• Northwestern University
  • Communications

Derrick Clifton

Point Scholar 2008 – 2012

A native of Chicago, IL, Derrick dedicates his media career to starting dialogues on the intersections of identity, culture and politics.

His gifts of song, speech and writing began developing at five years old, with early training and encouragement from family, teachers and church leaders. He received wide praise for his oratory skills and frequently honored requests to recite famous speeches and poems at various events. Derrick further honed those skills during high school, helping to build and lead a nationally competitive policy debate team.

The dark side of Derrick’s accomplishments included struggling with childhood bullying, social isolation, religious persecution and keeping his queer identity hidden. But by channeling his pain through his gifts for communication, Derrick charted his own path to personal liberation and a purpose-driven life.

Derrick came out during high school, becoming the first person of color to lead the Queer-Straight Alliance and forging a variety of advocacy projects. Among many awards, scholarships and distinctions during that time, Derrick spoke in the presence of then-Sen. Barack Obama about race and identity development themes in his autobiography, shortly before Obama announced a presidential bid.

After being named a Point Scholar, Derrick attended Northwestern University, where he majored in communication studies, with concentrations in gender studies and political science. In additional to social justice advocacy and successfully coaching high school policy debaters, Derrick served on the board of a Chicago-area agency serving homeless youth as part of his Point Community Service Project.

Derrick’s journalism and communications career took root during college, serving as an opinion editor and social issues columnist for The Daily Northwestern. His award-winning work received several press mentions, including being named by Northwestern Magazine as one of eight “Seniors to Watch” from the entire Class of 2012. Derrick’s reporting and news analysis has since appeared or been mentioned by The Huffington Post, The Advocate, PolicyMic, Gawker, National Review Online, Windy City Times, The Daily Dot and numerous others.

As a Point alumnus, Derrick intends to use his career and voice to bridge gaps of understanding, opportunity and justice for various marginalized communities, with attention to intersectionality. To further this mission, Derrick is now a master's candidate at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, concentrating in interactive publishing.

Updated July 2014

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