Hundreds Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Averett

Posted on January 22nd, 2015 by Travis Dix

By Allison Roberts, reporter for the Danville Register & Bee — Hundreds of people gathered at Averett University’s North Campus on Monday for lunch, a community celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and to recognize participation in a day of service.

Averett President Tiffany Franks said the event began in 2009 when about 45 people met in the school’s dining hall to talk about King’s dream and goals; six years later, the number of people who attend wouldn’t fit in that dining room.

This year’s keynote speaker was Shirley Davis, who owns her own business — SDS Enterprises LLC — and is a busy professional speaker, author and human resources coach for businesses around the world.

Davis called King a man of vision, humility and responsibility — and said he would not be pleased with the level of educational attainment among minorities and the way schools continue to have levels of segregation and provide what she called “substandard” education.

“Education is the key to economic empowerment,” Davis said, noting that people who finish college can expect to make $1 million more than people who do not.

Davis also said studies show college graduates are more likely to vote, give blood and volunteer in their communities and said parents, teachers and community leaders need to work to improve the numbers of black people who accomplish that. Only 68 percent of black students graduate from high school, Davis said.

Davis also stressed that everyone needs to have a dream, goals and a plan for achieving them and, like King, to be so committed to that dream they are willing to die for it.

Just as many organizations have had to re-invent themselves to stay in business, people need to re-invent themselves as well, Davis said — that can be accomplished by reaching for their dreams.

Too many people, she said, die at 30 but aren’t buried, dreams unfulfilled, until they are in their 80s, because they spend their lives searching for meaning rather than concentrating their efforts on reaching their dream.

“The richest place on earth should be in our minds and hearts, where we can see the dream and live it,” Davis said.

King always stressed doing things to improve the lives of other people and one’s community; Davis said that, too, is key to having a fulfilled life.

“Commit your time, talent and treasures to serving others … make the world a better place because you were here,” Davis said.

Jada Little, a student in Averett’s class of 2017, told the crowd about some of the service projects she has been involved in, making her feel like a member of the community, and recognized groups of students who spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day doing Day of Service projects: Gentlemen by Choice at George Washington High School, the Interact clubs at Dan River and Tunstall high schools and the Keystone Club at the Boys and Girls Club.

Danville Register & Bee publisher Steve Kaylor also spoke, telling the crowd Danvillians need to practice “pay it forward” — passing on to someone else gifts that have improved their lives.

Kaylor cited making donations to God’s Storehouse and supporting a program in Romania — Project Ruth — that is working to improve the prejudice, poverty and lack of education many of its Roma inhabitants face daily.

“Surely if it can happen in a Starbucks line, it can happen in Danville,” Kaylor said.