An Exclusive Interview With DeRay Mckesson’s Vest

The vest of honoree,  We the Protesters organizer and activist DeRay Mckesson attends the LinkedIn Next Wave event at the Empire State Building on Sept. 9, 2015, in New York City.
The vest of honoree, We the Protesters organizer and activist DeRay Mckesson attends the LinkedIn Next Wave event at the Empire State Building on Sept. 9, 2015, in New York City.
Photo: Joe Kohen (Getty Images)

In our efforts to cover every angle of the movement, we were able to secure an exclusive one-on-one with one of the most recognizable icons in the struggle for black lives.


We met with DeRay Mckesson’s vest in an undisclosed location—not because he wanted to keep his whereabouts a secret, but because we didn’t want anyone to catch us talking to an inanimate piece of clothing and take away our gun rights.

Here is our exclusive interview:

Hello Mr. ... what should I call you? Is it Mr. Vest? Your Vestness?

First of all, you’re being mad disrespectful right now. Don’t call me “Mr.” anything. I’m gender-nonconforming. Call me Pat.

Is that because you’re a Patagonia vest?

Nah, bruh. I’m named after my grandfather, whom we lost last year (may he rest in power).

Were you two close? When did he die?

Nah, he was a New England Patriots warmup jacket in the ’70s. He just went out of style. Then we somehow lost him.


OK. So tell me about yourself.

You know, I have the same story as everyone. I was born in the hood to a single mother who worked two jobs—she was a reversible fleece. My father was the red leather jacket in the “Beat It” video and never really came around much after he went on tour with Michael Jackson in ’82. But before he transitioned, he taught me that I could make a difference in this world.


Did he pass away?

No, he went out of style, and they turned him into a couple of red leather bar seats. Hey, it happens to the best of us, man, which is why I’m so thankful for DeRay. He keeps me relevant, you know?


So how did you two meet?

Oh, man, D.M. and I go back a long way. We’ve been rocking with each other long before Ferguson[, Mo.]. We started from the bottom—I was at the bottom of a sale bin in Marshalls—now we’re here, baby. At the top!


How did you become so iconic?

It’s the combination of my look and DeRay’s advocacy. We are always on the front lines.


That’s true. You do advocate for a lot of marginalized groups.

Nah, I meant the advocacy work we’ve done for DeRay.

We are on the front lines, so the cameras always catch us in our electric-blue splendor. You gotta be up front if you want the good Instagram shots. He makes me look like I’m in style, and I make him seem mysterious and aloof because no one can figure out what my deal is. Am I bulletproof? Am I one of many vests? Is there a deeper meaning?


The answer is: There is no cache of vests in the closet—just me. I’m on my way to becoming a civil rights icon, like Malcolm X’s skinny tie or Harriet Tubman’s bonnet. And as far as the bulletproof thing goes, let’s hope we never have to find out.

I see. So why are you two so inseparable?

First, you have to realize how useful I am. Have you ever seen DeRay? I mean ... we’re cool and all, but he’s, like, 112 pounds soaking wet. You can’t be at the protest looking like a mark. That’s how you get “got.” I give my nigga heft, you know what I’m saying?


Plus, the law of the streets is that you never mess with anyone wearing a puffy vest over a suit jacket because you don’t know what he’s up to. Could be a hipster who stopped by Panera Bread on his way home from the office, or it could be a nigga with a strap. You never know.

One of the most underrated things about me is how much I have helped advance DeRay’s career. A few years ago, he was just some dude who was in Ferguson chanting, “Black lives matter” along with thousands of others. Now he’s one of the most recognizable faces in the movement. That’s because of me.


Because of you?

Of course it is. I’m DeRay’s brand, and there’s nothing people love more than branding. I’m arguably the most recognizable piece of clothing in the country. I’m willing to bet that he’s more recognizable than anyone in the movement. That’s because of me. Have you ever heard about DeRay’s fresh, minty breath?


People say it smells pretty good.

That’s because I always have a fresh pack of Tic Tacs in my inside pocket, that’s why! And my ample cushioning muffles the rattling sound. I also keep his business cards right here—top left. ChapStick? Right waist pocket. Can’t have the homie out in these streets looking like Malik Yoba in the mouth.


And, yes, I know I’m hated on a lot, but I keep the game on lock. Like my grandmother used to tell me: “They say ‘Clothes don’t make the man’ ... until they’re sitting face-to-scrotum next to a naked guy on the F train.”

God rest her soul.

I’m sorry for your loss. How did she die?

She didn’t. She was a bedazzled, acid-washed My Little Pony jean jacket. Just went out of style.


Anyway, I’m just happy to play a part in DeRay’s success, even though we’re going through this contract dispute right now.

A contract dispute?

Yeah, man. I can’t believe it, but he’s really changed. He won’t even acknowledge how big a role I’ve played in his success. He signed a book deal and didn’t offer me a percentage. DeRay would be nothing without me. Nothing!


Come on, now. Nothing?

I said what I said. I’ve been buttoned up for too long. (Get it?) It’s my turn now! When you think of DeRay, what do you think of? That’s right. You think of me!


Actually, I think of Black Lives Matter.

Fair point. But DeRay didn’t help create Black Lives Matter. He didn’t help organize a single chapter. Have you ever said, “Black Lives Matter”?


Yes, I have.

So why don’t you have a book deal?

Well, actually ...

Because you don’t have me!

I’m the reason he got to sit on the couch with Katy Perry. I’m the reason he could quit his job to become a full-time activist! I’m the reason he could ... well, I don’t have any more examples of any progress he’s caused, which is exactly my point!


He ain’t Martin Luther King. He ain’t even Martin Lawrence! (Although they do kinda look alike.) He’s the nigga in the blue vest! I’m the king now!

Come on, man. Don’t ruin a friendship over money.

It’s not about the money. It’s about respect. It’s about acknowledgment. What about me?


You think I don’t have life goals? You think I don’t want to settle down with a nice trench coat one day and have a family of my own? Maybe buy myself some sleeves? A hood?

I called you over here to make this announcement publicly:

Unless DeRay and I can come to some agreement, this is my last protest season with Mr. Mckesson. If we can’t work something out, I’ll be a free agent this summer and available for hire.


So if you’re upset about white supremacy and don’t want to wear a hoodie with a logo all up in your Instagram video, all up on your Facebook newsfeed, taking all your likes, holla at ya boy. I can work weddings, bar mitzvahs, funerals, TV shows, red-carpet appearances and anywhere white people need the conscious black person du jour to validate their wokeness.

Hit me up on Twitter.

So do you think your relationship with DeRay is salvageable?

I hope so. He’s still my best friend. We go together like Super Man and his cape. Like P. Diddy and white suits. Like T’Challa and his chain. But if D.M. doesn’t come with the vibranium coins ...


The poweer of the blue vest will be strrrript aweh.

OK. I got it. Well, thanks for the interview.

Before I go, I just want to give a shoutout to my whole Members Only crew looking down on me!


Let me guess: They went out of style?

Nah, them niggas dead, b.

World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of "it." Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.


Rooo sez BISH PLZ

Have you ever said: “Black Lives Matter?”

Yes, I have.

So why don’t you have a book deal?

Well, actually...


Some of us are doing the close read (as well as remembering what we’d heard). I will collect my prize at the book release party :-)