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Election 2004
6.18.04
Society and Community:
Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson
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Many young black and Hispanic voters will go to the polls for the first time this November, and political analysts on both sides are trying to figure out what will motivate them. Some are looking to The Hip Hop Political Conference for answers.

The convention, being held in Newark, NJ this week, will attempt to mobilize this new generation of voters. Among the speakers is Michael Eric Dyson, a University of Pennsylvania professor, cultural critic, and Baptist minister who has been described by the WASHINGTON POST as belonging to "a group of young intellectuals who may yet define our view of black American culture as did their predecessors Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray."

Dyson will speak to the conference on the great divide between his father's civil rights generation, represented by Martin Luther King, and today's younger generation, represented by Tupac Shakur. David Brancaccio talks to Dyson about his ideas to bridge the divide between those two generations.



Michael Eric Dyson, named by ESSENCE magazine as one of the 50 most inspiring African-Americans, has been dubbed by the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER as "a major American thinker and cultural critic." Dyson earned a Ph.D. from Princeton University in Religion, and after teaching posts at Chicago Theological Seminary, Brown University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Columbia University and DePaul University, he is presently the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities, and Professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies, at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dyson has written ten books in ten years, ranging from works in cultural criticism, race theory, religious thought, philosophical reflection and gender and sexual studies, to four books of "biocriticism" – works that use biography to probe social themes and cultural politics. These include MAKING MALCOLM: THE MYTH AND MEANING OF MALCOLM X, named a New York Times "notable book of 1994" and one of the outstanding black books of the 20th century by BLACK ISSUES BOOK REVIEW; I MAY NOT GET THERE WITH YOU: THE TRUE MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., a national bestseller; HOLLER IF YOU HEAR ME: SEARCHING FOR TUPAC SHAKUR, his best selling treatment of the slain rapper and icon; and his most recent bestseller, MERCY, MERCY ME: THE ART, LOVES AND DEMONS OF MARVIN GAYE. Dyson has also published THE MICHAEL ERIC DYSON READER and WHY I LOVE BLACK WOMEN, a national best seller that won the 2004 NAACP Image Award for outstanding nonfiction literary work.

Michael Eric Dyson is also an ordained Baptist minister, radio commentator for NPR’s Tavis Smiley Show, contributing writer for PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE, and a frequent guest on the nation’s leading cultural and political television shows. Before all of that, the former church pastor was a teen father on welfare in his native Detroit who worked in several factories before starting college at 21. That may explain why, despite being termed a "superstar professor" by the WASHINGTON POST, author Nathan McCall simply calls Dyson "a street fighter in suit and tie."

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