Civil rights activist Ernest E. Gibson told attendees love for others was the founding principle of King's social movement
Lisle, Illinois ~ Only one emotion, one principle is so universal and timeless that it can bridge deep cultural, religious and racial divides worldwide. That is love in all its imaginations.
Ernest E. Gibson, Ph.D., provided this summary of his lifetime in civil service to more than 700 guests as the featured speaker at the 22nd Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast at Benedictine University.
Gibson is an activist who knew King and helped plan civil rights movements in deeply segregated Alabama, including Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma, as well as the famous March on Washington (D.C.).
“We must bridge the gap of human understanding,” Gibson said. “We might not all look alike but we must create a bond. I learned the power of love from Dr. King. The very sense of love was Martin. His dream was to find a way to live in peace.”
Gibson, 88, stoically recounted some painful moments during the civil rights movement, including the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., which killed four young girls, one of whom was his daughter’s friend.
But even through such tragedy, Gibson said he learned through King’s guidance that the power of love can overcome the greatest obstacles.
“He (King) taught me the power of love to reject revenge, reject aggression, reject retaliation,” Gibson said. “The foundation of such a message is love. I urge this audience to remember and imagine love and peace.”
Gibson shared historical narratives of his relationship with King, including stories of working together for the United Negro College Fund, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Montgomery Improvement Association that King formed immediately following the arrest of Rosa Parks, which led to the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycotts and a pivotal moment in the American civil rights movement.
King asked Gibson personally if he would be the one to lead the boycotts, Gibson said.
“‘If you’re not ready to die, get out of this movement now,’” Gibson recalled King telling him at one of the Birmingham campaign meetings. “I became a member of the movement that night.”
The 13-month Montgomery boycotts eventually led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule segregation on public buses unconstitutional.
The event, which honors the legacy of King, also awards $1,000 scholarships to two students from Benedictine University and two from the College of DuPage (COD), which co-sponsors the breakfast.
Scholarship recipients of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship were Benedictine University students Brittany Brown and Taylor Lumpkin. The recipients from COD were Anthony Perry and Anthony Walker. The awards are based on an essay students write detailing how King’s ideas impacted their lives and how they influence others based on his teachings.
Lumpkin, 23, of Summit, Ill., is an Elementary Education major with a concentration in Social Science. She had attended the breakfast twice before and said she decided to apply for the scholarship while starting her last semester at Benedictine.
“Dr. King’s teachings revolve around leadership, peace, love and not judging others by skin color but loving one another despite our differences,” Lumpkin said. “Everyone should be treated equally.”
Her father, Russell Butler, expressed how proud he was of his daughter.
“It was New Year’s Eve when she told me she was receiving the award and I was excited,” Butler said. “That was a huge gift.”
Brittany Brown, 20, of Naperville, is a double major in Management and Organizational Behavior and Marketing.
“Dr. King really taught me to put people before myself,” Brown said. “I really love his service and his teachings about community, faith, love and sacrifice.”
Her mom, Rochelle Brown, spoke of how her daughter was a very focused and driven individual.
“I am very proud of her,” Brown said. “I just want her to be proud of anything that she does. I told her, ‘Make sure that you’re focused and committed to what you say you want to do, and follow it through because your word is your bond.’’’
After the breakfast, more than 100 guests joined a panel with Gibson and leaders and educators from Benedictine and COD to discuss King’s teachings of civil disobedience and nonviolence, and the importance of social justice and being a good citizen of the world.
Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 9,000 students in 59 undergraduate and 23 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the seventh consecutive year in 2017. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ben.edu.