Keynote speaker Dr. Michael Eric Dyson discusses MLK's legacy, current political climate


Dr. Dyson
Dr. Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University gives a speech as the MLK keynote speaker in Platcha Auditorium at Central Michigan University January 17

With intent to tackle stereotypes and misunderstandings, keynote speaker Dr. Michael Eric Dyson gave insight about the revolutionary Martin Luther King Jr.

Dyson, who is an author, and professor of sociology at Georgetown University, gave a speech Jan. 17, in Plachta Auditorium in Warriner Hall, in celebration of MLK Week. 

“What I want to do is talk about Martin Luther King Jr. as a revolutionary figure,” he said. “When we think about King as a revolutionary figure, he was revolutionary because he actually believed in the premise of American democracy.”

Dyson talked about issues that are currently being discussed in politics, such as, gay rights, police brutality, and white privilege. Dyson takes what he feels are misconceptions about these issues, and retorts them with fiery passion.

“You walk down the street, and meet the police, and live to tell about it,” he said, “That’s a hell of a form of white privilege.”

One of the organizers of the event, Johnathan Glenn, assistant director of Multicultural Academic Student Services said that the university tries to get a keynote speaker every year for MLK week.

Flint junior Danielle Horton who also attended the speech feels there's still work to do when it comes to progression.

"(Dyson) touched a lot of uncomfortable and powerful issues," She said. "I loved how he played devil’s advocate on these issues. We’ve come far with these issues, but we need to get more serious about solving them.”

“It was intellectual and impactful, and I learned a lot,” said Detroit senior, Dan Austin.

As an example of a modern day revolutionary, Dyson talked about Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who famously kneeled while the national anthem played at games to protest the killings of unarmed African Americans by police. 

He noted that being a fan of revolution and disagreeing with Kaepernick is hypocrisy. People who claim to like what Martin Luther King Jr. did, shouldn’t scoff at what Kaepernick did, since he participated in the same kind of protests and revolutionary ideas that King did, he said.

At the end of his speech, Dyson talked about MLK's legacy and death. He noted King's autopsy and how he was 39-years-old but had a heart of a 60-year-old due to constant stress and paranoia.

"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a revolutionary. He put his body on the line to back up his ideas," Dyson said.

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