Viking, 2018. Hardcover, 212 pages
“Honest, courageous, and imaginative, On the Other Side of Freedom is a work brimming with hope. Drawing from his own experiences as an activist, organizer, educator, and public official, Mckesson exhorts all Americans to work to dismantle the legacy of racism and to imagine the best of what is possible. Honoring the voices of a new generation of activists, On the Other Side of Freedom is a visionary’s call to take responsibility for imagining, and then building, the world we want to live in.”–jacket copy
“By turns lyrical reflection and practical handbook, On the Other Side of Freedom reveals the mind and motivations of a young man who has risen to the fore of millennial activism through study, discipline, and conviction. His belief in a world that can be made better, one act at a time, powers his narratives and opens up a view on the costs, consequences, and rewards of leading a movement.” —Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
“welcome to your next read, my beloved friends. I would buy you each a copy if I could. @iamderay has given us a gift with #ontheothersideoffreedom none of us deserve. #lifegiving.” Me, on instagram, having just finished reading this book.
There are so many things I want to say about DeRay Mckesson’s The Other Side of Freedom, I’d have to do a read-along. I’m just going to cut to my recommended for section and extend it. I provide a link to an opportunity to listen to the first chapter at the end of the post.
Recommended for everyone. Mckesson’s vulnerability and eloquence is remarkable. He is a storyteller and an educator. He will provide you data with the means [to begin] to process it. He’ll provide a story with the permission to sit with it, but only for a time. DeRay Mckesson is about the work, “Hope is not magic. Hope is work. Let’s get to the work.”
>>for those who are already engaging in social justice, this is one to own. McKesson is inspiring, informative, and real. The lyricism is perfectly balanced with the pragmatic. He offers insight and good advice. He reminds us of our faith, our hope, our power.
>>for those engaged and are looking for more intersectionality: Mckesson is a gay black man and he talks about what that means within the different spaces he moves.
“Sometimes, when you don’t see yourself in the world, you start to think that you don’t exist. ” (179)
>>for those newer to conversations on race* and/or activism. The first step is always to open yourselves up to listen. DeRay Mckesson has a compelling voice. Read an essay through; on the second or third pass: underline, note-take, or pen questions.
>>for those ignorant about protests, or think they do know, but in the quiet know that they aren’t being intellectually honest about that.
“We the protesters have never been the voiceless. we have been the unheard. Our storytelling has has been key to our survival, as we have spoken about our pain and our joy, even if we were talking to ourselves.” (23)
>>for those fiction-only readers looking to include more non-fiction, Mckesson is an engaging storyteller, even when interpreting data or socio-cultural phenomena.
>>for those with religious or spiritual backgrounds. I was moved to think about how Mckesson speaks about Faith and Hope and how my tradition(s) speak about it. I was challenged by the way he talks about churches and activism, the changes, the absences, the refuge, the pastors. I was moved by how Mckesson talks about Storm in “I Was Raised By Magic.”
“So much of what trauma does for us is trap us in the present; it traps us in its constraints. we often see the limitations all around us because we need to see them in order to survive. Not to see them would be deadly. We become gifted at knowing how far to push before the world pushes back on us. But Storm? Storm didn’t live in a world with those constraints. And for thirty minutes each weekend, neither did I.” (107)
>>for those who love great choices in quotes/epigraphs.
>>for my fellow white friends and family. “I had to learn that white people could be wrong,” opens the essay “The Choreography of Whiteness.” We need to learn that, too.
“Whiteness is an idea and a choice. we can choose differently. We can introduce new ideas to replace it. We have the tools to build something altogether new.” (102)
>>for those interested in histories, mythologies, storytelling and narrative gatekeeping.
>>for those who’ve been bullied.
>>for those who may be despairing.
“Make no mistake, our world, our experience, is changing constantly. When we surrender, we leave it to others to define what that change looks like. History has shown us the consequences of inaction. we can and should acknowledge the trauma that we face, but we should not accept it. Indeed, we cannot fight what we do not name, so name it we must, but we can never accept it. We will never get to the other side of freedom if we accept the trauma as a feature and not a flaw of this world.” (28)
I listen to his podcast Pod Save the People with Brittany Packnett, Sam Sinyangwe, and Clint Smith III. I highly recommend it. You learn a great deal, especially the art of listening. I also recommend following them all on twitter and Packnett on instagram.
**Mckesson and Brene Brown held public conversations. a recording.
You can hear DeRay talk a bit about the book and then read the first chapter in this Crooked Conversation with Jon Lovett
*I like I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown as an early entrance into reading on race. A fiction option is the YA novel The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.