Minneapolis public schools human resources director DeRay Mckesson has become an unlikely central figure in the bitter racial unrest that has gripped Ferguson, Mo., since August.

Mckesson, 29, created and curates a newsletter of tweets, articles and photographs that keeps 8,000 subscribers updated with the newest, most accurate information. He has also created a texting service that now has 14,000 subscribers.

"There was no place to go that said, this is exactly what is happening," Mckesson said.

Mckesson is poised to break the news to his subscribers the moment a grand jury there decides whether to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. With a decision imminent, local officials are already bracing for another wave of violent racial unrest, and the FBI has sent about 100 agents to the St. Louis area to help deal with any problems that might arise.

Mckesson and others are giving the protesters constant information that could become crucial.

On a recent posting on noindictment.org, Mckesson gives readers a map of possible protest spaces, with the urging that demonstrations remain peaceful. The map includes locations of hospitals so protesters know "specifically where they were in the case of an emergency and to ensure that access to and from hospitals was not blocked."

During his first nine days in Ferguson last summer, Mckesson was teargassed and at one point thought he might be killed. He said that ever since that experience, he has stored prewritten messages for his family and friends on his phone that he will send if the situation becomes dire.

"I don't want to die. Martyrdom is not a goal," Mckesson said. "But I don't want to live in a world where blackness equals death."

Mckesson is new to the role of protest organizer. After seeing reports of the throngs of protesters demanding justice for the Aug. 9 police shooting, Mckesson said he felt he needed to see what was happening for himself.

"It was 1 o'clock in the morning, and I got in my car and drove down there," he said.

Though he spends his weekends and vacation time in Missouri, Mckesson's workweek is spent recruiting and staffing schools in Minneapolis.

He grew up in Baltimore and became a teacher through Teach for America. He taught middle-school math in New York. He later transitioned into education human resource work. In December, he became the second in charge in the Minneapolis district's human capital department.

"I make sure my time is very structured so that no balls are dropped," Mckesson said. "This is a fight for kids to learn."

His passion for both his work in Minneapolis and in Ferguson is rooted in the belief that education will help children live better lives. He is an advocate for children, he said, and after seeing the chaos in Ferguson, his mission became more than just giving children the best education.

"No matter how great a school is, you can't learn if you can't live," Mckesson said.

Alejandra Matos • 612-673-4028