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Reverend Marcia Dyson

Civic activist and public relations expert Marcia L. Dyson was born on October 29, 1951 in Chicago, Illinois. She graduated from Arthur J. Dixon Elementary School and Bowen High School in Chicago, Illinois. Dyson received her B.S. degree in business administration from the University of Illinois in 1983, and went on to complete the University of Chicago Executive Business program.

In 1973, Dyson was hired as a teacher at the Holy Angels School in Chicago, Illinois. She then worked as an external auditor for James Fields CPA. From 1980 to 1982, Dyson served as the first chief of staff for Reverend Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s Operation Push International Trade Bureau. She then briefly served as Black Family Magazine’s community relations director before establishing Marcia L. Dyson Public Relations in 1982. From 1983 to 1985, Dyson worked as an account executive for Aaron Cushman. She was then named senior manager for Margie Korshak Associates in 1985, and then worked as senior vice president of R. J. Dale Advertising and Public Relations from 1987 until 1990.

In 1990, Dyson was hired as the public information officer for the Mayor's Office of Special Events for the City of Chicago, where she hosted foreign dignitaries and served as the liaison to the Illinois Tourism Board, McCormick Authority Convention Center Board, Illinois Film Office and Chicago's religious community. In 1992, Dyson co-founded and served as president and CEO of M and M Dyson, LLC, an international consulting firm. She also founded Women’s Global Initiative, a for-profit organization that works to enhance the lives of women. In addition, Dyson became an ordained minister in 1999.

Dyson served as a presidential scholar at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina; was a social justice think tank executive board member for Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas; and served as an advisor to Howard University’s international programs. She has also contributed to Essence magazine, New Deal 2.0, The Grio, The Root and Huffington Post online media, and has been a reoccurring political strategist on MSNBC’s Martin Bashir Show.

Dyson was selected to serve on the Women’s Global Summit Leadership board, and co-hosted the Africa’s First Ladies Summit in the Washington, D.C. area. She also helped create a Modern Narrative for Muslim Women. Dyson was named the first Chaplain for the Coalition of Hope, and has been an executive advisor and consultant to the Conference of Black Mayors. She was also a consultant to the Clinton Foundation on behalf of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC). Dyson served as a board member of Nap Advanse (We Advance), and has also been a member of many women's organizations, including the Black Women's Round Table, Face to Face, and the Middle East Peace Civic Forum.

She has received numerous awards, including a Unita Award from the National Conference of Black Mayors; the U.S. Coast Guard’s Citizens Award; an Appreciation Award from the Institute for Diversity-Health; and a Humanitarian Award from the Global Institute.

Dyson is married to Michael Eric Dyson. They reside in Washington, D.C.

Marcia L. Dyson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 21, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.092

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/21/2014

Last Name

Dyson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Louise

Schools

Francis Parkman Elementary School

Carrie Jacobs Bond Elementary School

Arthur J. Dixon Elementary School

Hirsch Metropolitan High School

DePaul University

Bowen Environmental Studies High School

University of Illinois at Chicago

Chicago State University

University of Chicago

First Name

Marcia

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

DYS03

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Haiti

Favorite Quote

I Am My Sister's Keeper.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

10/29/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Macaroni And Cheese

Short Description

Civic activist and public relations chief executive Reverend Marcia Dyson (1951 - ) worked on the political campaigns of Barack Obama, Harold Washington and Hillary Clinton, and founded the Women’s Global Initiative.

Employment

Holy Angels

James Fields CPA

Operation PUSH

Black Family Magazine

Marcia L Dyson Public Relations

Aaron Cushman

Margie Koshak Ass.

R.J. Dale Advertising

City of Chicago

M and M Dyson

Clinton Foundation for Reconstruction of Haiti

Ordained Minister

Favorite Color

Pale Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverend Marcia Dyson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reverend Marcia Dyson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reverend Marcia Dyson describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about her mother's move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reverend Marcia Dyson describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about her stepfather

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reverend Marcia Dyson describes her mother's marriages

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reverend Marcia Dyson describes her likeness to her parents

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers living in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Reverend Marcia Dyson lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Reverend Marcia Dyson describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers living in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reverend Marcia Dyson describes the Chatham community in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers her involvement with black militant organizations

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reverend Marcia Dyson describes her experiences at Arthur Dixon Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers Hirsch High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reverend Marcia Dyson recalls her experiences at James H. Bowen High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about her motivation to join the Nation of Islam

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers her interest in math and science

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about the Black Peoples Topographical Research Centers

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reverend Marcia Dyson recalls her decision to leave the Black Peoples Topographical Research Center

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about the legacy of the Black Peoples Topographical Research Centers

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers teaching at the Holy Angels Catholic School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about the Communiversity

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reverend Marcia Dyson recalls joining the Operation PUSH International Trade Bureau

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers her decision to leave Operation PUSH

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about her exploration of religion

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reverend Marcia Dyson recalls her start in the public relations field

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers her experiences at Margie Korshak and Associates

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Reverend Marcia Dyson recalls working on Harold Washington's first mayoral campaign

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Reverend Marcia Dyson reflects upon Harold Washington's mayoralty, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reverend Marcia Dyson reflects upon Harold Washington's mayoralty, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers attending the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers her time at R.J. Dale Advertising and Public Relations

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers working with Mayor Richard M. Daley

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers meeting her husband, Michael Eric Dyson

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers her marketing activities for Barack Obama and Michael Eric Dyson

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reverend Marcia Dyson recalls her activism in Providence, Rhode Island

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reverend Marcia Dyson describes her experiences in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers her introduction to racial violence in the South

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Reverend Marcia Dyson recalls serving on the executive committee of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about her move to New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers writing about sexual exploitation in black religious communities

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Reverend Marcia Dyson reflects upon her interest in black spirituality

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about her writing and speaking engagements in the early 2000s

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Reverend Marcia Dyson describes the Coalition of Hope Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers her advocacy for the victims of Hurricane Katrina

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers founding the Women's Global Initiative

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Reverend Marcia Dyson reflects upon her support for Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about the response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Reverend Marcia Dyson reflects upon the importance of local politics

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about her work with the African First Ladies Initiative

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Reverend Marcia Dyson describes her role in the Middle East Peace Working Group

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Reverend Marcia Dyson describes the focus on entrepreneurship at the Women's Global Initiative

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about the World Leaders Forum Dubai

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2016

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Reverend Marcia Dyson describes her plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Reverend Marcia Dyson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Reverend Marcia Dyson reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Reverend Marcia Dyson reflects upon her relationship with her father

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Reverend Marcia Dyson talks about her children

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Reverend Marcia Dyson reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Reverend Marcia Dyson describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Reverend Marcia Dyson narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

2$3

DATitle
Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers her involvement with black militant organizations
Reverend Marcia Dyson remembers her time at R.J. Dale Advertising and Public Relations
Transcript
As a teenager, now you had a teenage life that sounds a lot like a friend of mine we were discussing, Pat Simpson Turner [Patricia Simpson Turner].$$Yes.$$Who's a part of a--did you become a part of the topographical research center [Black Peoples Topographical Research Center, Chicago, Illinois] too?$$I--gave my mother [Rosa Fields Smith] a heart attack. The Nation of Islam, they wanted to adopt me. I think I was the only girl in the '60s [1960s] who would leave the house in a mini skirt, go into a phone booth, which we had phone booths back then, and change into a long skirt, long sleeves and a scarf, and go off to Mosque 51 [sic.]. And I was so great at what I was doing and learning the language and taking in the culture of, of this new religion, that when they found out, the minister found out that my mother was displeased with my joining the Nation, that he and sister Sarah [ph.] were going to adopt me. But I was inquisitive as always, and asked them some questions around the message to the black man and black superiority, of some kind of form or fashion. I was--put in my hand was 'The Autobiography of Malcolm X' [Malcom X and Alex Haley]. And I was so excited. I was working at Herbert Muhammad's [Jabir Herbert Muhammad] Tastee Freez in fact and I was telling the brothers when they came back from a meeting, I wanted to take a hajj, I wanted to go to Mecca [Saudi Arabia]. And they said, "How do I know these things?" I said "'Cause I'm reading this book by Malcolm X, who is this man?" And they told me that I was committing treason and that he was a traitor. And because I had that closeness to the minister, I sat down and asked him those questions about Malcolm X. And I asked him about you know, him saying that God was a God of all men and that he saw white men with blue eyes and they were all--there was only one God and we were all God's children. And because I've always been this kind of Marcia Dyson [HistoryMaker Reverend Marcia Dyson], sort of in your face and inquisitive and adventurous, they put me out. So I left as Marcia X striving for my Marcia Shabazz, my chosen name if I'd completed it because they told me I had too much power and influence over the young women, and I asked too many questions and I was not a girl of faith. And so that really sort of busted my bubble because I was seeking something then. So my future brother-in-law, my current boyfriend at that time who became my first husband and my children's father, came back from Vietnam War and joined the topographical center. And he (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Now Vietnam vets founded the topographical center.$$Yes, that's right. And Jimmy [ph.] was a Ivy League sort of guy, the (unclear), Brooks Brothers shirt and khaki pants and I'm going like wow, what, what changed your life to go into this deep black-centric sort of phenomena happening in Chicago [Illinois]? And so I followed him in there blindly. Did this study, took the tours, you know, this topographical tours in Wisconsin and you know all of a sudden becoming aware of the man and scaring my mother again to death because her adventurous daughter was now going into these more dangerous waters because it was a little bit more militant. I used to call it quasi-Black Panther [Black Panther Party] to explain it to my friends who didn't understand what the topogra- topographical center was, but one thing I learned about it was cooperative communities. We had our own school. We had--would go to the farms together. We had fish shops and record stores and we worked this together. I'm not embarrassed to say I used to sell 8 track tapes collectively with some of the women and men at the "L" station [elevated train]. I've done it all, so. But it was very entrepreneurial. We bought buildings in South Shore [Chicago, Illinois] when there was a migration of the Jewish community into the suburbs more, or further north.$$Right, 'cause you're right. South Shore was Jewish largely (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) It was Jewish. And at twenty-five I bought a building with my first husband for twenty-five thousand dollars on 68th [Street] and Paxton [Avenue].$$So your first husband was a member of the top- ?$$He was also a member of the topographical center, yes.$$All right. And I know they built a black martial art--$$Black martial arts, yeah, it was all of it. We owned a good piece of property, you know, collectively, in South Shore. We helped to develop with our collective money, the South Shore Bank [ShoreBank, Chicago, Illinois] where people like Carol Adams [HistoryMaker Carol L. Adams] who took the lead on that to stabilize it. And these were very intelligent, young, African Americans. They had Ph.D.'s, they were going to school, they were, you know, accountants. So we had a little bit of a great community within the South Shore area during the early and mid-'70s [1970s].$$Okay. Yeah the South Shore was making that transition. I didn't realize it when I lived there, you know, how recently it had been Jewish.$$Yeah it was, yes.$And in '87 [1987] also you changed employment again and started working for Robert J. Dale (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, I did. And I wanted to do that because of the things that I was doing for Margie Korshak [Margie Korshak and Associates; Margie Korshak, Inc., Chicago, Illinois]. Again, I was the only black person in the agency of forty women, all young Jewish women. And it was a wonderful position to have. I learned a lot. But it was also stressful because it was--I would say a little bit racist too. You know, anything that happened in agency, the black woman did it, you know. And I was the oldest person as well. But because I had a sense of community and had so many various experiences, I could do the work quick because I knew how to connect people. And they couldn't believe that the black woman could do something successful unless she honestly slept with somebody, you know, and that to me was very demeaning. And when I met Bob Dale, who was also my profess- one of my professors in marketing at Chicago State University [Chicago, Illinois], he hired me and appreciated what I had done for Margie Korshak and wanted to bring those skills and consecutiveness to the agency [R.J. Dale Advertising and Public Relations, Chicago, Illinois]. And I was more than happy to go there.$$Okay. Yeah, [HistoryMaker] Robert Dale, one of the advertising, the black ad agencies, directors in Chicago [Illinois]. So what was it like working for Robert J. Dale? What, what ad campaigns did you work on?$$We worked on the Illinois State Lottery, which was great. The executive director happened to have been African American as well. We worked a little bit somewhat on McDonald's [McDonald's Corporation]. But what was great about the Illinois State Lottery is that it was at a time when corporations during Black History Month only wanted to talk about the black kings and queens of Africa. They wanted to talk about the black athlete or the black businessperson. But I collaborated with Bob and told him again from my teaching experiences and always connecting back to the community, that our children were undereducated and I saw so much promise in the kids because of my own children [Mwata Dyson and Maisha Dyson Daniels] and some of their classmates as well. So we created a campaign called the Illinois Young Black Achievers. We didn't want them to be stellar students. These were the students who got up and went to school with bullets pouring over their heads, whose parents were in prison or drug infested communities. And we made it statewide because Illinois lottery was statewide. And what was amazing about that is that we got applications from people who were not the best writers, who told us stories about kids who got up early in the morning, who didn't have clothes, who mother may have been on the streets, but yet they went to school, was a B student. To me that was an achiever. And Mr. Johnson [HistoryMaker John H. Johnson] was alive at the time. And Mr. Johnson let us host these kids to have a judging, and Oprah Winfrey was one of my honorary chairpersons for that honor, to honor these students. And so when they selected these students who were not the stellar students, who were not the children from middle class environments, but came throughout the state. We had some of those students; we didn't try to ostracize those students who were great, but I really wanted the opportunity for those unseen children who had potential to know that, so their commu- they could go back to their community and have a badge of honor that other kids in their neighborhood might want to aspire to. What was so great about that, was that we took those students down to the state capitol [Illinois State Capitol, Springfield, Illinois] because Illinois lottery was a state entity. And the legislators in their communities who did nothing for those kids, had to acknowledge them because they were actually placed in the records of Illinois as being Illinois Young Black Achievers. They were written in their state's history, and they had to take pictures with them. That to me was one of my proudest moments in marketing. Those kids being acknowledged, being seen, the parents who wrote those letters in broken English being heard, was one of the most important things to me in my career as a marketing person.$$Yeah that's--so what did--are there some follow up stories to some of the kids that were involved that?$$Only the fact that that program itself continued. The students, no because again I'm moving on to other things and trying to engage children like the Beatrice Foods Marathon [Chicago Marathon], Chicago's marathon, the same thing. It was a sleepy marathon. Ten thousand people would come from around the world to run in Chicago. I looked at the city map where they were running. Most of the tour was around projects, and no black people were out there. So I was able to take some of those world citizens to the schools in the ghetto so that they can know off the map what that person language was like, what that person's culture was like. They got a chance to meet people from Ethiopia, they got a chance to eat their food. We had community events. The bands came out and lined the, the track, the, the racecourse of the marathon. Harold Washington was alive, he came out and we took pictures with the banners. And it because a lot--it was written up in Wall Street Journal [The Wall Street Journal]. And from that, we trained some of the children in the projects for the marathon to actually run in the marathon. Never had happened before. Some of them almost finished, I mean never a winner, but a lot of them finished at a very early pace. And from that training, too came Midnight Basketball 'cause we used basketball as one of the sports to train the children to run. So that was another proud, proud moment.