Mckesson, DeRay. On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope. Viking, 2018.
For the past five years I have owned this zip up hoodie that has become my go-to piece of clothing anytime the weather permits. It’s lightweight, fitting, keeps me warm but not to warm so I can still wear it in the spring as the temperature is adjusting, it goes with everything I own, it’s sports my favorite collegiate team’s name – Syracuse, and the best part about it is that it was a gift from my father (he has the same one, just in a bigger size). I even have a go-to favorite pair of jeans that I will put on for any casual occasion. These jeans make me feel most comfortable, give me the most confidence in my wardrobe, and yes there are times when I will wear them several times in a row without even thinking about touching the other ten pair of jeans in my dresser. Do you have a favorite piece of clothing that you’ve easily worn more often than any other item in your closet?
DeRay Mckesson does and it’s his blue Patagonia vest. He has worn this vest every day since he participated in the protests of Fergusson, Missouri in 2014. If you google his name you will see more pictures of him in this vest than anything else (if anything else). He explains in the book that it was the perfect item because not only it was it cold in the Fergusson winter of 2014, but it was something that wasn’t big and bulky meaning he would have never have to pack it. He has been shot at with rubber bullets in this vest and tear gassed in this vest. It goes without saying that this vest offers Mckesson a sense comfort and when you are constantly in positions of discomfort the tiniest piece of warmth can blaze the trail for greatness.
DeRay Mckesson is a civil rights activist, organizer, protestor, educator, podcaster, author, and former school administrator. He is also a recipient of the Peter Jennings award and supporter of the Black Lives Matter campaign. While these descriptions do not define who DeRay is they do showcase his passion and devote nature to his cause.
On The Other Side Of Freedom: The Case For Hope was published on September 4, 2018. It was published through VIKING who is an imprint of Penguin Random House. The book is 220 pages long with short chapters making you feel like you are breezing through it. With the especially engaging content, it is extremely difficult to put the book down. The book lacks visuals of any sort so no photographs, illustrations or even charts and graphs. While these items would have proven to be enhancing, Mckesson paints visuals very vividly with his words. In regards to scholarly apparatus Mckesson provides a table of contents, author’s note, acknowledgements, and footnotes that are very helpful; however, there is no index or bibliography. There are two different versions of the text – the hardcover we are reviewing and the paperback that was released a year later on September 3, 2019; furthermore, the paperback was published through Penguin Publishing Group, is 240 pages in length, and sports a different cover. Aside from the minor differences the text in each of the versions is the same.
DeRay Mckesson’s main intentions in On The Other Side Of Freedom are to instill HOPE in individuals fighting a similar battle. Other activists, whether pertaining to his specific cause or another. I actually felt like he was speaking to me. The war he is fighting is one I’ve been thinking about daily for years now. While I speak on the matters of racial injustice, police brutality, and mass incarceration all specifically in regards to Black people, I have never taken any action. I have never been involved in any groundwork. This text is calling me out. It is telling me to stop playing the sidelines if I am really about the cause. But regardless of how involved one is, he is also speaking to the people who grapple with this racially plagued reality every day. He is letting them know that it will be alright. With everything said above, DeRay Mckesson has been very successful in hitting his intended audience and demographic.
Two of his major themes throughout the text are that of faith and hope, both proving to be very important not only in his personal life but in his career as an activist. While the book details a great amount about his personal life is not a full-blown autobiography. He details the problem of the police including unions, lack of discipline and accountability, appeals within the departments and much more. Mckesson introduces thoughts from different perspectives as well. There is a chapter on coping with murder. How do we as a society handle these situations? We all handle them differently but we read how he and many others chose to handle it in the case of Michael Brown Jr. In this chapter as well as other places in the text he also details how he and his team came together and organized their efforts effectively not only in Fergusson but in the many years to follow.
The core theme of this book and thesis from what I gathered can be found in the second paragraph on the second page of the author’s note. “Violence was the first language of this country and is still the first language of many people, but it doesn’t have to be the language we teach our children or whose tempo guides our steps.” Mckesson delivers many stories pertaining to his journey in activism in order to exemplify the thesis above. To assess the text and Mckesson’s role in social activism through an academic lens the most efficient methods would be those of social movement theory and critical race theory. These would allow us to understand why his specific social mobilization as occurred as well as the cultural and political consequences/conclusions. These theories would also enable us to gather information on the higher powers in society that Mckesson is directly addressing.
I did not find any errors in the book and honestly don’t have much critique to offer at all. As stated in the third paragraph of this review I believe the book could benefit extensively from having visual aids whether that means pictures of his work at protests and community meetings or charts and graphs of statistics when discussing complaints, reports filed, and discipline in-regards to police. Another brief critique of the book would be that it offers no solution to how we get to the other side of freedom. We can keep doing the same thing and continue through the struggle, but that will not help us achieve the results we desire. As we wrap this review up, Mckesson’s organization of the book was not so much clear; however, it flowed. It was as the current of a stream is on a calm day – everything cruised into place.
Overall, this was a very uplifting and enjoyable read. The world is a place that is difficult to understand if possible at all. Mckesson hit on several topics under the umbrella of his focused activism and did no efficiently and accurately. I believe he broke new ground in that he is documenting the current power struggle going on in the American climate as it is happening; furthermore, he is directly in the middle of it with a firsthand point of view. He has established himself as a force in this social movement against racial injustice which not only gives him a platform but makes him the perfect person to take on the position. To DeRay Mckesson and the rest of the movers, I not only HOPE to, but I have FAITH that I WILL see you On The Other Side Of Freedom!