When Bakari Sellers spoke at USC Salkehatchie on Feb. 26, he had a clear message to his audience: Don’t let your zip code define who you are.
“You can be from Hampton, Allendale, Colleton or Bamberg and show that you, too, can change the world,” Sellers said.
Sellers didn’t let his zip code define him.
Sellers grew up in the “Corridor of Shame” where opportunities for South Carolina’s rural students are limited. Now an attorney, a political commentator for CNN, a politician and a civil rights advocate, Sellers made his own opportunities. He became the youngest African American elected official in the country at age 22, served in the state legislature from 2006 to 2014 and ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2014.
Sellers reminded those in attendance that it is important to dream and to work to make those dreams realities. He shared the stories of South Carolinians who had brought about change including Sarah Fleming, who exited the front of an SCE & G bus, and Harry and Eliza Briggs, who championed for buses to transport black students to schools in Clarendon County. He spoke of the Orangeburg Massacre, its victims, and of his father, Cleveland Sellers, Jr., who was the only individual imprisoned as a result of the incident.
“South Carolina has always been an epicenter for change in this country,” Sellers said. “In order to truly picture where we are in this country, you have to understand that we’ve made progress, but we have a ways to go.”
His words were not only inspiring but also relatable to USC Salkehatchie students.
“Sometimes it can be hard to tell who is real and who is fake in politics, but Bakari seemed to understand what it’s like to be a black male in rural S.C. ,” sophomore Vince Cole said.
The event was sponsored by USC Salkehatchie’s Black History Month Committee.