Author Michael Eric Dyson headlines MLK event

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Michael Eric Dyson

KALAMAZOO--Award-winning author, talk show host and scholar Dr. Michael Eric Dyson will speak this month at Western Michigan University as part of events celebrating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dyson, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University, has been described as "a Princeton Ph.D. and a child of the streets who takes pains never to separate the two." He will speak at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, at Miller Auditorium. The presentation, "Martin Luther King Jr. and (African) American Leadership in the 21st Century," is sponsored by the organizations You Beautiful Black Woman, the Black Student Union and the Young Black Males Support Network.

The former Detroit resident has written and edited some 18 books illuminating such luminary black American figures as King, Malcolm X and Marvin Gaye as well as detailing the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. In addition to Georgetown, he has taught at a number of high-profile institutions, including Brown University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Columbia University, DePaul University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Dyson used the 40th anniversary of King's assassination as the launching pad for his provocative book "April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Death and How it Changed America." The book examines how King fought and faced his own death and provides a starting point for a comprehensive reevaluation of the fate of black America over the four decades since King's death.

His 1994 book, "Making Malcolm: the Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X," became a New York Times notable book of the year. Dyson also garnered widespread acclaim for his 2006 book "Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster," in which he analyzes political and social events in the wake of the catastrophe against the backdrop of an overall "failure in race and class relations." The book won an American Book Award in 2007.

As a radio commentator, Dyson is host of the Michael Eric Dyson Show. The show's first guest was Oprah Winfrey, to whom Dyson dedicated his book "Can You Hear Me Now? The Inspiration, Wisdom and Insight of Michael Eric Dyson." He also is a commentator on National Public Radio and CNN and a regular guest on Real Time with Bill Maher. He is also a political analyst for MSNBC.

Dyson has not shied away from controversial subjects over the years. His books "Why I Love Black Women" and "Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?" both won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work-Non Fiction.

Raised in Detroit, Dyson became an ordained Baptist minister at age 19 and worked in Detroit factories to support his family. He entered Knoxville College as a freshman at age 21, received a bachelor's degree from Carson-Newman College and master's and doctoral degrees from Princeton University. He sits on the board of directors of the Common Ground Foundation, a project dedicated to empowering urban youth in the United States.

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