Derecka Purnell

writer. griot. organizer. dancer. law student. genie. St. Louis raised. Cambridge based.

Derecka Purnell is an organizer, writer, and dancer. She believes in loving on oppressed people holistically: identifying problems and working together to meet pressing needs while fighting for systemic change. Her commitment to social justice stems from her personal experiences as a poor, Black girl living in an immigrant-refugee neighborhood in South St. Louis. She believes that community building provides liberation and empowerment for all people. Focusing on educational inequity, racial justice, and social movements, Derecka’s organizing and scholarship speaks to the intersections of marginalized communities. In August 2014, she was a part of the Ferguson Uprising that took place in her old neighborhood in the wake of the murder of Michael Brown. She served as a legal observer in the later uprisings in St. Louis, Boston, and Baltimore, and helped organize legal strategy and clinics for police brutality victims. Derecka has engaged in civil rights work and activism across campuses, communities, and countries, and has been published or featured in a number of publications and media outlets, including Boston Review, Huffington Post, MSNBC, The Guardian, Boston Globe, Vox, and the New York Times. She is a third year law student at Harvard Law School.