Spartans, faculty and the community came together on Monday, March 18 for an evening discussion with Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. Dyson is a sociology professor at Georgetown University, a New York Times contributing Opinion writer, and he is currently a contributing editor of The New Republic and of ESPN’s The Undefeated website.
The crowd was excited to see Dyson in person, gathering around the Recital Hall entrance in UNCG’s School of Music Building, which is housed in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA). This event was free and open to the public.
Before the doors were opened for the enthusiastic audience members, Dyson stood above them, looking down to greet everyone before the event. After he finished a meal with some special individuals upstairs, they all attended the festivity.
Eventually, the crowd filed into the recital hall, finding ideal seating to see Dyson where he would stand behind the podium on the stage. Dyson came on stage and was greeted with applause and shouts from excited onlookers. The audience learned that Dyson, alongside being a professor and contributing editor, is the author of 19 books, and has received various awards such as an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Nonfiction.
The motive behind the discussion was, “Race, Racism, and Race Relations in America,” with a focus on the 1960s. Currently, the CVPA is placing the spotlight on a decade that was, and still is, influential to our society. Their theme is, “The 60s: Exploring the Limits.”
Their page states the following: “It was an era when the world charged full-speed ahead, fearlessly pushing boundaries and shattering expectations. The Space Race. Civil Rights. Feminism. Environmentalism…” Events that are broadcasted on their site will be taking place through April and will explore topics such as a symposium on social justice and a symposium titled, “Music, Gender and Protest in the 1960s.”
Dyson had a night that led to success with his topic. He begins by stating that the sixties encompassed politics, art, culture and race. His question for gatherers to reflect on was: “Did the ‘60s truly end after those years were over?” Some could have silently thought no. Others might have thought that there has been progress, but more still needs to change.
The crowd included more than adults who identify as black, showing that the world has people who care about the direction of the country and what can change for the better in our future.
Dyson shared that the beginning of the ‘60s for some black individuals might have begun mentally, physically as well as emotionally in 1956. Racism stemmed from Black Americans being threatened to sit in the back of a bus or drink from a separate water fountain from White Americans. Discrimination kept thrusting its way in African-Americans lives through the lack of funding at the Black schools by giving them the out of date and/or hand-me-down books from the higher-funded white schools.
Blacks in America did not rebel just to do so, they felt that their ancestors fought for what was morally correct and that they had the right to do the same for themselves and their families. A privilege that many Black people were lacking at the time due to the color of their skin delayed the rights that they truly deserved at birth.
Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr led people of all creeds to march for a life of fairness. Artists like Nikki Giovanni and Aretha Franklin were deemed great in the eyes of certain unjust people. When one type of oppression was fought, another seemed to arise.
Dyson also talked about the breakthrough of Obama being president, stating that, “the ‘60s are being recapitulated today,” answering his question from the beginning of the event. He even included humor to bring comfort to the room due to the heaviness of the topic.
Dyson ended the event by addressing the audience’s questions and signing books for his supporters. This event was an evening of reflection on what was and is a part of our society, and how that can be changed through positive actions.