By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, mgreen@afro.com

Last weekend thousands of Black leaders, educators and power brokers descended into Washington, D.C. to celebrate The NETwork Black Integrated Communications Professionals (BICP) and AT&T’s first Employee Resource Group serving, educating and empowering the African American community for 50 years.

Before affirmative action, in 1969, three Black managers founded the nonprofit organization in order help AT&T meet its recruiting commitment to the National Alliance of Business.  From that, The NETwork BICP was birthed.  

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson discussed Black genius, resilience and hope for the future at The NETwork Black Integrated Communications Professionals (BICP) 50th celebration at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Crystal City, Va. (Photo by Rob Roberts)

Fifty years later and The NETwork BICP has 11,000 members with a mission,“to transform our future by empowering our members and our community today.”  According to a press release submitted by The NETwork BICP, the organization achieves its mission through scholarships, community service, academic youth enrichment and professional development.  Further, TheNetwork has contributed more than $22 million to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) since 1982.

As part of its future-oriented mission, the organization’s three-day 50th anniversary celebration was themed, “Standing on Our Legacy – Disrupting the Future.”

On Thursday, July 25, the organization celebrated with an opening reception at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the weekend-long festivities concluded with a gala and keynote speech from activist, author and educator Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.

Dyson kept it real with the thousands of guests by addressing several subjects important to the Black community’s history and future.  Holding no punches, Dyson talked about Black genius and resilience, the importance of ending homophobia in the Black community and the power of Black women. 

In signature Dyson style, he interspersed rap lyrics for emphasis in his speech and talked about the genius found within Hip-Hop lyricism.  

“ achieved the analogy, the word play, the double and triple and quadruple entendre.  Just to think that he never wrote that down,” Dyson said. “And you’re calling our kids stupid and dumb?  Because you prohibited writing, made it against the law? You can lose your life? Ask Nat Turner… Ask Fredrick Douglas, who said, ‘literacy unfits a child for slavery.’ Just because we couldn’t read and write, doesn’t mean we were unintelligent, and that we were illiterate.”

“That’s why I embrace these young rappers,” he added. “When I can understand them,” he said mildly jokingly.

Dyson stressed the need to end toxic masculinity within all communities, equating it to the leadership of the current President of the United States.

“All this toxic masculinity ain’t paying off.  Shooting, and stabbing, and killing and hating…denigrating each other… You ain’t got to be like Donald Trump.”

Yes it is still complicated for us as Black people. Yet, even with this White supremacists in office, we must stand on a legacy that challenges him and to say, ‘You ain’t gone get the last word in history homeboy,’” Dyson emphasized.

He encouraged the Black community, particularly the Black church, to end homophobia.  

“Who would choose to be recipients of such viciousness and just because they kiss somebody they’re going to hell? Who would choose that,” Dyson asked.   

“I ain’t never been to a Black church, that turns down gay tithes,” Dyson said.

“You mean you’re going to listen to the same Bible that slaves were okay… and take that same authority literally and use it against gay people? As opposed to the liberating Gospel of Jesus that says, ‘ALL people who seek the Kingdom of God.’

Finally, Dyson ended his keynote address celebrating Black women.

He talked about the fact that statistics show Black women normally date men who are not as educated as them.

In 2015 Brookings Institution reported that in evaluating married women ages 25 to 35, about 41 percent of White women had husbands who had similar educational-attainment levels, in comparison to only 32 percent of married Black women who could say the same regarding their spouses. The same study showed that 48 percent of White women said they had husbands with less education, while nearly 60 percent of Black women had married someone with a lower educational attainment. 

“Black Women buy more books- thank you Jesus.  Show up to church, give tithes and deal with silly Negroes sometime.”

The orator compared the ingenuity of Black women to the likes of Harriet Tubman, who successfully led 300 slaves to freedom.

He joked about her bravery carrying a Bible in one hand and pistol in the other as men cowered to freedom.

“Mama said knock you out! And she knocked those Negroes out.  And when they woke up and said, ‘Where are we?’ She said, ‘Negro you’re free. We done drug your Black a** to freedom and Black women are still doing it today,” he said to roaring applauses. 

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor