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John Waters endorses DeRay McKesson, Black Lives Matter activist, in Baltimore mayoral race

Waters said he was impressed by McKesson's 'surprisingly detailed platform.'


Mary Emily O'Hara


Posted on Mar 30, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 12:37 am CDT

Famed film director John Waters on Tuesday endorsed Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson in the Baltimore mayoral race.

Waters kicked off the video with a joke referencing his trashy, outsider reputation, saying, “I realize many candidates wouldn’t want my endorsement.” He then nodded to his friendship with the current mayor and to recent uprisings over police brutality that shook the city.

“I’m not sure what I can do to help Baltimore with its problems these days,” he said. “So why not let somebody younger and more radical than I am have a crack at it?”

Waters, whose credits include HairsprayCry Baby, and a slew of cult ’70s films featuring LGBT icon Divine, has lived in Baltimore since his birth there in 1946.

McKesson’s organizing in Baltimore and in Ferguson, Missouri, in response to the police killings of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown, respectively, earned him fame as a civil-rights activist, alongside his organizing partner Johnetta Elzie. He launched a campaign for mayor of Baltimore in February and has raised more than $250,000 through a CrowdPac site that tracks donations in real time.

Waters first hinted at an endorsement during a March 18 keynote address at the 2016 LGBT Media Journalists Convening at Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum.

McKesson, who is gay, was featured on the cover of the February edition of the Advocate. Waters has been openly gay during his entire career.

In the endorsement video, Waters said he liked McKesson’s “surprisingly detailed platform,” national notoriety, and “un-macho but still angry raised fist.”

As McKesson revealed in a followup tweet, the two Baltimore natives met in person to discuss the campaign and the issues that the city faces.

McKesson’s endorsements are unusual for a political candidate but reflect a distinct base of support from the LGBT community. The parent company of gay social apps Jack’d and Manhunt also endorsed McKesson on Tuesday and made a $6,000 donation to his campaign.

Hector Camacho, CEO of app-maker Online Buddies, explained that the endorsement was part of the company’s just-launched “Change the Game” campaign, which channels its support toward community members and projects that are “challenging the ways in which people live and identify.”

“DeRay Mckesson is a voice for this generation,” Camacho said. “His passion, activism and relentless commitment for justice have forced the nation to reflect and respond. We applaud DeRay’s courage and dedication in the demand for equal rights, not only in Baltimore, but throughout the nation.”

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*First Published: Mar 30, 2016, 1:58 pm CDT