Top Racial Justice Speaker Bakari Sellers Joins Virtual Pitt Session
Jul 07 2022
Recently, racial justice speaker Bakari Sellers took an hour out from his work to speak at the "Our Voice Our Vote" webinar for the University of Pittsburgh.
In early June, the African American Strategic Partnership (AASP) and Pitt's Center for Race and Social Problems (CRSP) worked together once more for their ongoing speaker series. The webinar featured Sellers, a former state representative from South Carolina who is now a lawyer and political analyst. It was centered on the history and influence of the African American vote and voice in the fight for racial justice.
According to Sellers, the evaluation of efforts related to racial justice and social issues should be guided by the following two questions: “How far have we come?” and “Where do we go from here?”
“I am someone who believes that these questions should be the center of any introspection that we do,” said Sellers. “But in order to answer the first question of ‘how far have we come,’ I think any viewer will appreciate that historical context is necessary.”
Sellers then told stories of early Black activists in South Carolina. They included stories about his own father, civil rights activist Cleveland Sellers, as well as George Elmore, a Black man who voted in a 1946 all-white primary, and Harry and Eliza Briggs, two Black parents who assisted in filing the first of five civil suits that would eventually be combined into the famous case Brown v. Board of Education.
“How far have we come?” asked Sellers. “The answer, honestly, is that we’ve made progress, but we still have yet a ways to go.” After considering this history, Sellers stated that the solutions to his concerns can only be found when African Americans recommit to valuing their communities and acknowledge their status as “a people of dreamers who always dream of things yet to be seen.”
James Huguley, the associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at the School of Social Work, then led a Q&A session during the second portion of the lecture. He read a question regarding how society can advance while Republicans are “reshaping” democracy. Sellers recognized that it was a challenging question, but insisted that in order to advance, everyone must pay attention to their own well-being in addition to enacting change in their local communities.
Sellers says that there are many ways activists and organizers can use to boost the voting rate of African Americans, including focusing on local areas and engaging in "real conversations" with locals at churches, barbershops, beauty salons, and football games.
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