After eighteen-year-old Michael Brown died at the hands of a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, DeRay Mckesson left his full-time job to join Black Lives Matter. He spent 400 days marching and protesting, and rose to become one of the most prominent leaders of the growing movement. In this portrait, by photographer Quinn Russell Brown, Mckesson’s stern expression conveys the seriousness of his purpose in fighting for civil rights and social justice. The blue vest, which became his signature garment during the 2014 protests, reinforces his commitment to Black Lives Matter and his activism.
The simplicity and directness of the image aligns with the tactics that are being employed by many millennial activists. Mckesson and others often use their bodies and social media platforms as essential tools for protest and change.