By Joanna Rose
DeRay Mckesson’s afternoon talk at Grant High School got started a little late because the staff had to keep setting up more and more chairs. The library eventually filled to almost 200 students, and meanwhile Mr. Mckesson, wearing his signature blue vest, walked up and down rows of kids, shaking hands and saying hello.
Two members of Grant’s Black Student Union welcomed Mckesson with brief remarks, and then he jumped right into a few stories from his 400 days in Ferguson, MO and the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement.
His stories moved gracefully from anecdote (the Five-Second Rule, getting tear-gassed, meeting with President Obama) often landing on a note of a gentle good humor that caused laughter, although he just as often landed on hard-core information.
Fifteen minutes in, he opened up to questions, and a rich conversation followed; students were not shy about raising their hands.
One student asked, “How do we talk to people?” and Mckesson spoke of asking questions to make other people do the thinking, and speaking to people in their own language. He said he often starts by asking himself, “How would I talk to my aunt?”
Another student asked how to begin being an activist. Mckesson said, “Start small, and learn an issue well. Know your facts, and be responsible for holding your own in a conversation.”
He ended with a warm thank you to the students, specifically to “…your generation…” and took a pictures of the whole group for his Instagram page as students jumped to their feet and waved and cheered.
Everybody Reads 2019: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (SOLD OUT)
March 14, 2019
In partnership with the Multnomah County Library and The Library Foundation, Literary…
Barry Lopez: Horizon Book Launch
March 19, 2019
Join Literary Arts for a book launch event for Horizon, the latest…
Cave Canem Fellows Reading: Off-site AWP event
March 27, 2019
Experience Cave Canem’s annual Off-Site Reading at AWP Portland, hosted by Literary…
WITS Alliance Reading: Off-site AWP event
March 29, 2019
The WITS Alliance hosts a happy hour and reading at Literary Arts.
VONA’s 20th Birthday reading: Off-site AWP event
March 29, 2019
VONA is celebrating 20 years of supporting writers of color. VONA, The…
2019 Oregon Book Awards Ceremony
April 22, 2019
Join Literary Arts’ annual celebration of the state’s most accomplished writers in…