Contact: Jenni Smith
SMU News & Media Relations
(214) 768-7650


January 4, 2002


DALLAS (SMU) -- African-American and religious studies scholar and best-selling author Michael Eric Dyson will be the keynote speaker at the Southern Methodist University Perkins School of Theology’s 29th annual Laity Week March 7-10, replacing Cornel West, who is unable to participate for health reasons.

Dyson has been hailed for his rhetorical gifts in exploring how race affects American culture. He is the author of the national bestsellers Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line and I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr., the latter having been nominated for an NAACP Image Award. He recently published Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur.

Dyson’s keynote address, “The Church and Race in the 21st Century,” will be presented at 6 p.m., Saturday, March 9, in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballroom, 3140 Dyer St. on the SMU campus.

An ordained Baptist minister, Dyson is the Ida B. Wells-Barnett University Professor and Professor of Religious Studies at DePaul University in Chicago. He formerly taught at Chicago Theological Seminary, Brown University, Columbia University, the University of North Carolina and has lectured widely. He has appeared on Nightline, The Charlie Rose Show, Good Morning America, The Today Show and Oprah! and has been featured on National Public Radio and the Black Entertainment Television network.

His writings have appeared in publications including The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Vibe Magazine and Rolling Stone and has been featured in Time, U.S. News and World Report, The New Yorker, Essence, The Village Voice and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Dyson won the Gustavus Myers Center for Human Rights Award for his 1993 book, Reflecting Black: African American Cultural Criticism. Both The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer named his book, Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X , a Notable Book of 1994.

His latest book, But Do The Lord Care?: Theodicy and Black Religion, is scheduled to be published this year. A magna cum laude graduate of Carson-Newman College, Dyson earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in religion from Princeton University.

More than 300 laypersons from numerous denominations across the country are expected to attend this year’s Laity Week workshops and discussions on social issues as they relate to lay ministry. The event package cost is $190, which includes meals and two-day courses. Single event prices vary. The keynote dinner cost is $60. A reception with Dyson, with proceeds benefiting the Howard-Holbert Fund for laity education, will be conducted prior to the keynote banquet. Admission to the reception is $50 in advance. Special prices apply to registration prior to Feb. 18. Registrations received after Feb. 28 will not include meals. For more information, call 1-888-THEOLOGY, ext. 4, or visit the web site at

A dinner and panel discussion Friday evening on ethics and evil will feature Perkins School of Theology Dean Robin W. Lovin, who recently was named SMU’s Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics.

The Woodrow B. Seals Laity Award will be presented at a noon luncheon Saturday, March 9, at the Hughes-Trigg Student Center. The annual award is presented to persons who have exhibited a Christian faith and commitment exemplified by the late Judge Seals, a senior U.S. district court judge whose interest and energy were instrumental in establishing Laity Week at SMU.