“Make America the best it can be”: Author Michael Eric Dyson speaks at 36th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration

Abi Pepin, Reporter

Over 400 students and faculty members attended a virtual night for the 36th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Tuesday.

Michael Eric Dyson, author, cultural critic and media commentator, spoke at App State’s commemoration for King in 2016.Dyson has written over 20 books addressing subjects such as Barack Obama, Hurricane Katrina, Jay-Z and his most famous, “Tear We Cannot Stop.”

Students and faculty from App State, East Carolina University, Western Carolina University and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington attended the event.

Dyson is a sociology professor at Georgetown University and has taught at Brown University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Dyson said King was committed to the fundamental principles of justice, freedom and democracy for Black people throughout the nation.

On the third Monday each January, the U.S. celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday by participating in acts of service.

Due to COVID-19, Appalachian and the Community Together canceled its annual MLK Challenge, but still provided students with resources and volunteer opportunities alongside Intercultural Student Affairs.

Dyson said we often think about the famous “I Have a Dream” speech when remembering Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

“What I want you to do is not only honor that speech, but I want to suggest that we move beyond that one speech into a broader interpretation of the ideas of Dr. King,” Dyson said. 

Dyson said King urged Americans to raise their voices and be honest about the limitations imposed upon Black people.

The Black Lives Matter movement campaigns against violence and systemic racism. Dyson said King anticipated the movement in many ways.

“Young people, who were organized and deeply disciplined, were trying to leverage their authority to figure out a way to resist white supremacy and challenge inequality,” Dyson said. “Dr. King showed an appreciation for the Black Lives Matter movement of his day.”

Dyson said that the struggle King went through allowed the nation to reflect on the ideals he left behind.

“So make America the best that it can be,” Dyson said. “Have a commitment to racial justice, have a commitment to racial equality, have a commitment to making certain that every element of our community is supported.”