While it may be a tough question it is necessary to reflect on whether the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. still matters today in the light of persistent evils that King decried more than 50 years ago, political commentator Bakari Sellers said Friday at an event celebrating King’s birthday.
Yet it is still important to reach out to those who most need it, even those cultivating intolerance, he said.
Sellers spoke at Paine College as part of the annual joint celebration by Paine, Augusta Technical College and Augusta University. He was filling in for his father, Dr. Cleveland Sellers Jr., who had been scheduled to speak before falling ill recently. The younger Sellers is a figure in his own right, becoming one of the youngest ever elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2006 and later running for Lieutenant Governor before serving now as a regular commentator on CNN.
Sellers paid homage to his father, who helped organize peaceful protests in February 1968 in Orangeburg, S.C., that were later fired upon by law enforcement, killing three men and wounding 27 others, including the elder Sellers, in what became known as the Orangeburg Massacre. He was arrested and was the only one who went to prison for organizing a riot.
“My father became the first and only one-man-riot in the history of this country,” Sellers said.
Six months before he was killed in April 1968, King himself seemed to be struggling with his own legacy and the relevance of his dream in the light of ongoing struggles against the vast forces of poverty and racism and appeared to be somewhat disillusioned, Sellers said.
“Our hopes have been blasted and our dreams have been shattered,” Sellers quoted from King’s remarks. “The dream which we so readily accepted has now turned into a frustrating nightmare.”
And the pain of that struggle is still with us, Sellers said.
“Fifty years after Dr. King laid out the three evils of society – systemic racism, generational poverty and unchecked militarism – they continue to plague our national consciousness and conscience,” he said. “You see the white hood and megaphone now has a Brooks Brothers suit and a cable news show.” The four children killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963 have become the nine church members gunned down at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015, Sellers said.
But in spite of this ongoing struggle, there is a great need to continue to combat intolerance and to reach out to those in need and to those who need to hear the message, he said.
“Go to the hungry and hurt, the sick and the sorrowful,” Sellers said. “Go seek out the persecuted and the put upon. Go to the men and women working 10-11-12 hour days just to make a living. Go to the farmers and the teachers, go to the firemen who haven’t gotten a raise in five years. Go to the ex-con trying to find a job and the waitress who has a master’s in psychology but she can’t get an interview because her name sounds too Muslim. Go to the teenage boy out there reading some online rant from Breitbart (News) or the Council of (Conservative) Citizens. He needs us more than he knows. He needs to know the truth and understand it in the worst way before he becomes another Dylann Roof (the Charleston shooter).”
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or email@example.com.