Michael Eric Dyson- 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address

Uploaded by UniversityRochester on 31.01.2012

When young people see Dr. King caught in 1963 talking about his dream, what was that dream?
When we look at the atrocious numbers of people that are poor
and struggling today, King’s legacy speaks to that.
When we look at people who are dealing with 'How do we respond to

a nation at war, King’s legacy deals with that.
But we want to expand his legacy to talk about other issues that he didn’t necessarily address.
So when we do all of that, King’s legacy is alive, it’s vital,
and it certainly applies to young people right where they are today
Do you have any advice following the Arab spring that just hit the middle east?
For the rest of black Africa that is still facing some sort of oppression?
We see a year later what’s happening with the Arab Spring and now in the Arab world,
in Egypt we see how difficult it is to really allow freedom to take hold,
but you’ve got to start the process.
You can’t romanticize or demonize Africa. You’ve got to take it for what it is
and then engage the larger world and use every resource available to try to change it.
Well, Dr. King said injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
So he would have embraced people in the Arab Spring, he’d talk about Occupy Wall Street
To hammer home the point that people should not be oppressed,
and that we must open the doors of opportunity for all.
His words seem to have the sort of premonition
that is so poignant upon every relistening.
Every time we hear them again, well I don’t know what will happen to me now,
but it really doesn’t matter because I’ve been to the mountain top.
And you can hear the people responding. Ha ha!
And he said I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the promised land stretching,
seeing out in a melismatic Sam Cooke like [singing]
that’s old school. That’s for the old people. Don't worry.
Dr. King would have warned against the kind of vigilant hyperbole
that existed in the aftermath of Barack Obama’s ascent to the presidency.
From King's assassination to Barack's inauguration
We know that the impact of King's death is monumental, opening up space
for the very conception that the black man could lead this nation.
He also would've been critical of him. That was his role.
That was his job. He was a prophet, not a politician.
Some people think that Barack Obama is Moses
when his job description says he’s pharoah.
Which means then that you’re in the business of occupying political space
to bring about the greatest outcome for the most citizens in your nation.
That means compromise in a way that prophets find problematic.
I think that Dr. King would have been deeply troubled
by the persistence of inequality and he would've pushed rather vigorously
for the relief of the most vulnerable in our society.
Neither the democrats of republicans speak about poverty.
They keep talking about the middle class like everybody middle class.
There are millions of poor people in this nation!
And Martin Luther King Jr. loved them and died with poor people!
Martin Luther King Jr. opened up this rhetorical resistance to American culture.
At its best hip hop tells the truth. Elvis was a hero to most,
but he never meant ____ to me. Straight up racist, the sucker was simple and plain.
Mother____ your man John Wayne. Already I’m hyped cause I’m amped.
Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamp.
You want to find something that you are engaged with, that you are engaged in,
that something that keeps your interest because some of you
are going to look back at this time in your life when you were a revolutionary radical and
then you grew up and you had kids and stuff. I was going to transform the world,
now I’m a corporate lawyer with 10 clients, making half a million dollars.
I want to come and visit you then.
Because life is like that, but the point is you evolve. You grow. You deepen.
Let's end the bigotry against young people.
I know some of they sag their pants like they live in sag harbor.
Maybe if you lift their hope, aspirations, and dreams
they're pants will follow. [Applause]
Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t just change black people, he changed America.
He made white people more human. He made white civilization more tolerable.
And he brought the humanity of black people to bear.
But he refused to give up on white brothers and sisters and said
there is something dignified and beautiful in the consciences of America
when we can appeal to those consciences to transform America.