"Oppressed people cannot and will not remain oppressed forever." The statement is as true today as it was in 1963 when Martin Luther King Jr. wrote it in a Birmingham jail cell.
Each year, the nation celebrates King's life and legacy on the third Monday in January, which this year is on the 21st. That day, Mississippi State will hold the Community MLK Unity Breakfast, a free celebration that this year features a keynote address by Maj. Gen. Augustus L. Collins, adjutant general of the Mississippi National Guard.
In 2005, Collins became the first African American to attain the rank of general officer in the Guard. A Booneville native, he directs the Mississippi Military Department that includes all Army and Air National Guard units.
Now in its 19th year, the MLK breakfast program begins at 7 a.m. in the Colvard Student Union's Bill Foster Ballroom. Collins' presentation will get under way an hour later.
For those unable to attend, the program will be live-streamed at http://mymedia.msstate.edu/viewer.php?live=mlk.
Also during the program, local high school winners of the second annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest will be recognized. The competition asked participants to articulate King's most powerful ideas regarding social justice.
Collins has held numerous staff and command positions during his military career. Among them was command of the Guard's 155th Brigade Combat Team during the U.S. Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005--Mississippi's largest military mobilization since World War II.
He is a 1982 business administration graduate of the University of Mississippi who went on to complete a 1993 master's degree in the same field at Jackson State University. He also holds a master's in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.
Over his career, Collins' demonstrated commitment to diversity has been honored by the Mississippi Trailblazers organization, a non-profit group that recognizes Mississippians for their distinguished and significant contributions to diversity. In 2006, he received the organization's Trailblazer of the Year Award, followed in 2012 with the Sam Haskell Spirit of America Award.
The unity breakfast is one of several MSU celebrations of King's life and achievements.
Following the breakfast, at 10 a.m., the Maroon Volunteer Center will begin the "MLK Day of Service." Other related events include:
--An AmeriCorps VISTA MLK School Supply Drive to support needs of Starkville and Oktibbeha County schools.
--A free Jan. 17 program titled "The Poetry of Langston Hughes in Song," featuring selections of one of the great poets of the Harlem Renaissance. For more, visit www.msstate.edu/web/media/detail.php?id=5838.
--A free screening at Starkville's J.L. King Center of "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.--A Man of Peace in a Time of War."
For more information, locations and times of other volunteer opportunities related to the holiday, visit the center's website at http://mvc.msstate.edu.