By Angela Barbosa
“The Sound,” a song by Jon Foreman, lead singer of the internationally known alternative-rock band Switchfoot, perfectly defines the character of a man who in face of harassment, imprisonment and beatings as a result of his outspoken support and leadership role in civil rights, defied human nature.
A minister, civil rights activist, Bible teacher, philosopher and community developer, Dr. John M. Perkins “is an active member of so many communities throughout this country as a result of his work, and a man of God,” said Mr. Bill Beattie, founder and chair of Jericho Partnership, Inc.
While visiting Danbury to attend the 2015 Jericho Partnership Gala as a keynote speaker, Dr. Perkins, 85, gathered at Jericho’s SAY Yes Center on Rose Street with a group of local leaders and members of the clergy to share his views and experiences on issues of racial reconciliation and Christian community development.
“A leader is the person who sees the problem, recognizes that he or she cannot do it by themselves and stand up in the midst of it and say, ‘Let’s do it together’,” said Dr. Perkins about the importance of communities getting together, not falling addicted to their self and taking responsibility for each other.
Clara O. Perkins, Director of Jericho’s SAY Yes Youth Center reflects such an ethos. Her life investment in Danbury’s at-risk youth population, making a significant difference over the decades, was recognized when she was chosen as the recipient of the 2015 Jericho’s Good Samaritan Award.
Dr. Perkins also reflected on the concept of race: “When we work on the assumption that there are five races, we miss the image of God. We miss the very first thought in the Bible that mankind would reflect God in the world, collectively together. And our method of reconciliation is off the assumption that something is wrong…it’s asking foolish questions that shouldn’t have been asked. Do black lives matter? That’s a stupid question. Do white lives matter? Who told you that lie? Life matters.”
When asked about what makes Christian community development unique and so close to his heart, Dr. Perkins emphasized taking responsibility: “Why is it different than just throwing some money into the city? God wants us to be responsible. Responsibility is where it starts at.”
Dr. Perkins also spoke about forgiveness and to the question of giving up the hate to get to the other side. Referring to his documentary about what happened to him in prison he cited, “I said I wanted to retain the hate, but people came around me,” adding, “The answer to hate is love, and the other answer is that no lie is of the truth. You can’t fix it. No lie is of the truth. Jesus brought down from heaven the solution to the problem. First you have to know you got a problem, and then He brought down grace, and we are trying to be on it.”
Today, Dr. Perkins is president of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation of Jackson, Mississippi. He is one of the leading evangelical voices to come out of the American civil rights movement.
Jericho Partnership is a collaboration of Christ-centered ministries and congregations serving the youth, homeless and other at-risk populations of Danbury, CT. Its mission is to mobilize ministry and transform the city of Danbury for the glory of God and the common good of its people. For more information, visit http://jerichopartnership.org.