Social critic to speak at MU Black History Month event

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 | 8:53 p.m. CST; updated 8:12 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

COLUMBIA — One of the nation’s most inspiring speakers, according to Essence magazine, will give the keynote address of MU’s Black History Month celebration Thursday.

Author, social critic and professor Michael Eric Dyson will speak at 7 p.m. in Jesse Auditorium and will discuss voting and how students can improve their campus.

MU’s black studies program chose the nationally syndicated radio show host to speak because of his ability to relate to students and discuss issues that pertain to the younger generation.

His books, including “Holler if you Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur” and “Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture,” are examples of why Janet Howard, administrative assistant in the black studies program, called him “someone students would come out to see”.

Other books from the ordained minister and professor of theology, English, and African-American studies at Georgetown University include “Debating Race,” “Why I love Black Women” and “Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster.”

“He’s a very good speaker, and students could benefit from hearing him,” said Josh Copeland, the president of the Legion of Black Collegians. LBC is one of the sponsors of the event, which is free and has been publicized in St. Louis, Jefferson City and Kansas City.

“We’re not just trying to attract minorities, but we’re trying to attract the student body as a whole,” Copeland said.

Student Kirsten Mims, a junior at MU, said she is excited to see Dyson because his messages and views are current. She said he is knowledgeable about issues that face the black community and doesn’t base his opinions on stereotypes.

“He doesn’t try to blame the media and hip-hop culture for what’s going on in our communities,” Mims said. She added that she thinks people are more influenced by the home environment than outside factors.

She was first introduced to Dyson when he appeared on a BET special, “Hip-Hop vs. America,” that aired last year. She said she encourages other students to attend Dyson’s speech because of his intellect and influence.

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