John Perkins Biography

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John M. Perkins is an American civil rights activist. He has worked extensively in the realm of reconciliation and development centered around the Christian Gospel message. He currently serves and founder and president of the John M. Perkins Foundation in Jackson, Mississippi. He is also a member of the Board of Advisors of the Bible Literacy Project, publishers of the curriculum The Bible and Its Influence for public high school literature courses.

Born June 16th, 1930 John grew up on a plantation as a sharecropper in the 1940s. Despite dropping out of school in the third grade, John Perkins has been recognized for his work by being awarded nine honorary doctorates from Wheaton College, Gordon College, Huntington College, Spring Arbor College, Geneva College, Northpark College, Whitworth College, Belhaven College and Nyack College. He is the author of nine books including A Quiet Revolution, Let Justice Roll Down, With Justice For All, Beyond Charity, He’s My Brother, Resurrecting Hope, and A Time to Heal, and has written numerous chapters in others. John Perkins formally served on the Board of Directors of World Vision, Prison Fellowship, National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Spring Arbor College, and fifteen other boards. He is an international speaker and a teacher on the issues of racial reconciliation, indigenous leadership development, and community development. He has founded such organizations as the John M. Perkins Foundation and Voice of Calvary Ministry in Jackson, Mississippi; Mendenhal Ministries in Mendenhall, Mississippi; Harambee Christian Family Center and Preparatory School in Pasadena, California and many other ministry projects.

John Perkins and his family have ministered among the poor for the past 40 years. In 1947 he moved from Mississippi on the urging of his family, who worried that he might be in danger following the fatal shooting of his brother, Clyde, by a police officer. He settled in southern California where he became acquainted with the gospel, after his son, Spencer, convinced him to attend a local church.

In 1960 John Perkins, his wife, Vera Mae, and their children left a "successful" life in California and moved back to Mendenhall with his five children, Spencer, Jonie, Phillip, Derek, and Deborah. There he and Vera Mae, begin a Christian community development ministry in the rural Mississippi community. In 12 years, John Perkins helped start a day-care center, youth program, church, cooperative farm, thrift store, housing repair ministry, a health center, and an adult education program. Today, Mendenhall Ministries thrives under the leadership of Artis Fletcher and Ernestine Skiffer.

In 1972, the Perkinses now with eight children, moved to Jackson, where they founded Voice of Calvary Ministries - another Christian community development ministry. Voice of Calvary Ministries started a church, health center, leadership development program, thrift store, low-income housing development, and training center. From this ministry, other development projects started in the neighboring Mississippi towns of Canton, New Hebron and Edwards. In 1982, the Perkins family moved to Pasadena and founded Harambee Christian Family Center in Northwest Pasadena, a neighborhood that had one of the highest daytime crime rates in California. Harambee is running numerous programs including after school tutoring, Good News Bible Clubs, an award-winning technology center, summer day camp, youth internship programs, and a college scholarship program. Rudy Carrasco now serves as executive director of this organization.

In 1989, John Perkins called together a group of Christian leaders from across America that was bonded by one significant commitment-expressing the love of Christ in America's poor communities, not at arms length, but at the grass-roots level. An association was formed and Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) held its first annual conference in Chicago in 1989. CCDA has grown from 37 founding members to 6,800 individuals and 600 churches, ministries, institutions and businesses in more than 100 cities and townships across the country.

In 1992 John Perkins began publishing URBAN FAMILY magazine in response to the breakdown of the urban family, the breakdown of the community, and the increasing violence within the inner city. The mission of URBAN FAMILY is to be a voice of hope and progress, offering solutions that emphasize responsibility, affirm dignity, build moral character, and encourage reconciliation. The circulation quickly rose from 13,000 to 35,000 nationally. This magazine name was changed to a more appropriate reconciliation title, the RECONCILERS FELLOWSHIP. Unfortunately, after the untimely death of the Dr. Perkins' eldest son, Spencer, in January 1998 (who also served as editor-in-chief of this magazine), its publication was discontinued in the fall of 1998.

Shortly after getting the magazine "up and running," Perkins returned to Pasedena, where in the fall of 1995, he founded the Harambee Preparatory School (HPS), an elementary school providing quality education to prepare neighborhood children for college. HPS desires to see the children of poverty level homes receive a quality academic training in a secure and loving environment.

The tragic death of his son, Spencer, brought Perkins to Mississippi once again. Vowing to keep Spencer's hopes and dreams alive and well in the West Jackson Community, in 1998 Perkins bought the property once owned by Spencer and his Antioch Community and established the Spencer Perkins Center which operates under the banner of the John M. Perkins Foundation. Today he serves as the number one cheerleader for the John M. Perkins Foundation where his youngest daughter, Elizabeth Perkins, serves as the Executive Director. Over the past nine years they have worked together to establish the Spencer Perkins Center (SPC) which is the youth arm of JMPF. Through the SPC, the Foundation's staff has developed youth programs such as After School Tutorial, Summer Arts Camp, Junior and College Internship Program, Good News Bible Club, Young Life and Jubilee Youth Garden. JMPF also has a housing arm called Zechariah 8 which provides affordable housing for low-to moderate-income families with a focus on single mothers.

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