One-on-One with Michael Eric Dyson
By Titus Falodun Staff Writer | 6/21/2013, 8:16 a.m.
ATLANTA -- Before Georgetown University professor, MSNBC social analyst, and author Michael Eric Dyson gave a rousing Father’s Day sermon to the Hillside International Truth Center congregation, The Atlanta Voice had an exclusive one-on-one with the orator whose style infuses classic Def Jam Comedy charisma, hip-hop lyricism, and gospel rhetoric.
AV: How would you analyze President Obama’s recent commencement speech to Morehouse College graduates about being better role models and father figures?
MED: “Giving that speech to Morehouse seems to be pretty unnecessary, doesn’t it? They’re the very people that got your message already. That’s why they’re there graduating. [Laughter] Because they understand what you were saying. You weren’t speaking to a detention center or a halfway house. You weren’t talking to juvenile delinquents. You were talking to Morehouse graduates. And they pretty much get the notion of responsibility.
“Now, can it be reinforced? Of course. But we should remind senators to be responsible fathers—they spend a lot of time away from home. Presidents probably don’t spend as much time at home as they need to _ they’re doing other stuff; it’s pretty important stuff. So, we can give that message to whole groups of people that don’t do what they should do, who are professional men.”
AV: But don’t you think that the media perpetuates a stereotypical image of black success?
MED: “Yeah, that’s true. For instance, when the First Lady was talking about ballers and rappers. It’s very interesting because that’s who they invite to the White House … is ballers and entertainers—you know what I’m sayin’. Basketball players who have been to the White House have been numerous. The rappers have been numerous. The singers have been numerous. So, I find it quite interesting that we can’t enjoy what the First Family seems to enjoy _ which is good entertainment, which is good athletics.”
AV: What Hip Hop/Rap artist would you say best personifies President Barack Obama?
MED: “Probably the guy he favors a lot, Jay-Z. They’re both cool. They’re both elegant. They’re seemingly dispassionate, except when that passion is called on. They’re levelheaded. They’re geniuses at what they do. And they have the ability to cross over to broad audiences.”
AV: What singer would you say best personifies First Lady Michelle Obama?
MED: “[It’s] very hard not to say Beyoncé, because she wants to be Beyoncé. [Laughter] She might be like Beyoncé as a younger figure and maybe like a very elegant, beautiful, powerful woman as an older figure, maybe Nancy Wilson or a Dionne Warrick at her height.”
AV: Could you explain your “Attorney General Eric Holder is Moses” comment?
MED: “The metaphor is simply to suggest whomever the attorney general is, is the Moses of our time. Moses came down with the Ten Commandments; THE LAW. So, I was suggesting that Eric Holder’s responsibility as a result of the office he occupies is one that should be taken seriously; just like Obama is not Moses. Obama is Pharaoh. He’s not a prophet! He’s a politician; he’s a leader! And I don’t mean pharaoh in the pejorative sense. I’m talking about job description.”