Monday, at the DNC Black Caucus Young Leaders Summit, actress Kerry Washington introduced a panel that included young politicians, entertainers, and pastors who talked about what inspired them to become leaders in their community.
One young man invests in socially responsible industries. Will.i.am, a rapper, was there as an activist who helped prime the American youth to vote with his YouTube video Yes I Can.
Also included was a pastor who started his church in a strip club.
Yep, you read right.
But more surprising than he was Rep. Bakari Sellers, 23, who closed the discussion with a speech. I would write about how dynamic and enthusiastic he was to serve his community, but his words say it better than I do…
Speech by South Carolina Rep. Bakari Sellers, as prepared for delivery on August 25, 2008, at the Democratic National Convention:
Finally, I have to thank my family, my mother and my father, without whom I’d be nothing at all.
You see, my father was born to a South Carolina and an America very different from the one we know today.
He was born to an America of separation and degradation; an America that said a black man was worth little more than a mule, and a woman was worth even less; an America where the streets bore the scars of segregation and sometimes the trees bore strange fruit.
I can’t imagine how that must have been for him, an eager and intelligent young man told that no matter how hard he worked, no matter how well he learned, or how much he achieved, he could only ever be one thing – a black man. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. But no matter how many times he heard that he was wasting his time or that he was just a dreamer, he never believed it.
He never believed that this country is so tied up in what has been that it can’t see what could be.
That’s a special kind of faith because it requires you not just believe in yourself, but believe in the rest of us as well, to believe that we as a people, as a nation, will not let inequality stand, that we will not let injustice prevail, that we will strive to be better than we are, to do better than we have, to have faith in one another and love our neighbors even if they don’t love us.
That’s a special kind of faith.
But men of faith are often challenged with disappointment and despair, and my father was no exception. I’ve heard all the stories about that cool February, 40 years ago, when a young group of students gathered together, much as we have gathered here, for a singular cause and a common good.
I’ve heard how they raised their voices in unison hoping to draw attention to one of the last vestiges of discrimination