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Updated 11:00 AM January 9, 2006




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Author Dyson brings intellect and insight to U-M

Related story:
19th MLK Symposium goal is to "break silence" with words>

Michael Eric Dyson, author of books on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Tupac Shakur, and a commentator who took comedian Bill Cosby to task for his widely publicized criticisms of African Americans, will lecture at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 16 at Hale Auditorium in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business as part of the 19th Annual MLK Symposium.
(Photo illustration by Matt Carr)

Dyson is considered one of the nation's most eminent African American scholars, infusing intellectual thought with popular culture. Dyson also has appeared as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's nationally syndicated "The Tavis Smiley Show."

"What guides all of my thought and action is the belief that human beings who think creatively and act boldly can shape history and relieve suffering for the good of the neighborhood and the planet," Dyson states on his Web site.

In his book on King, "I May Not Get There With You—The True Martin Luther King Jr.," Dyson laments that King's vitality, complexity and radical nature have not been honestly celebrated.

The Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania, Dyson has published several books including his most recent, "Is Bill Cosby Right: Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?" At the NAACP Award Ceremony in 2004, Cosby blamed parental failures for high dropout rates, teen pregnancy, foul-mouthed behavior and a lack of respect within the Black community.

Dyson challenged Cosby's accusations by deconstructing his speech and offering a critical assessment of the social and cultural issues facing struggling African Americans. Publishers Weekly hailed Dyson's book as "a work of empathy and energy. Dyson takes Cosby at his word and dissects his arguments—as well as the comedian's own conduct—in order to combat Afristocratic dogma. While Dyson is merciless in assessing both, he takes the opportunity to explore a host of hot-button issues in Black culture, from illegitimacy to faux African names."

Dyson, who grew up in Detroit, says he learned that education was the doorway to life and liberty. His calling was to embrace life through the heart and mind, and to "engage the life of the mind, life of the soul, the life of the race, and the life of the nation," he wrote.

A Baptist minister, Dyson says he believes his love for knowledge and pro-active social participation allow him to "preach the gospel to the poor," and to "heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised."

Dyson has traveled to Italy, Brazil, Amsterdam, and Cuba, spoken at numerous universities, union halls, juvenile detention centers, and preached at churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. He describes his writing as, "thinking, struggling, fighting, imagining, loving, hoping, preaching, crying, wishing, and inspiring all at once."

Dyson's intellectual journeys also have included critical and academic explorations in comparisons of Martin Luther King Jr. to Malcolm X, and his study of current Black popular culture in the art of rapper Shakur.

Dyson's other books include, "Why I Love Black Women" and "Between God and Gangsta Rap."

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