Sellers: We have not come far enough
Feb 09, 2017
CNN political analyst and former S.C. Rep. Bakari Sellers speaks Tuesday at Claflin. Freshman class President Derrick Quarles is at left. (Panther photo by Jordan Geddis)
How far have we come? The question was put to the Claflin freshman class by CNN political analyst Bakari Sellers.
The Bamberg County native spoke at Claflin on Feb. 7 in the W.V. Middleton Fine Arts Center as part of the university’s Black History Month celebration. His topic was "Where do we go from here?"
Sellers was 22 years old when he became the youngest-ever member of the South Carolina state Legislature and the youngest African-American state representative in the nation. In 2014, Sellers was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in South Carolina.
Today, he is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, having worked with 6th District Congressman James Clyburn and also having been a leader in President Barack Obama's South Carolina steering committee during the 2008 election.
Sellers asked students to think about how much has not changed in South Carolina and in the world in the past 60 years. He used examples such as struggling schools with no heat, and elderly people continuing to struggle to get medications.
"Ask yourself the simple question 60 years later: How far have we come?" Sellers said. "We've made progress but we still have a ways to go."
He believes once young people can answer that question, they can then answer another: "Where do we go from here?"
Sellers said the answers are simple.
"Learn how to love your neighbors even when they don’t love you," Sellers said. "You need to learn how to dream with your eyes open."
He told the students that dreaming with eyes open looks like what he did when he was 20 years old and decided to run for the S.C. House of Representatives.
"So I went out and I knocked on 2,600 doors and went to over 55 churches," Sellers said. "June 13, 2006, I made history, won the election and became the youngest black official in America."
Around that time, Sellers received calls from presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He had the opportunity to meet with a few of the candidates running in 2008 election.
Sellers recalled a phone conversation he had with then-Sen. Barack Obama that would lead to him working with Obama on the presidential campaign.
Sellers brought Obama to Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center on South Carolina State University’s campus. He was with celebrities Chris Tucker, Kerry Washington and Usher.
"When I came out, people were going crazy," Sellers said.
Sellers said he was constantly asked what was he thinking at that moment when standing next to Obama, Usher, Washington and Tucker.
"At that moment I was thinking even though I was only 19 miles away from home, I went so far because I dreamed with my eyes open," Sellers said. "This journey to excellence is defined by that ultimate goal."
"On this journey to excellence, we have no choice because we are not the leaders of the future," Sellers said. "We are actually the leaders of right now."