Heard on Campus: An evening with Symone Sanders and Bakari Sellers

January 23, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Symone D. Sanders, senior adviser for Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign and CNN political commentator, and Bakari Sellers, CNN political analyst and former South Carolina State Representative, spoke as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Commemoration Committee’s Evening Celebration on Jan. 22 at the Schwab Auditorium on the University Park campus.

Delicia Daniels, public relations director of the committee, opened the evening by welcoming all guests, including participants from Commonwealth Campuses and Penn State World Campus who tuned in through the live stream provided by WPSU.

Nyla Holland, executive director of the 2020 MLK Jr. Student Committee, then spoke and encouraged attendees to take action.

“This theme is not just about talking and listening and engaging in dialogue," said Holland. "We need to do more.”

The evening proceeded with three student performances. Cheyanne Walker, sophomore communications sciences and disorders major, sang “Read All About It, Pt. III,” a song originally performed by Emeli Sandé. Next, Taylor Williams, junior philosophy major, performed an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “The Other America.”

Dancers at 2020 Martin Luther King Junior Evening Celebration

The students of Dark Storm Step Team performed at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Commemoration Committee’s Evening Celebration on Jan. 22, 2020, at Schwab Auditorium on Penn State's University Park campus.

IMAGE: Emily Yanchuck

Dark Storm Step Team began their performance with Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” and punctuated their routine with a spoken-word piece and an excerpt from poet Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.”

Ray Block, associate professor of political science and African American studies, moderated Sanders and Sellers' discussion. They talked about how they began their involvement in politics, offered advice for young black people, and discussed the importance of political involvement in today’s climate.

“I used to think that being a judge or a politician were two of the most powerful things you could be,” Sanders said. “But I realized the most powerful thing you can be is the people behind the people. … I’d watch TV all the time when I was younger and the messages from campaigns and candidates wouldn’t resonate with me, and I realized it was the people behind the people. It wasn’t until I was sitting at one of those tables when I realized I was finally doing what I was always wanted to do.”

Sanders became a prominent political figure when she joined Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign as national press secretary at the age of 25.

Though political activism can often be difficult and uncomfortable, said Sanders, she explained that it is something everyone can do, encouraging students to be “radical revolutionaries in their own spaces and places,” whether it’s speaking up in the classroom or calling out a racist or sexist comment in a conversation.

“You are the leaders that we need right now,” Sellers said. “You don’t have to be 40, 50 or 60 to create the change you want in this country. The impetus for chance is always going to be led by us, so you have to prepare yourself for that moment.”

Sellers stated that as a young, black, Democrat, he was often in the minority in the South Carolina state legislature, but managed to work with politicians on both sides of the aisle by meeting them where they are.

“There will be people who won’t give you the benefit of your humanity. You have to love your neighbor, even when they don’t love you," said Sellers. "Hate is too consuming.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 22, 2020