WEST PALM BEACH — He’s known as the “Hip Hop Intellectual,” and he’s written such bestsellers as Debating Race, Why I Love Black Women, and Holler If You Hear Me, among others. He’s Michael Eric Dyson, Ph.D., one of today’s most prolific speakers and thought-provoking orators. He can often be seen on network TV discussing race, offering social analysis, cultural criticism and discussing hip hop.
The noted Georgetown University professor was honored June 12 with the Social Action Award. The award came from the West Palm Beach Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. at its Men of Excellence Awards 2010.
The event took place at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach. Due to a scheduling conflict, Dyson wasn’t able to attend the gala affair, but he sent a more-than-capable stand-in: his wife.
The Rev. Marcia Dyson is also an international speaker. Both she and her husband made headlines during the 2008 presidential campaign when she supported Hillary Clinton, even as her husband supported Barack Obama. They frequently debated the issue on TV networks such as CNN.
Ironically, it was Rev. Dyson who introduced her husband to now President Obama back in 1991. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and considers the president a personal friend, even though she’s worked with both Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Rev. Dyson accepted the award on behalf of her husband June 12, and delivered a compelling keynote speech to a crowd of more than 700. Via videotaped message, her husband told the audience members that they would not be disappointed upon hearing her.
“You will barely remember my name,” he insisted.
In fact, Rev. Dyson wowed the audience with her diverse message. She spoke of the love of God and the power of prayer, but also quoted rap star Notorious B.I.G., and even urged men not to allow the “little blue pill” to get them into trouble, an apparent reference to
“Don’t let the advancement of technology and pharmacy get you in trouble,” she cautioned them, drawing laughter and thunderous applause.
An intellectual, as is her husband, she clearly has charm and wit, and appeals to the hip hop generation as well as baby boomers.
“She and her husband complement each other so well,” said Charice Robinson, president of the sorority chapter.
Although Rev. Dyson has a passion for helping women, she urged the women in the audience to support men as they attempt to shape the nation.
“We need more good men. We need great men,” she urged.
She lauded the achievements of the other honorees.
“You truly are men of excellence,” she told them, often referring to them throughout her speech.
Among the night’s honorees was Damon Weaver, the pint-sized child reporter who interviewed Obama last year at the White House. Awarded the Journalism Award for scoring interviews with the likes of Obama and Oprah Winfrey, the 12-year-old told the audience that his journalism career started at that very same convention center when he interviewed (then vice presidential nominee) Joe Biden.
“And looks like since I’m going to a new school, it looks like it’s also ending here (at the convention center,”) he said.
Damon may have the opportunity to continue his journalism career, as he will attend Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, which has a communications program.
Among the other honorees were:
—Clarence Anthony, retired mayor of South Bay, Florida, whose love of reading led him to push for the first free-standing library in his community. Today, the library is named in his honor. He was awarded the Excellence in Governmental Services Award.
—The Excellence in Education Award went to Major Joseph Bernadel, co-founder and chief operating officer of Toussaint L’Ouverture High School for the Arts and Social Justice in Delray Beach. The charter high school uses the arts as a vehicle for social justice and individual change.
—The Excellence in Arts award was presented to Ralph Pittman Jr., musical director of the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church Choir and founder of Men of the Spirit Choir, West Palm Beach.
—The Excellence in Business Award was presented to Patrick J. Franklin, president and CEO of the Urban League of Palm Beach County.
—The Keeper of the Torch Award was presented to Operation Hope, Inc. Founder and Executive
Director Kenneth Bowers.
The Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Victor Blackwell, news anchor at WPBF 25 News, and entertainment was provided by saxophonist Jon Saxx.
Robinson said the evening was a success.
“It more than met our expectations,” she said.