By Michael Hutchins

By Michael Hutchins

Herald Democrat

Students and community members came together Monday to celebrate the life and legacy of the acclaimed civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who fought against racial inequality in America. The event, Austin College’s 10th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration Breakfast, is a joint project between Austin College and Grayson Area Rotary Clubs.

AC senior Tiffany Collins spoke at the event about the lessons she has learned from King’s life. Collins reflected on her own trials with race and socioeconomic disparity, over 50 years after King fought for racial equality.

"The pain that comes with adversity can silence a person," said Collins.

Collins said that by speaking up for and encouraging the oppressed to stand up against adversity, King has always inspired her as a student and as a person.

The keynote speaker for the event was motivational speaker, musician and evangelist Keron Jackson, of Arlington. In his speech, Jackson reflected on his struggles throughout his life. Growing up in a family where neither parent graduated high school, Jackson struggled in finding the importance of getting an education, beyond high school. At one point, Jackson was living out of his car.

"How do you dream if you don’t know where you are going to sleep?" asked Jackson.

Jackson said that it wasn’t until a multi-racial church group in Carthage, Texas approached him that he felt inspired to renew his faith, and start attending a local junior college. Since then, the church group has become an extended family, he said.

Since getting his education, and learning to sing in church, Jackson has pursued his music professionally, notably performing with the Dallas Opera.

"(Martin Luther King Jr.’s) goal was to try and push our whole nation, not just the people. It was to unite the people," said Jackson. "I stand here as a living testimony of the work of MLK."

Jackson said that he has always taken inspiration and solace from King’s adherence to non-violent protest as a way of furthering the cause of civil rights.

"You don’t let someone bring you to the level that you hate them," said Jackson.

Vivian Ford, representing the Grayson County NAACP, also spoke at the event, supporting scholarships offered on behalf of the national organization.

Ford said she faced racism first hand, living in the era of civil rights leaders like King.

"I grew up in the time when the colored and white signs were taken down, but you knew what they meant," said Ford.

Now a retired teacher from Piner Elementary, Ford recalls starting her career by teaching a completely white class, and having students continuously try to wash her hands in an attempt to clean them of dirt. Ford said that if her mother were alive, she’d say, "we’ve come a long way" since then.

"I just thank (Martin Luther King Jr.) because without him I wouldn’t be able to stand up in a classroom that is multicultural and talk," said Ford.

Ford stressed that Martin Luther King Jr. Day should be used as a day of service to the community, describing it as "a day on, not a day off."

"Don’t just lay at home in bed until 12 o’clock," said Ford. "King was up at the crack of dawn."