On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope – DeRay McKesson

on the other side of freedom
Genre: Non fiction, Memoir
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 220
Release Date: September 4, 2018

“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.

From the internationally recognized civil rights activist/organizer and host of the podcast Pod Save the People, a meditation on resistance, justice, and freedom, and an intimate portrait of a movement from the front lines.

In August of 2014, twenty-nine-year-old activist DeRay Mckesson stood with hundreds of others on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to push a message of justice and accountability. These protests, and others like them in cities across the country, resulted in the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, in his first book, Mckesson lays out the intellectual, pragmatic political framework for a new liberation movement. Continuing a conversation about activism, resistance, and justice that embraces our nation’s complex history, he dissects how deliberate oppression persists, how racial injustice strips our lives of promise, and how technology has added a new dimension to mass action and social change. He argues that our best efforts to combat injustice have been stunted by the belief that racism’s wounds are history, and suggests that intellectual purity has curtailed optimistic realism. The book offers a new framework and language for understanding the nature of oppression. With it, we can begin charting a course to dismantle the obvious and subtle structures that limit freedom.

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.


On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope is a meditation on resistance, justice, freedom, and a call to arms because standing idly by doesn’t cut it anymore. Making your voice heard among the voices that wish to silence you is as important as ever because everything that’s been fought for and won is now under attack. McKesson started a podcast awhile back with a monologue that resonated with me about protecting the win. It’s no longer not enough just to win. You have to then continue fighting for more while protecting what’s already been achieved. I think On the Other Side of Freedom is just that. Detailing the fight, what’s been achieved, and what still needs to be accomplished.

“What it’s taught me is that freedom is fragile, and that’s a lesson that I never want to forget.”

I decided to pick up On the Other Side of Freedom because I listen to Pod Save the People on a weekly basis. Though I’m not American, so a lot of the more specific issues do not necessarily apply, the larger scope of the pod does. It’s important to me to be informed, so that I can do all that I can to check my white privilege. Books like these are a constant reminder that the work is never done.

The only issue I had with On the Other Side of Freedom is that McKesson skims the surface of the topics covered in each part. There were so many times I wanted him to expand further and dig deeper on topics like technology, police brutality and inequality, his relationship with his mother, and his experience as a black gay man.

“We do not stand in the shadows of those who came before us, but in their glow. And the glow exists because they put forth a vision of the future and they fought for it. We did not invent resistance or discover injustice in August 2014. We exist in a legacy of struggle, a legacy rooted in hope.”

Overall, On the Other Side of Freedom is a great place to start if you’re looking for a deeper look into the social justice movement by someone who has been on the front lines.


Have you read On the Other Side of Freedom? What did you think? Do you listen to Pod Save the People?




2 thoughts on “On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope – DeRay McKesson

  1. This does sound like a wonderful memoir. Pretty cool that you get around to a couple of these here and then, they sure do bring into light some touchy and important subjects. Great review! 🙂

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