Bakari Sellers: From Political Wunderkind To CNN Star

By Courtney Anderson

When South Carolina native Bakari Sellers was elected to the state’s General Assembly in 2006, he made history.

He was the one of the youngest people and the youngest black person to ever be elected to the position.

Sellers was 22, only a year or so out of Morehouse College.

Sellers was in elected office from 2006-2014.

And during those years, Sellers worked with the Obama campaign in 2008 and earned a law degree from the University of South Carolina.

Impressive, huh?

It is a career path many politicians would hope to reach by the time they hit their 40s and 50s, and it is one that got Sellers a spot in TIME’s “40 under 40” a few years back.

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Now Sellers is no longer in the South Carolina General Assembly. In 2014, he ran for the Lieutenant Governor office, a race he alluded to in that same TIME article.

“I do love our lieutenant governor’s office. That would be a good window to look out of,” Sellers said in 2010. “And the governor has a nice house. But we’ll see.”


Then State Rep. Bakari Sellers speaking in 2010. Photo Credit: Bakari Sellers/ Facebook.

Sellers lost the race for lieutenant governor, a rare setback for one of the leading progressive voices in South Carolina.

Sellers again demonstrates how he’s different than many politicians: a loss like this would throw a wrench in most political plans.

But not for Sellers.

“I lost up, actually,” Sellers said in an interview with RISE NEWS.

Sellers still doesn’t have a particularly strict five-year or 10-year career path. He is all about using his career and positions to stand up for people he feels aren’t being heard.

“I think I have options,” Sellers said. “Right now, I’ve been able to give a voice to the voiceless.”

Standing up for the voiceless is in Sellers’s blood. His father, Cleveland Sellers, was a civil rights activist who is still dedicated to social justice. He is the younger Sellers’s inspiration.

“My father would say ‘History isn’t changed unless you push it,’” Sellers said. “And I rely on those life lessons every day.”


Photo Credit: Bakari Sellers/ Facebook.

Family, Sellers said, is the one thing that has managed to stay consistent throughout his changing career.

His wife, Ellen Rucker Sellers, and their 11-year-old daughter, Kai Michelle, are always by his side.

Sellers and Rucker got married in the summer of 2015.

“They’ve always given me the courage to keep going,” Sellers said.

And Sellers has to keep going. He doesn’t have any time to waste.

He is an attorney at Strom Law Firm, and a member of the Democratic National Convention rules committee.

He recently argued for equal protection for unmarried same-sex couples under South Carolina’s criminal domestic violence laws. Sellers is also urging people to pay attention to criminal justice reform and issues of wealth distribution of black families in America.

When he is not dealing with all of the responsibilities of being an attorney, he is trying to keep up with the rapid twists and turns of the 2016 election.

“I have to keep up with the 24/7 news cycle because I’m a part of it now,” Sellers said.

Sellers is a commentator on CNN, which he is said is one of his most fun jobs. It has also put him in the national spotlight, next to luminaries like David Axelrod and Donna Brazile.

“That’s my family,” Sellers said. “That’s my daily.”

CNN isn’t the only place Sellers has visited. He has also appeared on the Steve Harvey Show and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.

Photo Credit: Bakari Sellers/ Twitter

Photo Credit: Bakari Sellers/ Twitter

He has even given an interview on The Breakfast Club national radio program, paying his good friend Charlamagne Tha God a visit. Not exactly the most common place to find a CNN contributor.

“We’re both trying to change the world in different veins,” Sellers said of Charlamagne. “We’re hoping to inspire someone to dream big, with their eyes open.”

So far so good for the 31 year old Sellers on that front.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

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