By Alexandre Garrido, Staff Writer
As we approach the month of February, the Black History Month celebration is beginning to shape up. To commence the festivities the students of Georgia Southern were treated to a speech from Bakari Sellers. Mr. Bakari Sellers is the first African American vice chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party; former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, and the youngest African-American elected in the history of the United States. He is also a regular contributor to CNN.
The event took place on the Statesboro campus and was telecast for Armstrong students in Ogeechee Theater. The event drew a large crowd in Statesboro, prompting Mr. Sellers to question if professors were giving away extra credit for attendance.
This was in stark contrast to turnout on the Armstrong Campus, which was very small. Although, that may have been a good thing, since the event here on the Armstrong campus started with IT problems that delayed the beginning of the transmission for about 20 minutes. These kinds of problems are so commonplace at Armstrong that it is starting to become a meme.
However, thanks to the IT team, the people attending could still hear the Mr. Seller’s full speech. The transmission from Statesboro was during the Q and A session.
In his speech Sellers wanted to take the audience on a “journey of excellence”, and for that he intended to address 3 major questions during his speech.
How far have we come?
To answer the first one, Sellers went back to the final years of the 40s, most particularly, 1946. Sellers talked about George Elmore, a black successful businessman that in the Democratic primary elections of 1946 wanted to exercise his right to vote. Denied, he sacrificed his well-positioned status to fight for his right and today, Elmore vs Rice is the reason why African-American can vote. Also, Sarah Mae Flemming, that sat in the white-only section of the bus 17 months prior to the Rosa Parks case or the Brown v. the Board of Education that made segregate schools unconstitutional. So how far have we come? Far, but there is still further to go.
Where do we go from here?
That is a question that even stumped Dr. King in final moments. Dr. King presented 2 choices: Chaos or Community. Mr. Sellers chooses to side with community. To support his decision of choosing Community he told the story of the Orangeburg Massacre, when a group of 200 protesters gathered on a segregated bowling alley and 3 protesters were killed by the police. He also told the story of the only person imprisoned for the riots, his father, Civil Rights Leader, Cleveland Sellers.
Does MLK’s dream matter anymore?
In a surprise revelation, Sellers admitted that the pursuit of Dr. King’s dream and of the American dream, have utterly frustrated him. Why keep fighting for it? He asked, for a moral reason, because, it’s right. Because it’s right to try to be our best selves and it’s right to try to build a better community.
This vision of trying to be our best selves and trying to make a better community was why Nick C. Schrader, the Director of Housing and Residence Life of Armstrong declared himself a fan of Mr. Sellers. However, not all in attendance agreed with what the politician said. Steve McQueen, student of Computer Science, thought that “maybe because of the low time”, that the speech fell short.
In my opinion, it was a great speech that explored the history of the Civil Rights Movement, but I also believe that it too was lacking. The speech did not address the problems present for African-Americans today. I’m sorry that Mr. Sellers did not have more time, because I have the feeling that with more time, he could address much more.