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Political analyst Bakari Sellers: “How far do we have to go?”

South Carolina Legislator (D) and CNN Analyst Bakari Sellers. GLENN LEWIS/GSU Media Bureau

CNN Political Commentator and history-making South Carolina Legislator, Bakari Sellers spoke at Grambling State University’s Black History Convocation on Tuesday, Feb. 19.


“It’s a privilege, an honor, and every other adjective you can think of to be in Grambling, and be part of GramFam,” Sellers told  packed audience of faculty, staff and students attending this year’s black history convocation at Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.


In 2006, Sellers became the youngest member of the South Carolina State Legislature and the youngest African American elected official in the nation. Sellers represented South Carolina’s 90th district in the lower house of the state legislature from 2006 to 2014 after unseating a 26-year incumbent state representative at the tender age of 22. 


Sellers ascribed his success to being influenced by such luminaries as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, George Elmore, Sarah May Fleming and The Briggs’ family. After earning a bachelor’s degree in African American Studies from Morehouse College, a private, all-male, historically black, liberal arts school, he continued his studies at the University of South Carolina School of Law.


“Let’s take a journey to excellence and answers two questions to answer,” Sellers said. “How far have we come and how far do we have to go.” 


Sellers referenced George Elmore and the triumphs that came with filing Elmore v. Rice. Elmore, who was eligible to vote in general elections, was denied the right to vote in the Democratic Party primary in Richland County. During the trial, Elmore’s businesses were destroyed, his wife was institutionalized and he ultimately died a poor man. Because of his efforts, African Americans can vote in primary elections in which party nominees for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and state offices were chosen.


“No matter if you are trying to be mathematician or a football player…You have to take a moment of retrospection,” Sellers said. 


Sellers’ passion for progressive policies in the black community comes from his father, civil rights leader Cleveland Sellers. 


“His commitment to service to address issues ranging from education and poverty to prevent domestic violence and childhood obesity,” Ashley Dabney, sophomore class president, said. 


Sellers served on President Barack Obama’s South Carolina steering committee during the 2008 election and was named Time Magazine’s 40 under 40 in 2010. 


Sellers proved to be a great speaker for this year’s Black History Month convocation. He has served as a featured speaker at events for the National Education Association, College Democrats of America National Convention, the 2008 and 2016 Democratic National Convention. 


GSU President Rick Gallot presented Sellers with a GramFam “swag bag” and credited Sellers for his astounding speech. 


“Did you all realize he did he speech with no notes,” Gallot said. “Let’s give him another round of applause.”


One thing that stuck with me from Sellers’ conversation, is that there are over 100 cities with higher lead contents than Flint, Mich. You truly have to ask yourself, have far have we come?


“We have progressed, but we have ways to go,” Sellers said. 


Sellers left the university with a quote from Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, civil rights leader and Morehouse graduate. 


“Whatever you do, strive to do it so well that no man living and no man dead and no man yet to be born could do it any better,” Sellers said.