At MLK Celebration, Bakari Sellers encouraged students to change the world

“The trap of impoverishment has become synonymous with the proverbial dog that chases its tail.” -Bakari Sellers

Blakeley Bartee

“Dr. King paid the ultimate price. He gave everything he had… So the question is now, what are you going to do?”

Bakari Sellers asked this question Wednesday night before an audience of students, faculty, staff and other members of the Statesboro and Savannah communities.

Sellers, an attorney, civil rights activist and CNN political commentator who became the youngest African-American elected official in the United States in 2006, spoke Wednesday night at Georgia Southern University’s annual MLK Celebration.

The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

As written by the King Center, Martin Luther King Jr. is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.

At GS, Sellers covered a range of topics in his speech, including the life and legacy of King, historical moments in the civil rights movement and how young people today can continue to change the world.

King’s approval rating on April 4, 1968, the day he died, was 33 percent. Sellers compared this to President Donald Trump’s current approval rating, 38 percent.

“I tell people [about the approval rating] to frame the discussion on who [King] really was and what he was fighting for that made so many people uncomfortable. Angry. Hateful. That, many times, is not the same King that you get today,” Sellers said in the Nessmith-Lane Ballroom before his speech.

Embed from Getty Images // <![CDATA[ // &lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;amp;lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;amp;amp;lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;![CDATA[ // &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;![CDATA[ window.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’9MY0Ed7zRrxnhg9zLKOmqQ’,sig:’Zcu4z2NiA4VglARXWnWPcGAPJdrZmXVSLRVNAhIVnu0=’,w:’594px’,h:’437px’,items:’3142661′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })}); // ]]&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; // ]]&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; // ]]&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; // ]]&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; // ]]&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; // ]]&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; // ]]&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; // ]]&amp;amp;amp;gt; // ]]&amp;amp;gt; // ]]&amp;gt; // ]]&gt; // ]]>

“Martin Luther King is representative of a movement that changed the world. We’ve seen movements that changed the world before, and we’ll see them again. But I don’t think there’s ever been one singular figure whose impact on our country is as lasting,” Sellers said before his speech.

Sellers told the audience that King challenged the world to take a journey, a journey that did not end with King’s death. He explained that while the United States has made substantial progress since the Civil Rights movement, there is still a path ahead for civil rights.

“This journey requires us to do what is right not for any [reason] other than it is right,” Sellers said during his speech.

To learn more about Martin Luther King Jr., click here.

Moving Forward

“Diverse voices have never been so important. Those voices are voices we feel like are pushed to the fringes of the dialogue,” Sellers said before his speech. “The voices of my gay brothers and sisters, or women in this country, the Me Too Movement. It’s just phenomenal how voices that, for so very long, were quieted and hushed are now very powerful voices on the forefront.”

Before and during his speech, Sellers noted the importance of young people in social and political movements.

“Abraham Lincoln was a phenomenal speaker. He used to say that we have to believe in the better angels of our nature. A lot of young people still maintain that kind of unvarnished view of the country,” Sellers said before his speech.

Sellers also talked about the power of social media and how young people can influence others.

“We have to be engaged, and there’s a role for everyone to play… You can change the world with just a tweet, a snap, an Instagram post… You can be what you want to see in this country,” Sellers said during his speech.

Although young people have the ability to influence one another through social media, Sellers emphasized the loneliness that leaders in progressive movements and protests may face, particularly in the beginning.

“Many times, these leaders that we see were… alone,” Sellers said, explaining that leaders of movements often have few supporters at first.

About Bakari Sellers and the annual MLK celebration

The MLK Celebration Speaker series is sponsored annually by the Office of the Vice President of Enrollment, Office of Vice President of Student Affairs and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, according to a GS press release.

Previous speakers at the MLK Celebration Speaker series include Nikki Giovanni, Soledad O’Brien and Michael Eric Dyson.

Sellers, an American politician and lawyer, made history in 2006 when he defeated a 26-year incumbent state representative in South Carolina, making him the youngest member of the state’s legislature, according to a GS press release.

He later ran for Lt. Governor in South Carolina in 2014, but lost. Sellers was 30 years old at the time, which he said presented a challenge on the campaign trail as he vied for the trust of his constituents. However, he hasn’t given up hope for the future.

“South Carolina is an amazing place. It’s 4.2 million people. It’s not that big, it’s just big enough. Running statewide, I got 505,000 votes, and I think it’s something that I’ll be able to pull off one day,” Sellers said.

Despite his loss, Sellers maintained that he was well-nourished during his campaign.

“I know where every Zaxby’s in South Carolina is right now… You get so big on the campaign trail, because you’re just eating in the car. You don’t sleep,” Sellers said.

Prior to speaking at the Performing Arts Center, Sellers took questions from students and members of the media:

{{tncms-inline account=”Blakeley Bartee” html=”&lt;blockquote class=&quot;twitter-tweet&quot;&gt;&lt;p lang=&quot;und&quot; dir=&quot;ltr&quot;&gt;&lt;a href=&quot;https://t.co/eJfpaPImJh&quot;&gt;https://t.co/eJfpaPImJh&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt;&amp;mdash; Blakeley Bartee (@BlakeleyBartee) &lt;a href=&quot;https://twitter.com/BlakeleyBartee/status/956307062664830976?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&quot;&gt;January 24, 2018&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/blockquote&gt;” id=”https://twitter.com/BlakeleyBartee/status/956307062664830976″ type=”twitter”}}