Dyson paints King as man who made U.S. great

Dyson paints King as man who made U.S. great
January 25
04:00 2018

Despite being born in the segregated south when Blacks had few if any rights, even after he was targeted by the government and radical groups during his fight for integration and civil rights Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was a strong believer in the constitution and that we as Americans have what it takes to make this country great. 

That was the message Dr. Michael Eric Dyson delivered to students, faculty, and staff from Winston-Salem State and Wake Forest Universities on Monday, Jan. 22 during the 18th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Keynote Address. 

Dyson, who is one of the nation’s most influential and renowned public intellectuals, currently serves as university professor of sociology at Georgetown University but his influence has carried far beyond the academy into prisons and lecture stages across the world.

As he stood before the crowd inside Wait Chapel on Wake Forest University’s campus, Dyson used King’s words from his famed “I have Dream” speech to paint a picture of a man who “Made America Great.” 

“When we think about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. we think about America as an ideal. America as a projection of hopes,” he continued. “America is an ideal and an idea. An ideal because it holds before us the great and majestic possibility of realizing ever before us something that is never quite fulfilled”

Dyson went on to say with his push for justice, truth, and democracy Dr. King was deeply invested in being an American citizen even though when he was born in 1929 he was not a citizen. He went on to use excerpts from King’s famed “I Have a Dream” speech to discuss how Dr. King believed in the ideals of America but understood that  we had not reached that plateau. 

Dyson said, “At only 34 years old he stood there alone grasping hold of the moment and articulating for America the grand ideal that was not only good for black people but good for America.

“… He stood there and challenged America to be great. Yes the ideal was there but it loomed on the horizon. The potential for greatness is always there but you have to work for it.”

Dyson also discussed How Dr. King used Christianity to bring people together and, how often times during the Civil Rights Movement and even today “whiteness” is mistaken for “American-ness”. He said, “whiteness is a power and often paralyzing fiction.

“That’s why when that man takes a knee people say ‘Oh My God. Jiminy Cricket he’s insulting the flag.’ Dyson continued. “He’s not insulting the flag.” He’s trying to flag your attention to some issues you should be paying attention to.”

He also discussed the Black Lives Matter Movement and the Trump Administration. Following a standing ovation from the 1,500 in attendance, Dyson held a book signing for his most recent book, “Can You Hear Me Now? The Inspiration, Wisdom and Insight of Michael Eric Dyson.” 

Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University have come together for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. keynote address since 2000. The event is designed to bring the universities together in remembrance of Dr. King and his legacy to bring people together.

On Monday, the leaders of the two institutions addressed an incident that brought the two institutions together in grief.

Dr. Elwood Robinson, chancellor of Winston-Salem State University, and Nathan Hatch, president of Wake Forest University, addressed students from Wake and Winston-Salem State during the keynote address. They spoke about the death of Najee Ali Baker, a WSSU football player who was fatally shot on the Wake Forest campus on Jan. 20 at a party.

The leaders also sent a joint message out to their campus communities Monday night:

“A young man died this weekend. A young man with potential, with aspirations, with a future. A young man now absent from the lives of family, friends, classmates, and our community. A young man named Najee Ali Baker.

“In the past, our two universities have collaborated to learn from each other and build up our Winston-Salem community, to honor one another and commemorate important moments. But now, we come together to mourn the tragic loss of a young life.

“We share this deep sense of loss, and we are unified in our grief. To see the life of a promising young man cut short in an act of unnecessary and senseless violence is confusing, infuriating and saddening to us all. In a moment, we have been tragically reminded that life is fragile.

“As we all try to make sense of what has happened, let us turn to each other. Let us unite as we mourn. Let us be quick to cherish, support, comfort and care for one another. Let us be people who practice abundant patience and kindness. Let us use the life and death of Najee Baker to become better people, better institutions and a better community.

“In the days to come, as you grieve, also remember the family and friends of Najee Baker, and keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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