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CCDA founder brings message of reconciliation

Civil rights activist and Christian Dr. John M. Perkins is bringing the mission he has carried for 50 years to a new generation of Belmont students.

“We have an opportunity at this moment in history … to live up to our dreams,” Perkins said Wednesday in a convocation, “Justice for All,” that emphasized the importance of humanitarianism and community within the college-aged generation.

The speech, co-sponsored by the Social Entrepreneurship Program and the Inman College of Health Sciences as part of the “Questions” convocation series, encouraged students to develop an appreciation for the increasing diversity that exists in America today.

“People of different colors and different nationalities, they enrich our lives,” Perkins said.

A new student group on campus is a chapter of Christian Community Development Association, which Perkins founded in 1989. CCDA functions to create a network of Christians committed to spreading the gospel through community development.

“Dr. Bernard Turner and his Social Entrepreneurship students are founding a CCDA chapter … one of the first in the nation,” said Dr. Todd L. Lake, vice president for Spiritual Development.

Turner will present a session on Social Entrepreneurship at the national CCDA conference in Minnesota later this month.

Perkins was born into poverty in 1930 in the highly segregated state of Mississippi. After his brother was killed at the hands of town’s marshal, Perkins fled to California at age 17. In 1960 he converted to Christianity, and returned to his home state to spread the gospel. There, his leadership in the civil rights movement resulted in various imprisonments and police run-ins.

Despite ending his schooling at the third-grade level, Perkins has received 12 honorary doctorates and written nine books. Perkins founded the Christian Community Health Fellowship, an umbrella organization for 300 faith-based clinics across the country. Belmont University has hosted the CCHF National Conference for the past 5 years.

— Nicole Bright.

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