Matthews earns award
It’s been given to the likes of Mohandas Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
On Saturday, it will be given to Brewton’s own, the Rev. H.K. Matthews for his “lifelong commitment and resolute leadership of the American Civil Rights movement in the South.”
The “Gandhi, King and Ikeda Award” was created by Moorehouse College to celebrate the lives and work of three men from three different cultures and countries whose common path of profound dedication to peace has been recognized internationally.
Gaahandi’s civil disobedience and non-violent demonstrations won greater freedom and ultimately independence for some 400 million citizens in India after three centuries under British rule. Dr. Daisaku Ikeda was a Buddhist philosopher, author, educator and social activist who led to the non-violent democratization of Japan’s feudalistic social structures and an international grass-roots initiative of intercultural and interfaith dialogue and cooperation for global peace.
And we all know King’s story. It’s also one that Matthews can tell from a firsthand perspective – a feat that earned him the Moorehouse distingution.
In an award letter from the college, Dr. Lawrence Carter wrote, “(Matthews) marched with Dr. King in Selma on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday in 1965 and continued non-violent direction for justice and equality after formal segregation ended. Later, when you battled police brutality in the 1970s, you served time for a crime you did not commit.
“In fact, you withstood 35 arrests and multiple imprisonments throughout your career, in addition to great personal sacrifice,” the letter stated. “We are all indebted to you for your stalwart and dedicated leadership for non-violence and human rights.”
For Matthews, those accolades were just actions done because “it was the right thing to do.”
“Oftentimes, when we do things, they go un-noticed,” Matthews said. “To receive this honor, I’m humbled; blown away, really.
“All those years ago, I did those things because I felt it was the right thing to do,” he said. “For me, it was not white against black, it was right against wrong. And that holds true today. I have to give the credit to my grandmother who reared me. She put that fight in me. Those things, they were a great sacrifice, but it was all worth it.”
Matthews will be honored on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the opening of the “Gandhi, King, Ikeda: A Legacy of Building Peace” exhibit at the Mattie Kelly Fine and Performing Arts Center at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville.
“When I got the packet, saw the past recipients and the letter notifying me I had been selected, I was absolutely floored,” Matthews said. “So often when you sacrifice – or gave up all I had – really, it was taken – you feel that it goes unnoticed, but for past several years, the accolades have come, and I am ever so grateful.”