Bay Area 'Freedom Train' riders inspired by MLK's words, work 

After singing "We Shall Overcome" at Caltrain's San Mateo station, hundreds of Bay Area residents of all ages celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Monday by boarding the 2012 "Freedom Train."

The specially chartered train commemorated King's march from Selma, Ala., to the state's capital, Montgomery, in 1965.

The Freedom Train started its journey at San Jose's Diridon Station and made stops in Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and San Mateo, picking up those who wanted to honor King's legacy by taking the train to San Francisco, where most planned to join a march to Yerba Buena Gardens.

Faye McNair-Knox, whose organization One East Palo Alto was chosen by San Mateo County officials as the 2012 Martin Luther King Day Honorary Organization, said the best way to honor King is to continue to work toward the values he upheld.

"If we learned anything from Martin Luther King, it's that we must press on," McNair-Knox said.

She said her work to educate young people, encourage social service, and fight social inequities in East Palo Alto were inspired by King, whom she met more than 40 years ago.

"I was fortunate to live during the time that Martin Luther King, Jr. walked on this earth," she said.

Hayward resident Miles Jackson brought three of his grandchildren to ride the Freedom Train from San Mateo Monday morning.

Jackson, who grew up in Virginia when schools were segregated, said he was among the first black students to be bused to public schools in predominantly white neighborhoods.

"They were learning eighth grade math, we were learning second grade math," Jackson said.

He said he appreciates King's efforts to close the gap between the public education provided to whites and blacks.

"I'm just thankful my grandkids don't have to go through that," he said.

San Mateo's first black mayor, Claire Mack, was named the 2012 Martin Luther King Day Honorary Chairperson.

Mack, a San Mateo native, said her service to her community was inspired King's battles against social injustice.

"Don't think it's over now that we're in 2012," Mack told the crowd at the San Mateo station. "We're in a good place, ladies and gentlemen, but it takes work."

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