tv Michael Eric Dyson What Truth Sounds Like CSPAN August 16, 2018 1:37am-2:54am EDT
eastern for the book festival on book tv on c-span2. you are watching booktv on c-span2. top nonfiction books and authors every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. >> tonight we will take a look at recent books on the civil rights movement. georgetown university professor discusses his book what truth sounds like. also the unfinished conversation about race in america. janet bell on her look lighting the fire of freedom. african-american movements in the civil rights movement. book tv this weekend in prime time on c-span2. and now i'm ver introduce my next guest.
michael eric dyson is a professor of sociology at georgetown university. he's also a contributing opinion writer for the new york times and a contributing editor of the new republic and espn's the undefeated is the author or editor of more than 20 books including making malcolm which was a new york times notable book of the year when it was released. and new york times bestseller, chairs we cannot stop. is also a two time winner of the naacp image award for outstanding literary work, nonfiction. and was the 2007 winner of the american book award for, hell or high water, hurricane katrina and the color of disaster. tonight he will discuss his new book, "what truth sounds like". which examines the continued conflict between conscious and politics, morality and power in addressing race using a 1963 meeting between then attorney general robert f. kennedy, james baldwin and others as the framework.
singer and activist halle berrh belafonte praises michael eric dyson and "what truth sounds like" as a crucial work. reviews: eloquent response to an urgent and still unresolved dilemma. this evening's conversation will be moderated by civil rights activists and host - - please join me in welcoming deray mckesson and doctor michael eric dyson. [applause] >> it is good to be here with
all of you. it's good to be here with you, mr. dyson. haven't seen you in a while. >> it's always good to see you. not only on tv but in real life. >> his book just came out which you all should buy if you haven't already. i'm hoping we can have a conversation about not only what's in the book but race and justice. this will be our first conversation in front of all of you. let's start with, take us from - - to "what truth sounds like". what's the arc? >> great question. i want to thank harvard bookstore and this wonderful historic church. we filled the spirit of emerson and we hope he is channeled through us.and this brilliant legendary young man already has given his life and full commitment and sacrifice for the people. let's give loveto deray mckesson .
[applause] >> later on, you will hear from edyson julio because this is the anniversary of - - brower's death and we want to celebrate the memory of a warrior was against his own will, represents something bigger than himself. that's a great question. nobody's ever asked me that. that's why we've got you here. in - - we cannot stop. i wanted to specifically address white america. a local figure here, malcolm x, spent time here, part time. wasasked a question as you well know , young white woman who heard him here in boston. and then was so taken by his words that she traveled all the way to harlem. when she caught up with him, mr. malcolm, what is it that i as a white girl can do? you're the famous answer, nothing. this is my delayed response to that.
here's some stuff you can do. here's something you can think about so i wanted to address white america. many of my books address the issue of race, class, culture, politics and religion. laxness in particular but i wanted to articulate a vision, a value and this set of virtues that i thought was there is that white folks should take the risley. i wanted to address them directly. in love and also with tough love and heart i know it's often difficult for white brothers and sisters to be directly addressed. even though i would think the love it. but also as a minister, i was directly addressing the resistance, the dissidents, the hostility, defensiveness. and another woman robin d'angelo, right fragility. i wanted to do with that and address them.
talk about, please stop killing us. that book throughout of an op-ed i wrote. the sterling incident in louisiana and because thethe ph castile incident. i wrote up the op-ed and send it to the new york times. didn't think they'd run it because they ran something a week or two before. >> that was a brag. >>. [laughter] no, i didn't mean it like that. but the book out of that because there were such overwhelming response to them. white people were either angry or saying thank you for telling me how you felt. this book was a personal book. it was digging into my own accidental anxiety and my belief that my narrative met
the narrative of other black people informed words that would be witnesses to white america. in this book, actually turn to a historical event. as you know, the famous meeting between james baldwin and bobby kennedy. another local man. bobby kennedy met james baldwin at dinner about a year before and they said, we kind of like each other.let's get together and chop it up sometime. then about you later, less than a year later, jimmy baldwin fired off a fiery telegram. yes, it was in a tweet. it wasn't swiping right.it was a telegram that he said look, were looking at what's going on in birmingham. with the ghoulish - - devastating the lives of black people. negroes as we were called then that he was outraged. it was called bombing -ham.
the civil rights movement was at one of its peaks with the reverend fred shuttleworth and martin luther king jr. he saw the women and children being washed against the walls with high pressure hoses. police dogs teeth nipping at, stalling at the flesh of black girls and boys and women. he just had enough so he fired off this telegram and he said, were not doing the right thing. you're not using race as a prism through which to see the larger landscape of american life and you don't see the larger issue. it needs to be a moral issue. - - who had met with bobby kennedy in a series of meetings he was having with other black people, said what are you hook up with james baldwin. i met him for breakfast outside of dc and virginia.
the plane was delayed and baldwin only had half hour. he said tomorrow i'm going to be integral, one evening a couple of your friends by and let's talk about it. when you're james baldwin, a couple of your friends are harry belafonte, lena horne and the rain hands berry. and a young activist named jerome smith. jerome smith is by lore, legend and literally, along with john the was, the most decorated freedom rider in the history of this nation. not because of his intelligence and resistance but also because he suffered physically. he was beaten within an inch of his life so many times. far more than any other figure. so, he was there. the meeting got off to a good start. bobby kennedy wanted the negroes to be grateful. sound familiar? be grateful for what we've done for you with whatas you know, john kenn
gained more in death than he did in life as a reputation for what he did for plaqueblack peo. on the one hand, there were the white bigots he had to appeal on the south who literally called black people - - from his elevated judicial bench. even striking for back then in 1962-and 1963. then the georgia governor vanderburg robert john kennedy called to get martin luther junior king out of jail. he placed a call to the governor and they got king out before the election.kennedy became president. he also told him, i will not use federal forces to intervene on behalf of integration and
against segregation bid then he's telling black people, i will help you with civil rights. bobby kennedy was the younger brother. less knowledgeable than jfk but more inclined to have conversations like where having here today.he stepped into the room. it was their penthouse on south central park. then he said look, i'm trying to figure out what rage is going on in black america. listening to the black muslims and not martin luther king jr. even though he particularly like martin luther king jr. but was forced to work with him. he didn't want adam clayton powell there, he wanted figures on the cutting edge will he focused tell the truth. not people beholden to their organizations and told the line
politically correct that they could offer. he wanted people to tell from their gut what the truth was. so he gathered those folks there. kennedy began and then jerome smith rips into him. he says we ain't here for no pity party and all of the celebration. people are out here dying and i'm tired of all of this madness. then they go back and forth and kennedy is appalled because he uses the word bs on bobby kennedy and bobby kennedy is expecting the negroes to be grateful for what he has done. and they're saying being grateful. sorry, not sorry. so the reality is that this man interposed, interjected serious rhetoric that this white man never heard from black people. he wanted to talk about rage but didn't want to confront rage when he saw it. he had a temper. he was a tough sob.
on top of that, he was an aggressive advocate for mccarthy in the 50s. transformed himself into an advocate for the poor. but in between, he was caught trying to be the attorney general and advocating for justice for people and at the same time, trying to moderate in one sense, the tensions going on between black folks and the white bigots. does it sound familiar? he was saying we can't be too aggressive because we've got white people we want to bring back into the fall. if we alienate them too much, they will come back. that sound familiar? the black people then basically said, bull crap, we ain't having it. then the rain hands- - got invo two hours bobby kennedy had to hear stuff from people he wasn't used to hearing from people, if you want to know about rage. check me out. at one point, bobby kennedy,
jimmy baldwin wanted to ratchet up the atmosphere. he said would you go to a war and defend america? he said, never! never! never! three times. and bobby kennedy was appalled because he was a patriot. his brother died in the war. his older brother joseph. he thought, this is america. he said you want us to go kill people in foreign wars but you can't even defend us here. then it went from bad to worse for bobby kennedy. he finally shut up and for three hours he listened. which was unusual for white men of power to listen to black people and to listen to their eloquence, their pain, their poetic trauma. poetic because it was expressed that way not because of its existence. he was forced to listen and he got mad. he went and got the fbi and six of them on those people. he got dossiers on everyone there.
if they had already started them, he began it. the white liberal, wiretapped those people out of anger. which led, clarence jones was the lawyer for both bobby - - for james baldwin and martin luther king jr. it landed eventually to the surveillance of mlk. he did that but he can't down eventually and said if i was black, i might be full of rage as well.he began to change his mind. he encouraged his brother to give a speech that accentuated moral nature of race. and along with the political nature. and he began himself to rethink his own understanding and became far more empathetic. you know at the end of his life, he was seen as the most
trusted white man in america. at least one of them for african-american people and died a martyr. not only for poor people in america but for racial justice as well. >> to that's chapters 1 and tw . pages 1-86. [laughter] the first chapter is called the meeting and the second chapter is called the politicians. i will say what's interesting about this in hearing you talk about it, we met with president obama twice. i met with loretto lynch once. people have a lot to say before they see the president. they're like, i'm going to tell him this. and then they're like, thank you president obama. i'm a member the last meeting we had was a big meeting and was probably 30-40 of us in the eisenhower building. because the white house rooms are very small. i just got out of jail in baton rouge. i spoke to obama afterwards. i said you can't call people thugs.he said you say things on tv you shouldn't say. i said, i'm not the president.
he said, you are right. but it is interesting, this idea. i wanted to ask you about it. you talked about this idea of wanting to giveget black folks the room that hadn't been deputized and were beholden to organizations. when you write about the - - ferguson is an present here. somebody who's industry in ferguson, i don't know how to think about the current moment of unrest without it being treated in the 400 days we stood in the streets.i think about, we were not part of any organization. no organization started those protests. but you do talk about hillary and activist. you actually only reference people who are in organizations. i wanted to understand what happened to ferguson.
>> this was part of reparations by having you here tonight. guide me through and take me to task in public. i will play bobby kennedy right now. [laughter] but you are absolutely right. it's not that you can't do anything but that's a central moment. you're not talking about peripheral stuff. and i probably was cautious enough and careful enough to think about how i was going to talk about trans movement and african-american struggle along the front lines of gender and so on and missing a major response, resistance and engagement with the truth of what i'm talking about. you are absolutely right. when i write part two, i certainly want to dig deeper into that because i'm working
on other stuff. what you're absolutely right that's a glaring absence that needs to be addressed. my editor is probably listening now on c-span and will do that in the paper. i want to in terms of drawing the parallels, is to show the people in organizations to a certain degree have been radicalized in a way that wasn't necessarily the case in the 60s. i don't want to idealize what's going on now but has a historical trajectory. what i mean by that is, that you know, for one of the things about many movements is that they begin in ways people who are part of the movement may not be as conversant with the past as they ought to be. and is necessary in order for them to understand that they are running a marathon and not a sprint. one of the reasons i wanted this young man here is when i first met him in first engage with him. i was impressed with the complete command of what happened before. knowing that history. being inducted into an
awareness and consciousness of what preceded him. that is so critical and crucial. on the one hand, while acknowledging thenecessity for that , i think the younger people who are involved in organizations now took advantage of that knowledge. those who were informed, knowing they didn't want to quote, sell out. working what you did in ferguson, what barbara is doing now. i think with the campaign reviving that historic legacy. he left, to your point. thenthe naacp which with which was connected in north carolina. you are right about those that stand outside the system and organizations that are formally recognized.what's interesting here as you know, people are
ambiguous about whether martin luther king was invited to that dinner. they said they want to be able to tell the truth without being beholden to that but kenneth clark, another great intellectual. in fact, the most celebrated social scientists of his day. >> you talk about him in the intellectual chapter. >> that's right. got to give intellectuals some love. >> that chapter doesn't start with love. >> i keep it real. kenneth park was a remarkable figure in the mold of a great social scientists were looking at the world through their own intellectual and analytical prism but also trying to figure out how to address the looming racial crisis. especially in the north.what bobby kennedy wanted to do was to address the urban crisis he saw brewing.
the thing that brought him to baldwin and these other figures is how do you figure out what to do with the rising rate of rage per square inch and black america and what we do about it because they're being attracted to the black muslims and their turning away from nonviolence. at the same time, he was beefing with the nonviolent folks. - - so he was tormented between those two and martin luther king jr. was both inside and outside. as he got more radical and older and more mature, he began to challenge the presuppositions and principles of those raining organizations. the civil rights discourse. the politics of respectability to a certain degree. that was the tension going on there. and i wanted to mark the fact that younger generations, without romanticizing and idealizing, took a lesson from
the older people and even within those organizations. a guy like you, you're on tv. people know who you are but you've maintained a respect for the protocol and etiquette of that at the same time as your challenging that. speaking to obama. acknowledging his power, respecting him. respecting his office and his person and your challenging him at the same time. that i think is a beautiful development of your generation of activists who take a page from an earlier ethics but also apply it in ways that are quite interesting. what i wanted to do their 's call upon both of those traditions and allow them to talk to each other across the chasm of the ages. >> there's another - - in the room. just got finished arguing with the police chief and she looked that obama and she goes, that's not my name. and he and a pleasure like what's happening? he's like, i'm so sorry. it was this amazing moment. but they were yelling back and forth across the room. i go to say something to her
but i'm like, this is not my meeting. he's the president. if you want to let them yell i guess were yelling in the meeting. he says, i want to make sure i hear you. that's the way he diffuses it and it's like this moment, where you're like, obama that was good. this on page 21, he said bobby had forsaken the god of his youth only to discover a richer love that fed the heart of his witness and prophecy. it made me think about barbara right now who's doing the poor people's campaign. one of her big asks is about moral courage. this is a two-part question. one is how do you wrestle with the seeming absence of god in the way we talk about activism or the non-presence in the way that it was. the moment was sort of born in churches before and this moment was not.the second is, does
barbara's call for moral courage mean anything today or does it mean anything in the absence of god? is that actually enough? is moral courage wants to get us on the other side of freedom or does the ask me to be something more? >> that's a very powerful question in a theologically sophisticated one. i told you emerson was going to show up. that's how we justify god's ways before human beings and wrestle with the presence of evil in the face of the claim that god is good and all-powerful and present and intending our good and at the same time, we are being subverted by evil practices that make us question whether or not any good exists to begin with. what's interesting is that, martin luther king jr., as one of the most signal voices of the 60s and arguably, the greatest freedom fighter that's been born in this nation. as you said, along with many
other people, men and women, through their inspiration from the black church. but what's interesting is that the majority of the black church wasn't - - to them in terms of theology. martin luther king jr. had to leave the national baptist convention along with - - who was a great preacher. if you've never heard of him, look him up william augustus jones. oh my god. with a set of carlisle marnie, he had a voice like god, but only deeper. william augustus jones, they said afterset sundown after supper. wondering who's going to be the big shot in the kingdom of god. great poet if nothing else. when you hear a td jakes, frederick haynes, when you hear a carolyn knight.
some of our great preachers, you hear the command of frederick but also the ability to preach sermons that convince people that their lives are worth something that convinces them of the integrity of their spiritual existence in light of the belief that god walks with them and that the suffering will not exhaust their existence. so martin luther king jr. was part of that tradition and at the same time, he was read as a marginal figure because of his political activity. jh jackson who was the head of the national baptist convention was a very conservative negro leader. and preacher. so he didn't want all of that civil-rights heresy. this tension between conservative blacks and more progressive blocks, didn't just start. so martin luther king jr. and his cohort had to leave the national baptist convention, basically forced out to start
the progressive national baptist convention. millions of members, about 2-3 in the progressive national baptist convention. even there, let's admit it. all black people benefited from the civil rights movement. most black people didn't participate. very small numbers of people, it's true today too. very true today. when i ask jesse jackson, how did you get involved with martin luther king jr. directly? you were a young 25-26-year-old. you go to selma and the next thing we know, you're part of theorganization . he said the line wasn't long to come die with king. come be assassinated with me. i think i'm going to become a banker. as you know. i wasn't being hyperbolic. and the threats you've confronted. the reality is, is that martin
luther king jr. drew from a movement was moral center was deeply entrenched and rooted in the black church and get the political expression and articulation of that spiritual sensibility made him a marginal figure within it. he was on the edges, on the periphery. martin luther king jr. denied the bodily resurrection of jesus at 14. when he began as a liberal theologian, theological figure. a lot of people probably couldn't have stood his own understanding of the gospel and his relationship to the bible. he was in a biblical literalist. he understood the metaphoric intensity and the symbolic power of the gospel. yet, that gospel convinced him ofhis ultimate significance as a child of god . he and many others, mobilized the masses of african-american people and america. by literally appealing to their consciousness to transform this culture.
you ask a brilliant question. what about now when there's been a shift toward more secular leadership? it was true before that black ministers were leaders, why? because black ministers had more education than most people. black ministers had access to college. many of them. we know the reason black people were attracted to be methodists and baptists was because they had loose organizational structures and lower educational demands. when you are enslaved, you couldn't go to college. that's why methodists and baptists attractive black ministers because they could participate because the spirit moves them. notbecause they had the credentials . amazonian traditions did not attract negroes in the masses. because of their strict and stringent and racially tinged demand for educational achievement.
so now, when people get access to college, a lot more people than ministers are educated. you have a whole class of business people, whole class of secular leaders or political figures who grow up. they begin to challenge the dominance of the church.obama in one sense was probably the first major national black figure who was able to appropriate the residents of a profit in - - himself. obama comes along with the culture between he and jeremiah wright, he ain't no profit, that is obama. but he played one on television. and black people assigned him ultimate moral worth. god has assigned obama this
position in life. a lot of black people prayed for obama. believed he was the embodiment of the messianic impulse. which is interesting because they're mad at preachers for being messianic and on the other hand, who was a bigger messiah than barack obama? both to our credit but also to our demise. and chagrin of many people who were observing. obama was the first black political figure who could explicitly undercut the moral authority of the black church by laying claim to being a prophet himself. because he was the embodiment of the prophetic wish of black people to have political authority. now we moved into a , we can say post-christian, post preacher leadership class. but we still know a lot of black ministers are leaders themselves. a lot of leaders are influenced by the church but there has been a diminishing if you will influence of that particular institutional expression of
black religion. but that will hold on it is what's interesting but to answer your question, when barbara talks about moral courage, what he's talking about is to translate the institutions and theological accents and beliefs of the black church into moral language that is appealing to the masses. this is what martin luther king jr. did so brilliantly. people try to compare jerry falwell or some of these right wing ministers to king. they're using the gospel the rest that's not what king did. they were using their religious belief to justify this as a christian nation and to make everybody bow down at the altar of their narrow interpretation of christianity. king used his christian beliefs to make this a morally just nation so that everybody could participate regardless of their religious orientation. now we have religious bigots. howard thurman, the great
teacher of martin luther king jr. was an king's briefcase as he traveled across the country. he said a bigger is a person who makes an idol of his commitments. these religious bigots who worship at the altar of their own narrow understanding of the faith. fetishizing their own theology. didn't understand what king was trying to do king was trying to open up space so that whosoever will, regardless of your faith, religion, class or culture could participate. so there's - - but the language survives. the moral orientation survives. and more than most other people, black folks to be going to church, still. even if they ain't going to church, church comes to them. beyonci is a secular priest. she's got a church after her already. queen bee. there's deeply profoundly religious houston-based
understandings of the gospel. but she's a - - christian the same way kendrick lamar is. were taking the gospel into the broader wall so in the secular arena, it is coloring the lens through which people view god but god in that sense has been unleashed from the narrow theological prison that some of the earlier people worshiped at. worship through. worshiped with. now there's a new challenge of foot to figure out if we can translate some of the theology we believed, 20-50 years ago into new forms right now. king found the language to speak to the masses. in about 1989, justice is what love sounds like when it speaks in public. martin luther king jr. inspired
me to write that phrase because he found a way to say universally, if you are concerned as a human being, you and i are brothers and sisters. that's the kind of post religious, post-christian identity we need to embrace . i would rather be with an atheist that claim to know god but does the right thing every day that a christian who wants to send me to hell because my score is too short and i've got to much makeup on or i'm gay or trans and things that god is cosigning their bigotry. that's the kind of thinking was moving toward and i think that's the arena with which william barber happens to be operating right now. [applause] >> were going to questions and answers in a second. this is my last question so don't give us too long of an answer. you set this up though, this is perfect.on page 106, you say harry belafonte and jay-z are
at odds. hip-hop culture ripped up the unspoken social agreement that was in place long before the modern civil rights movement. this agreement held and disagreement politics is crucial for black success. in this vein you talk about, you are a big jay-z fan. he is all over the book. he also talked about beyonci, i love them both. they've been very kind to the movement. there are people who worry about hip-hop. there are people who look at some of the artists who glorify domestic violence. glorified drugs at a scale that's not just about telling the truth. about the lives they lived in hard neighborhoods but it's something different. there are people who worry about what that looks like. the r kelly's of our time. that's not about telling a truth about something that's really bad or maybe that is. then there are people that
argue hip-hop is this expression that is radical. what do we do about the differences between the two in this moment. i think about r kelly as sort of the best example and the second is, do you worry about the way social justice has become its own industry? i think about the people that didn't stand with us in 2014. who didn't come down or send a flyer, money or anything and now they're doing specials on abc . it's like this thing where you can make money. do you worry the symbolism has taken over the work? that the artists have come in and made it, figured out how to make it an industry but the outcomes are changing. there's a whole chapter for those of you with not yet read the book called the artists. i wanted to ask these questions. one is how do you deal with some of it telling the truth,
some of it is r kelly. and we worry about the industry the artists have created out of social justice? >> that's why this man is here! that's a great point. to your first point, of course. i'm an old man.i'm 59 years old. thank you. [laughter] you are first in line, ma'am. i'm an old guy, relatively speaking. trying to spit lyrics, nothing worse than seeing an old man trying to be young and hanging out with rappers. it's horrible. of course we worry and rappers as they get older, start worrying. start aging out. this is an explosive artform. it's so influential. it's so powerful. there are multiple generations. can't talk about the hip-hop generation. you talk about little flip, little john, little wayne,
those littles are generationally specific. some of y'all will have to be big at some point. just grow up. and then you've got the attention in terms of the rhetorical fluidity and the percussive spirit of mumble rap. i joke about mumble rap as an older guy. you know what i'm saying, i really don't know what you're saying?i mean, no. [mumbling] >> like, what in the hell are you saying? i'm with you. migos. i'm down with all that. i joke about it but i love the fact, mumble rap is kind of a
blues aesthetic. cadence and rhythm are accentuated. james brown moved from the fluidity of an r&b aesthetic to a percussive so the be it self dictated the context of its interpretation , that is the music and the music itself became an expression of the funk aesthetic. it was about all the crap in the world. that's what funk music is. if james brown birthed it then maybe - - raised it or vice versa. either way, those figures were critical. now i think mumble rap is doing the same thing.it's about the feel they give you. the blues aesthetic they are communicating. a cosmos of suffering condensed into algorithms and lyrics that intensely communicate the suffering implicitly, even if the words are full of joy. so i've got love for them. i've got love for what they do but as james brown would say, your point is so powerful because you can't act like you've got noinfluence on people . how many dang algorithms do we need to hear about.
although daytona is don't but push a period is beating with drake. i'm teaching a class on drake's fall because i love drake. >> i don't think drake won that battle. >> the battle ain't over yet. >> is it true that you called kim and kanye because slavery is not a choice. >> i did call. he posted i was like, can we talk.i love kanye. i'm a huge fan. i talked to that he turned the phone over. he said my wife is taking over and i said that's probably a
good idea. i believe in systematic social justice. i believe in systematic approaches to criminal justice reform so i don't believe in individualistic easels but thank god she wanted to talk to donald trump and sister johnson got pardoned today. that's a good thing. commuted. that's a good thing. i will celebrate that. but not justice. that something approximating and it's better than what she had. for me, i talked to them like, you know i'm not down. he admitted later on it was my mental illness that led me to say that slavery was a choice. but back to your point, there is a great deal of suffering that needs to be addressed the artist have to be held accountable for. it's not simply as you read the passage in my book, i acknowledge the degree to which respectability politics
precluded the recognition of certain artistic achievement by young black people who were hip-hop artist. the whole genre was getting dissed. the whole genre. i was there. they were think this is - - that needs to be embraced. they were like, shut that noise off. especially when flavor flav came on, yeah boy! shut it off. it's terrible. it's going to be over in 10 years. you're not even music. it's stupid. that's what black people were saying. white record executives were going, you mean you had an idea . six weeks later you had a record that couldn't be played on radio, selling it out the back of your truck. and five weeks after that you sold half 1 million with no
video play, come here negroes. come here. they capitalized, commercializ , fostered it. these are the people that didn't want black people to be responsible. they didn't invest, like your point about ferguson. now people who demand ethical responsibility and moral culpability weren't invested in trying to nurture these young people. talking to them, speaking to them, trying to engage them in serious fashion. then it got rapidly, to fight, made into a fetish and now it became something that white kids in the suburbs are checking out on the regular. so yes, there is something worrying to all of us who are concerned about the impact of art on consciousness. the vast magnitude of repetition that goes around,
getting money. getting paid at all expenses. black people killing other black people. seeing them as less than human in the way of which of the celebration of a certain kind of ethic of courage. on one sense, better to do what on wax than in real life. but it's happening in your life too. so is it reinforcing it? i would never argue that it's causing it. i will say this, as the great - - says, everybody ain't guilty but everybody's responsible. all of us have a responsibilit . r kelly, i interviewed him one night, 2:00 on my marvin gaye book. an amazing genius but there's something deeply and profoundly wrong. not only with the fact that he was abused. and then he abused. but the culture of neglect of the very bodies of gay and lesbian young people. abuse young black people. of women. who have been abused.
which is the #metoo movement insistence that the rage they feel in the face of neglect has to be privileged and made a priority as we grapple with the place of women's bodies in our political imagination. so yeah, we've got to wrestle with that stuff. and rappers can't be the both bomb and everything stays cold and impactful and then think you don't have responsibility for what you say. that's what harry belafonte teaches us. he was the first artist in america to sell 1 million copies of an album. with calypso. first artist. this wasn't no dude that said, i think i'm going to become political and conscientious. he was at his height and did what he did. comparable to what beyonci's evolution and development, as the most gifted global entertainer right now and her
own unapologetic blackness. people like you are surrounding her, in her ear i wrote the introduction to her lemonade book. the fact that young people like you are informing a context within which it makes sense for her to emerge.is extremely important.there's a dialectical tension and relationship between social pressure and movement and self-realization as an artist. you can only realize yourself to the degree that a social movement provides a schema, an agenda of what's possible. then i will answer your second question briefly.it's jacked up. you are out there. you were on the streets. is there a - -. of course there is. it's predictable because this is what happens with commerce
and capital and commodity in the fetish of things and material. even revolutions get commodified. they will be selling these jackets. get your jacket here. >> it's a vest. >> sorry but that looked like a jacket to me. you need to start selling it first. get your mckesson right here. he needs to get paid. the people who need money and got the money and the people who - - don't need the cash. got plenty of dough. the way to take up a collection for this brother right here. for real. amen. [applause] >> but that's the cycle of capital. that's what happens when we commodified and make a thing out of our resistance.
this is what karl marx was trying to say with labor. you become alienated from your own work. the stuff you produced you don't even know anymore because you don't have a relationship because somebody steps in, buys it from you. resell's, makes a lot more dough you can even support your family. so yes, with our social movement, social justice can become a commodity. a thing. a fad. your point was more poignant in terms of artist that come along that make a little money off of that without recycling it back to the very communities that need it. one of the reasons i love jay-z and beyonci even before harry belafonte, they were quietly doing that and then stepped it up in a more public fashion, subsequent to that. there's a great dangerin the stopping commodified . work, it's tough to think about martin luther king jr.'s speeches and the things he did. and who has control and ownership of that. how does that pay off? i'm not against the king family
at all because they suffered the greatest loss of all. but at the same time, we want young schoolchildren to hear the i have a dream speech. we want them to know the contributions of a king. there's a danger in commodified and making a fetish and a material possession out of something that began in deep and profound harbor. that's why some people were pissed that kanye paid $85,000 for the cover of - - the relationship between commodity and conscience. has to be teased out there. i know we are about to go, where is rather edysonbrother e? this is the anniversary.tell us what this anniversary is. >> the anniversary of - - death he used to teach him at rikers. >> the young man, because he
couldn't afford bail.got sent to jail at rikers. this young man was his teacher. i just want to take a couple minutes to speak here tonight. come up here so they can see you. >> this is not planned by the way. >> we want you to be on tv, do . >> we love you, eddie. [applause] >> hello. this is sort of impromptu. i didn't teach - - on rikers, i do teach creative writing on rikers island but i was mentoring him back home in the south bronx after he was released. for those of you who don't know, he spent three years on rikers island for a crime he did not commit.allegedly stole a backpack. he spent more than 300 days in
solitary confinement. and this was aftera 16-year-old. i think the only thing i would say. first thank you doctor michael eric dyson for inviting me to the stage. it's nice to come here and here these two brilliant folks speak about justice. but i think we could all, i think they could do without the praise and they would invite the help. it means a lot more to join the work then to applaud the folks doing the work. for folks like - - who are gone now and then his mom passed. the headline on the newspaper was, she died of a broken heart. the irony was that was an ironic that she did in fact i of a broken heart. because she lost her son. just join us in the work. thank you.[applause]
>> let's give it up for doctor dyson. we are about go to q&a, but let's give it up. [applause] >> deray mckesson. deray mckesson up here. [applause] >> if you have questions, i think i'm told you're going to line up at this microphone. this microphone. >> we have time for a few question so you can lineup down the center aisle. >> or comments, philosophies, poems, lyrics. contributions. speaking of commodified. >> he will be around to sign books after. >> good evening, thanks for being here. i'm a resident of massachusetts and all year we are celebrating the 200th birthday of frederick
douglass who wrote his first autobiography there. i'm curious, it's a two-part question. i'm curious if frederick douglass had any particular impact on you over the course of your career and your life and if so, how? but also, i scanned the book and i think i saw only one reference to frederick douglass. do you think that frederick douglass and his works are a bit passi by now? are we past the point of really learning anything from frederick douglass because that much further forward in time? >> great point. no. everybody has their list. you think about in your own mind. given the era in which i emerged. my whole patriarchal presumptions that i have to always hold intention in check. when i think about the greatest leaders, martin luther king jr., frederick douglass, jesse jackson, harriettubman .
i think he's an incredible, powerful figure. he influenced me deeply. frederick douglass said literacy unfit a child for slavery. that's one of the greatest lines, about what literacy will do. it will make you uncomfortable with being a subordinate to somebody or something and not learning. learning your way out of it is the most brilliant approach one might imagine. it was updated with george clinton. we said free your mind and your - - will follow. [applause] for me, frederick douglass was extremely important. we set up your talking about virtuosity. in the book i talk about a lot of virtuosity that - - spoke about in one of the greatest rappers i heard was hamilton and - - but he talks about
virtuosity and the pursuit of that. who was more virtuous with the word than frederick douglass? what to the negro is the fourth of july? in asking these questions and poignantly raisingpraising them subsequent generations to learn from. even his evolution where he became a bit more conservative at the end of his life is instructive about how we mature and grow and what things can and cannot occur to those were involved in the movement. but yeah, he's an extremely important figure continues to inform, not only my thinking but the thinking of another generation. what was the second part of your question? >> whether you think his prevalence has faded simply because we're just further forward in time? >> let me be brief. in my book, until five years ago, james baldwin was passi. it's hard to think about that
now. deray mckesson and the group and ferguson and black lives matter more generally, with the three sisters at its home helped revive james baldwin because we have to provide a language for the best of those leaders. there's always junk in every generation but for the best of those leaders were doing what they're doing, james baldwin was dragged from historical this memory into a present place where we have to explain a deray mckesson. - - so many of these younger activists, activate such profound resonances from a previous generation and generations that we have to have somebody who was there then, help explain what's going on.
and james baldwin was right on the cutting edge. people weren't checking for him. they were thinking about him. the social movements that joined as black lives matter did existential witness to the demand for public policy. that's a unique fusion. the older, martin luther king jr. and all of them, self-care. they don't know what that is. i wish they would have. those of us were older laugh at the young people when they bring up self-care. martin luther king jr. didn't stop saying i can't go to birmingham, i've got to take a mental health day. you laugh at that but i'll tell you what, which kanye word would. i wish a lot of leaders. gandhi said i have to take care of myself because if i don't take care of myself, i'm not going to be good for you.
it's not selfishness. that's what we see performed everyday is narcissism. everything is about himself. but we can learn about an ethic of self-care, it's about protecting the very carrier, body, infrastructure and anatomy the must articulate the meaning of the dream. when martin luther king junior was murdered. 39 years old. when an assassin's bullet traveled with evil speed across a chasm of space and snipped his necktie, shattered his jaw and his fever on the ground traveling like bicycling. ralph abernathy came out of room 306 and the motel and too , extracted from a laundered shirt a cardboard into the mason jar and swept the blood into it saying this is the blood of the profit. shed for us. they opened up his body, he was 39 years old.
for the revival to occur. [applause] that makes me very proud that we are bringing him back to life. >> thank you. >> i have to give shorter responses. >> i want to thank you both for your commitment. i am 59 as well -- >> you look much better than me. [laughter] >> thank you. in the times that we are in today, i vividly remember my father was a soldier crying when martin luther king died.
i'd never seen my father cry before. but every day still i want to cry because we are living in the same times. i feel the same anxiety that i felt in the 60s and early 70s that i feel today. but we weren't there with you, we were not there at ferguson. we stayed in our capitalist comfortable environment and said look at them i am so proud of them, but we didn't stand up with you. so my question kind of to those of you is how do we bridge the gap? i want to step up, but i don't want to lose my job, so how do we do that? this is where we are touring right now. [applause] >> i was 400 days when people if you saw on the street it was in that it wasn't that it was the cool thing to do on an october
october 2014 we were arrested and i remember that every day because that was the america we were told was behind us than but then it was like we lived it. in this moment i do think there are people like fifth grade as puberty and the other end but it's still sort of magical. [laughter] i taught my students and they asked if they could go to jenin early and i said you definitely can because i'm tired of hearing it. they came back quickly and i said why are you back and they said they were in love with the idea of gym more than the work of it. and the idea is important. the idea of freedom and your question what does the work look like. one is a focus on the structure. programs mostly exist because the system couldn't figure out
how to do it right in the first place and a lot of the programs are doing the sort of we are going to make the decision for poor people of color so you should join the program because we are going to make the decision as opposed to empowering people to make the decision for themselves. the second thing is we need to figure up a sacrifice peace. people look at me like he made a million dollars to -- splenic id faulted on my student loan if anybody wants to pay back. this is the cost to do it. i think we can have nuance and we should you've got to give up something whether it is your time, energy. but more than that, one of the things that is hard at this moment is there are people interested in doing something and then the infrastructure to deal with the interest. they are trying to figure out how to scale the involvement and
people are struggling and if we figure out how to do it with some links, nobody figured out how to do it after the 2,000, the 50,000. and i hope voting is one way and this is the way they talked about it as the thing. i devoted my life, life tonight with pepper to my pepper spray, i got arrested. it's one important way i don't have an answer to the first thing i did is make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. that became a way that we get all these other things. i had all these followers on twitter and i made amazing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. people think if it doesn't start big it doesn't matter them about the organizing that i know started in somebody's living room and basement. they saw a problem.
>> i make a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. [laughter] [applause] i don't want to just sit on the sidelines anymore. i want to figure out how we help people because you guys are the future. so how do we hope that continue. i brought my son with me, 24-years-old and had no idea he knew who you were so it's like we are not even talking. how do you change that? >> to add to the marching orders i would say a couple things. in my book i had a quote from howard stern that i mentioned already whose head resist the temptation to reduce your dreams to the event you are confronting right now. you can't reduce what you're going through to who you are.
and so, our forbearance imagine a world we can't even begin to think about with far less resources. so you can't reduce the complexity to where we are now. donald trump isn't god made he will be out after a four-year term and certainly eight. i'm saying for real, we are not doing the work to get him out. please don't believe that. we are bellyaching on the sidelines but in terms of the infrastructure of resistance, voting is one. black women have used voting like hank williams, like dolly parton, their nephew. so, black women have taught us you can do that even from the systemic limits limits are imposed upon voting they found a way to get jones into office in
alabama. and so, what you have to say is it's like that saturday night live thing with chris rock and dave chapelle. white people are going zero my god it's the worst thing ever. never in history. jim crow, the horrors of black people every day. donald trump is trading at america like a and b. are used to it. but white folks are saying jiminy crickets what is this. that's what we felt like. it's what we have been warning you about for 300 years. we've been telling you. it's what it is. he is literally the thesaurus
reduced to one body and i don't give a dang about anybody else. his understanding of patriotism is the exclusive one. so, don't make the mistake of believing that this is the worst that we've been. you were post-truth when you came in. you said you've extracted africans from their resting place at the behest of god to save their savage souls. you imposed truth already. what you call salvation in digest people call genocide. look at the confederate flag it
wasn't about slavery but about states rights. do you hear what i'm saying to you? so, the notion that this is new and that i'm amazed the media is upset because he gets treated like the media treated us all along the media has done with donald trump is trained to them they sit there at the press conference with a articulating visceral indignity and we are supposed to be sympathetic to the state and yet the same media crushes us a daily reproducing the pathology of stereotype to make us believe. and if i people watch more tv than anybody else and we buy into that more than anybody else. so, do yourself a favor.
don't believe that the whole horizon is reduced to this moment. see beyond it. there is a new day coming. [applause] >> michael eric dyson will be here to sign your book. let's give it up one last time. [applause] [cheering] >> i am a baptist. i know that this is a church right now so this is what i'm going to ask. i am a baptist preacher moved by
the spirit. i want to take a collection for this young man right here. i don't know if you all passed the plate i want somebody to get an offering plate and i'm going to dig into my pocket i want you to take up a collection here tonight. it's got to be all-cash -- just joking. for the work that he's doing we are talking about it. theoretically he is on the front line every day. he isn't rich. he came here with a tremendous sacrifice and i just want you out of the kindness of your heart, i want you all to do that there is a basket right there. let's get some more.
i'm going to pass comment, get your offering ready, check the card, credit card, we even take food stamps. [laughter] will get that right there. i want you to pass this down. just like at if church everybody just march up here. i will stand here, you come up world by -- row by row. >> if you were in the left of second i'll please head towards the back of the hall after you make your donation. thank you. jim will be holding the basket. in [inaudible conversations]