The Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson delivers another hard-hitting message with his new book, “What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America.”
His latest work recounts a historic 1963 meeting between then-U.S. Attorney General Kennedy, novelist Baldwin and other Black activists and artists deeply involved in the civil rights movement and shows how issues discussed 55 years ago still remain unresolved.
The powerful preacher, scholar, and national political commentator appears in Los Angeles this weekend to expound on the topic of race and hopes to inspire believers and nonbelievers alike to take action.
On Saturday, June 16, at 4 p.m., Dyson will speak at Nate Holden Performing Arts Center as part of “Conversations with Tavis Smiley.” Pastor Kelvin Sauls and Holman United Methodist Church will host the celebrated writer and political commentator on Sunday, June 17, at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Also, Dyson will sign copies of his book following each worship service.
In an interview with the L.A. Sentinel, Dyson urged believers to take a greater role in improving race relations.
“Jesus is a justice warrior and Jesus has committed to transforming our American culture,” insisted Dyson. “The church has to step up and be responsible for fighting on the front lines for what is right. Our role and responsibility is not simply to sing songs in the church, but to serve outside the boundaries of the sanctuary as well.”
Expanding on the background of “What the Truth Sounds Like,” Dyson explained that the meeting between Baldwin and Kennedy occurred as a result of Kennedy’s desire to understand the reason for “the rage that was brewing then in Black America, especially in urban centers.”
Baldwin invited his friends to attend, including playwright Lorraine Hansberry, actress Lena Horne, entertainer Harry Belafonte and Jerome Smith, a heralded Freedom Rider who had been viciously beaten many times for attempting to integrate interstate bus lines.
“Kennedy was expecting it would be a nice conversation where they would express gratitude for all of the things that his brother (President John F. Kennedy) had done and it turned out to be quite different than that. Kennedy got an earful of the heartbreak, trauma, rage and anger of Black America,” said Dyson.
Initially angered by the comments, Kennedy later calmed down and compiled with Baldwin and his friends’ request that he speak about race as a moral issue and not just a political one.
“Kennedy encouraged his brother to do the same. He also began to rethink race and became an advocate for racial justice in America as an American politician,” Dyson said.
Reflecting on the current increase in racial tensions, Dyson noted, “Today, we have a president trying to tell Black athletes that they are disrespecting the flag, when the real issue is social justice, economic inequality and the degree to which racism continues to infect American society and young, unarmed Black people are being murdered at astonishing and alarming rates in our society.”
To learn more about Dyson’s visit, call Holman UMC at (323) 731-7285.