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Black Lives Matter leader DeRay Mckesson talks race, Trump and Twitter at Austin forum


At Huston-Tillotson University on Friday, DeRay Mckesson said the that he is getting ready for a new era in the Black Lives Matter movement.

The election of Donald Trump left many like Mckesson, who emerged as a national leader of the decentralized movement, prepared to resist Trump once he takes office. The wait-and-see approach is off the table, he said.

“I don’t know how to give someone a chance who is so openly racist, bigoted and anti-Islam,” Mckesson said during the keynote event of this weekend’s symposium on race and public policy that the Texas Tribune put together at the university.

The event continues through Saturday with a forum discussion on how race intersects with police, education and politics in Texas. Participating speakers include U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, former Austin police Chief Art Acevedo and numerous state legislators. The forums are free and open to the public. The event begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Huston-Tillotson University.

Figuring out how to move forward under a presidential administration that is likely to be far less receptive to the Black Lives Matter movement presents new challenges, Mckesson said. The hope is that organizers do not get caught up in an endless routine of resistance and end up ground to dust, Mckesson said.

Mckesson’s talk with Texas Tribune co-founder and CEO Evan Smith had large portions dedicated to how Mckesson worked in and outside of systems. Mckesson’s activism began with a spontaneous nine-hour drive to Ferguson, Mo., soon after the shooting of Michael Brown in August 2014.

There, Mckesson saw the formations of the Black Lives Matter movement, which made him a national figure. He saw the power of social media as live streams of protests and police action sowed seeds for more protests across the nation.

“There were so many people that watched the live streams and watched the tweets and realized that there is a problem,” Mckesson said.

Mckesson’s avid tweeting grew into a large social media presence (followers on Twitter include Beyoncé). His blue vest has become something of a trademark, which he was of course wearing on Friday.

And he has since been brought to the table in discussions with President Barack Obama and police leaders from across the nation.

The next powerful voices in social media will be the online curators -- “the digital Oprahs” -- who will grow popular through their ability to sift through the countless voices and volumes of content, Mckesson said.

As for Trump’s victory, Mckesson said Clinton’s campaign failed to address that she continued to be vilified, solely relying on a belief that voters would be so turned off by Trump’s rhetoric that they would vote for her.

What her campaign didn’t realize is that many would just not show up to vote at all, he said.

But it wasn’t all on Clinton’s campaign. He called out one demographic in particular.

“White women let us all down,” he said. “That is real.”


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