DeRay Mckesson ’07 announced on Wednesday that he is running as a Democrat to be the 50th mayor of Baltimore. He announced his candidacy in a Medium article in which he acknowledged he was a non-traditional candidate, writing, “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.” His words quickly went viral online, picked up by many of his 299,000 Twitter followers.

Mckesson has an impressive breadth of achievements. At Bowdoin, Mckesson was the president of BSG twice and served three terms as his class president. After his graduation from Bowdoin, Mckesson worked as a teacher for Teach for America, worked for The New Teacher Project and the Harlem Children’s Zone, and then in human resources for the Minneapolis school system. In the summer of 2014 he famously left his job in Minneapolis to go to Ferguson, Mo. to join the protests of the death of Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer while unarmed.

Mckesson began community organizing through social media, and has since taken his activism to other high-profile sites of police violence—including Waller County, Texas, where Sandra Bland was found dead in a jail cell, and Mckesson’s hometown of Baltimore, where Freddie Gray died in a police van. With other Black Lives Matter activists, he helped to create Campaign Zero, a 10-point agenda to reduce police violence with a platform that focuses on decriminalizing minor infractions that disproportionately affect poor communities of color. 

It is an understatement to say that Mckesson’s public persona is unusual for a Bowdoin alum. He’s switched places with Stephen Colbert for a late night segment, guest lectured at Yale Divinity School, and been the focus of a New York Times Magazine feature; he’s sparred with Wolf Blitzer on live TV and been called a “next-generation race baiter” by the National Review. He’s faced too many death threats to count and was the subject of the trending hashtag #gohomederay. His signature blue Patagonia vest has a tribute Twitter account, @deraysvest, with over 4,000 followers of its own.

It’s inspiring to us that Mckesson, who’s forged a unique trail to this point, came from Bowdoin. We’re often told that the path to a meaningful career can be winding and indirect, but most of our notable alumni are successful via a traditional path. Take the Board of Trustees—almost half work in finance. There is no “be an activist” counselor at the Career Planning Center. Yet, we hope that in the future, Mckesson will not be such an outlier. Mckesson doesn’t have his name on a building, but he is the Bowdoin alum doing the most exciting work right now.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Julian Andrews, John Branch, Jono Gruber, Matthew Gutschenritter, Emma Peters, Meg Robbins, Nicole Wetsman, and Emily Weyrauch.