Go to the people, live among them, learn from them, love them. Start with what they know. Build on what they have, but of the best leaders, when their task is done, the people will remark, “We have done it ourselves.”
-Ancient Chinese Proverb
The John and Vera Mae Perkins philosophy is a community development concept. It wasn’t developed in a classroom, nor formulated by those foreign to the poor community. Our Biblical principles are practical and evolved from years of living and working among families living in our target area. In rural Mississippi, John Perkins first developed this philosophy. He, his wife, Dr. Vera Mae Perkins, and their children have lived out this philosophy for more than 56 years.
The legacy of John and Vera Mae Perkins
Founders of Mendenhall Ministries & Bible Church
John, Vera Mae and their families have ministered among the poor for the past 56 years. In 1960, the couple left a successful life in California and moved back to Mendenhall, MS to begin living out a new principle. 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.
John and Vera Mae also organized their communities during the Civil Rights era. With marches, community action and bravely taking a stand in their own personal lives, John and Vera Mae led the way for civil disobedience. Their children were some of the first students to segregate their local schools and they sheltered the difficulties of that time together as a family.
John was brutally beaten by law enforcement during this time. He was imprisoned after attempted to free white college students who had been jailed for freedom marching with the Perkins.
Today, Mendenhall Ministries continues under the leadership of Artis & Carolyn Fletcher and Dr. Carrie Turner.
Founders of Voice of Calvary Ministries
The Perkins family moved to Jackson, MS, seeing opportunities to bring education and support to poor communities in the capital city. Voice of Calvary Ministries started a church, health center, leadership development program, thrift store, low-income housing development, and training center. From this ministry, he initiated and helped with community development projects and health centers in neighboring towns of Canton, New Hebron and Edwards. Voice of Calvary Ministries continues to work in its West Jackson community under the leadership of Rev. Phil Reed.
Founder of Harambee Ministries
In 1982, the Perkins moved to Pasadena, California and his family founded Harambee Christian Family Center, now Harambee Ministries in Northwest Pasadena, a neighborhood that had one of the highest daytime crime reates in the entire state of California. His son Derek and his daughters, Deborah and Priscilla were instrumental in the development of the Harambee Center. Harambee has run numerous programs including after-school tutoring, Good News Bible Clubs, an award-winning technology center, summer day camps, youth internship programs, and a college scholarship program. They currently maintain many of these community programs as well as a preparatory school for youth in the community. Harambee is now being led by Harlan Redmond.
The John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation
The John M. Perkins Foundation, started in 1983, has worked hard to engage the local community in Jackson and also spread a message of reconciliation and development across the United States. Our organization has also been instrumental on the world stage.
After the death of John and Vera Mae’s eldest son, Spencer, in 1998, the Perkins bought the property once owned by Spencer and his Antioch Community and established the Spencer Perkins Center, the youth arm of the John M. Perkins Foundation. Elizabeth Perkins led the Spencer Perkins Center to develop youth programs such as After School Tutoring, Summer Arts Camp, Junior and College Internship Program, Good News Bible Club, Young Life and Jubilee Garden. The foundation also has a housing arm, Zechariah 8, providing affordable housing for low-to moderate-income families with a focus on single mothers. Now she is a part of the JVMPF executive team working to strengthen these exciting ideas.
In 2010, the John M. Perkins Foundation changed its name to the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation to honor the contributions of John’s wife, Vera Mae. While John traveled the United States and world spreading the message of reconciliation and justice, Dr. Vera Mae Perkins worked tirelessly to nurture his ministry and keep the home-fires burning.
C0-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of CCDA
The Christian Community Development Association
In 1989, John Perkins called together a group of Christian leaders from across America who were bonded by one significant commitment—expressing the love of Christ in America’s poor communities; not at arm’s length, but at the grass-roots level. An association was formed and the Christian Community Development Association was born. CCDA held its first annual conference in Chicago in 1989. CCDA has now grown from 37 founding members to over 6,800 individuals and 600 churches, ministries, institutions and businesses in more than 100 cities and townships across the country.
Publisher of Urban Family Magazine
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. It was a voice of hope and progress, offering solutions that emphasized responsibility, affirming dignity, building moral character, and encouraging reconciliation. The circulation quickly rose from 13,000 to 35,000 nationally. The name was changed to RECONCILERS FELLOWSHIP. The magazine was discontinued after the editor-in-chief, Spencer Perkins, passed away in 1998.
Founders of Harambee Preparatory School
In the fall of 1995, John Perkins, and his daughter, Priscilla founded the Harambee Preparatory School (HPS), an elementary school in Northwest Pasadena, CA providing quality education to prepare at-risk neighborhood children for college. HPS desires to see the children of poverty level homes receive quality academic training in a secure and loving environment.