You've got to have a big personality to make it in the world of talk radio. After all, you're job is to captivate people who can only hear the sound of your voice. That shouldn't be a problem for award-winning author and social commentator Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, who begins his second foray into radio with a one-hour, weekday news program starting April 6 in 18 markets across the country. ESSENCE.com caught up with the opinionated Georgetown University professor to find out what his show is all about, the issues he's not afraid to confront, and how in the world he got Oprah Winfrey to be his very first guest.
ESSENCE.COM: How does it feel to be back on the radio? MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I'm equally as excited as I was the first time around, and being on public radio is a great audience because you can assume a level of curiosity, intellectual engagement and critical reflection from your guests and callers. I think it's a good fit.
ESSENCE.COM: What are some of the issues you plan to talk about on the show?
DYSON: We'll talk about all the social issues that are pressing Americans today, but in particular those that are affecting Blacks, like the economy, race in the age of Obama, the social distress of classism and poverty, and gender inequity. But I want to really take on subjects like gay and lesbian issues that are controversial to Black people who want to just hide under their religious and ecclesiastical cloths.
ESSENCE.COM: How did you score Oprah as your first guest?
DYSON: Like Tyler Perry, I gave her a Rolls Royce (laughs). No, I just got on my knees and begged her! She's a dear friend and a wonderful woman. We'll get a chance to talk about her venerable tenure as a great media titan and about her incredible commitment to bringing the truth to the masses.
ESSENCE.COM: You've also got Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson booked as guests. Is there anyone who isn't in your Rolodex?
DYSON: I've got a pretty decent one, and I have some folks I can call up and say, "Come on, ya'll, help a brother out." You don't accumulate those kinds of contacts for no reason. Why should I be selfish and keep them to myself? I want to share them with the world.
ESSENCE.COM: There seems to be fewer African-Americans in talk radio as several shows have been canceled. Do you think you're cracking the door open for us once again ?
DYSON: Black people listen to public radio but public radio has to reach out to us and acknowledge our existence. We have a lot of disposable income and intellectual capital. Why shouldn't we have a first rate, intellectually credible exploration of complicated ideas and pressing social issues on a popular form like radio?
ESSENCE.COM: How do you plan to have these types of conversations without alienating a mainstream audience?
DYSON: It's about creating a balance. I don't teach at Historically Black Colleges or Universities. I teach at White schools, so I talk to White folks every day. Part of my job will be to hopefully enlighten individuals but also to listen and interpret the experiences of African-Americans to a world that is sometimes ignorant of these experiences. I want to invite those people who stand outside our culture but who seek a point of entry. We don't want to alienate non-Blacks. There are universal lessons that anyone can learn in our culture.
To find out when and where "The Michael Eric Dyson Show" airs across the country, log on to dysonshow.org.