Thursday, May 7, 2009
Paul Quinn College graduates get words of wisdom from Georgetown professor
In his famous unique style, Dyson cited lyrics from Black songs ranging from the blues of the 1940s to rap tunes of today to continuously make his points.
One of Black America’s most prolific speakers and intellectuals told Paul Quinn College graduates that they may even have to work harder – not less - to represent their community, even with a Black man as president.
“You be responsible for your life. Don’t be asking nobody else what they’ll do for you, you do it for yourself,” the Georgetown professor Dr. Michael Eric Dyson said on Saturday, during his keynote speech at PQC graduation exercises. “Structural barriers will arise from which you should prevail.”
In his famous unique style, Dyson cited lyrics from Black songs ranging from the blues of the 1940s to rap tunes of today to continuously make his points. Describing late singer James Brown as a “great philosopher” he belted out to the audience: “I don’t need nobody to give me nothing; open up the door I’ll get it myself,” from one of Brown’s hit songs.
“That’s what folk before you did,” Dyson told the graduates. “They were door openers, door tear-downers.”
Focusing much on Barack Obama’s historic rise to the presidency, Dyson, from his viewpoint, worked to set some matters straight, criticizing those who downplayed the seriousness of Obama’s candidacy.
“Folk think like he came out of nowhere,” Dyson said, who added: “He wasn’t the first brother that could have been president; he’s the first brother who got a shot to prove that he can be president.
“They wanted to make like [former presidential candidates] Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King, Jr. were holding the footstools for his rising. No, they opened up the door, they made the ideal of a Black man in the highest spot possible, they fought bitter battles with bigotry, they opened the way against racism and oppression, so that Barack Obama was graced and poised to step through that door.”
Referring to Obama being the 44th president, Dyson said: “Usually, when you associate Black masculinity with 44, it’s a high caliber pistol.”
“Obama didn’t come out of a vacuum and you don’t come out of a vacuum either,” Dyson lectured to the 80 graduates. “Don’t you forget to contribute to a struggle, that you think is over - it ain’t over.
“I’m glad you got a Black president, but Black misery, Black poverty and Black oppression is still real.
“We can’t afford to be half-stepping. We’ve got some more Barack Obamas up here. He’s like Jackie Robinson, the first one, but I’m looking for some Willie Mays and Hank Aarons behind him.”
Going into his well-known genre, the Detroit-bred and Motown sound-ingrained Dyson quoted lyrics by everyone from Biggie Smalls to Tupac Shakur, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Talib Kweli, Paul Robeson, Denise LaSalle, the Chi-lites and Stylistics, even getting into such a rhythm, he recited lyrics with the audience picking up the words at the end of each stanza.
Referring to lyrics in today’s rap music, Dyson said: “If you’re going to listen to that, get deep with it. Understand the social suffering and the economic inequality, the racism and white supremacy to what’s legitimate. Use that music and that inspiration to get deeper and identify with those that are vulnerable.”
While not necessarily connecting the modern fad of men sagging their pants with moral decay, Dyson said: “There’s some dudes and women who go to work every day who ain’t got no sagging pants, but they’re sagging the aspirations and hope of Black people. So I’d rather lift up your hopes and maybe your pants will follow.”
Seven ministers received honorary degrees at the commencement convocation. They included members of the “Bishop 5 Plus One” Denny D. Davis, Jeffrey Johnson, Anthony Sharp, Karry Wesley and Ralph West, all graduates of the now defunct Bishop College, where Paul Quinn now sits, and have held several revivals that have raised over $1 million for the school. Jerry Christian, who’s Kirkwood Temple CME has several Paul Quinn students as members, was also was an honorary recipient along with Darryl Ingram, secretary of Paul Quinn’s board of trustees.
Dr. Frederick Haynes was bestowed with the Trustee Award Martha Machen and Antwane Owens with the Faculty and Staff Award. Natalie Scott received the Student Award, Dr. Francine Childs the Alumni Award, Yolanda Burton the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award and Emerson Lattimore the M.K. Curry Bishop College Alumnus of the Year Award.
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