‘You are valuable, Black men,’ preaches Michael Eric Dyson

Herb Boyd | 6/18/2014, 11:19 p.m.

“Are you the one or should we expect someone else?” Dr. Michael Eric Dyson asked rhetorically, addressing an audience last Thursday evening at Bethel AME Church.

Drawing from the Book of Matthew, Dyson was answering the call from the Detroit City Council Task Force on Black Male Engagement and the Detroit Cares Mentoring Movement to provide them with guidance and inspiration in their quest to empower and engage Black boys and men.

Dyson, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University and a native Detroiter, said young Black men will have to “unlearn some of the vicious stereotypes” that have been said about them. “There is an assault on Black masculinity, that we lack moral deportment. We are attacked then blamed.

“Be you,” Dyson exclaimed, “and love who you are.” He stressed the importance of young men sharing their needs and frustrations and understanding how valuable they are, underscoring the event’s title, “The Value of Black Men in our Community.”

For more than an hour, he delivered an uplifting message that touched on practically every issue plaguing Black manhood, including the increasingly large prison-industrial complex; the menace of drugs and the need for self-responsibility; and the attack on President Barack Obama.

“Don’t dare to be smart and Black,” quipped Dyson, referring to the president. “While the opposition gets madder and madder at him, he gets calmer and calmer.”

During the question and answer period, Dyson was asked about education, the N-word and the role of the church in the current social and political dilemma. He dispatched the questions with his mixture of wit and wisdom, most rewardingly on education, suggesting that teachers meet their students where they are, “then bring them to where you want them to be.” Sometimes, he said, teachers and parents must take some time and learn the language of the children.

Learning some rap might even help, he joshed, a musical and verbal expression with which he was more than amply equipped, including an exposition of a Tupac Shakur staple.

Overall, it was vintage Dyson: part preacher, teacher, public intellectual and performer. “Are you the one?” Dyson asked again for about the fifth time. He requested that young men “tell the truth and unlock the prisons our young men are in.”

“Your testimony may be the key that unlocks their prison,” Dyson said in reference to both a literal and metaphorical containment. “Tell the truth!!”

Among the community notables scattered about the church’s impressive sanctuary were Sharon Madison, former basketball star Derrick Coleman, basketball immortal and former Mayor Dave Bing, activist Danny Aldridge, civil servant Ron Lockett, computer maven Shawn Lee and media impresario Greg Dunmore of Pulsebeat.TV.

The event owed much to the ingenuity and concern of Council Members Andre L. Spivey and James Tate. Many of those in attendance were drawn there by reading their op-ed piece in Thursday’s Free Press.

Whatever the next steps for the coalitions, they shouldn’t waste any time and quickly take advantage of the spiritual and emotional momentum supplied by Dyson.