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