The celebration in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. that has been held in Sherman for the past few years has grown so much recently that it was moved from the small chapel at Austin College to the Mabee Room at the Wright Center.

The Rev. Charles Brown Sr. welcomed community members, Austin College students and faculty, Sherman Independent School District officials and members of the Sherman Rotary, and various local churches to the event Saturday by acknowledging the move by joking that no one wants to stand through such a service.

“I am thrilled that we have outgrown the small chapel,” Austin College President Marjorie Hass said as she took the stage during the event.

She said that this year’s observances in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. are a bit more significant in that they serve to remind people that, as a nation, there is a need to make sure things don’t go backward. She said the nation must not forget how hard it was to come to the point where people of different races and faiths can meet together in a spirit of unity and respect and love for one another.

In the days ahead, Hass said, the community might need to come together to talk about some difficult things and she wants Austin College to be known as a place that welcomes such gatherings and fosters such conversations. She said such conversations should come from the heart and in the spirit of justice with an eye toward finding community solutions.

The student speaker, Bryce DeVaughn, talked about growing up with divorced parents and the bullying he faced when he transferred from a private school to a public school in Frisco in sixth grade. He said he had not felt any kind of racial tension in the private school. But when he went to public school he began to feel judged about how he talked, how he dressed and whether or not he acted, “black enough.”

He said he didn’t wear baggy clothes and he spoke well and that caused some to question his racial identity.

“I was called an oreo or a coconut, black on the outside and white on the inside,” DeVaughn said.

It got so bad, he said, that he too started to question it.

“God saved me. He turned my life around,” he said.

But it wasn’t easy.

He said without the work done by Martin Luther King Jr., DeVaughn would not have been able to attend a school like Austin College where he is surrounded by students from a variety of cultures and where he can study varied subjects like Japanese and computer science. The student said the compassion shown by King during his struggles against the culture of his day is something that DeVaughn tries to keep in mind as he goes about his life today.

DeVaughn said there are many African Americans at Austin College just like him and he said he knows they are going to have a great future. “We are the future,” he told the audience.

In addition to hearing from the student speaker, the group watched a video that showed footage of the March on Washington as King’s “I have a dream” speech played over the pictures.