The University of Memphis Presents Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Awards

Dr. Ladrica Menson-Furr

March 27, 2015 - In honor of the legacy of the slain civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the University of Memphis will hold the 39th annual MLK Human Rights Award and Scholarships presentation Friday, April 3, at 2 p.m. in the University Center River Room.

This year's Human Rights Award will be presented to Dr. J. Helen Perkins in recognition of her work at the University and throughout the community to expand civil, social and economic rights and her advocacy for nonviolent methods of social change. Perkins is an associate professor of reading and urban literacy in the U of M's College of Education, Health and Human Services.Her scholarly work focuses on children of poverty and their literacy acquisition and enhancement, and best practices. Perkins has more than 37 years in education, serving as a reading specialist, classroom teacher, literacy coach, former editor of The Reading Teacher, and was invited to serve on the Tennessee Reading Association Advocacy Committee. She currently serves as president of the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers.

Perkins has published several articles, chapters, a book offering literacy strategies for teachers and a children's book. Her community work includes conducting workshops for parents, teen fathers, volunteers, tutors and professional development for educators of underrepresented and under-performing students in both urban and rural environments. She is the current board chair of Porter-Leath. During her tenure as board chair, Porter-Leath has received more than $12 million in grants and contracts to meet the needs of children and their families.

She has received several awards and honors for her work including the Urban Impact Award from the Council of Great City Schools and membership in the U of M's "PI Millionaire's Club."

This year's scholarship recipients are Anna McCown and Johnathan Moffett. McCown is a freshman pre-nursing student and Moffett is a senior majoring in economics. The students were chosen from more than 35 applicants based upon their academic performance, university and community service, and their essay interpreting Dr. King's quote, "We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right."

Dr. Brittney CooperIn addition to the award presentation, the University will host a lecture and discussion of the future of the civil rights movement launched by King. Dr. Brittney Cooper, assistant professor of women's and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University, will discuss "The Next Generation of Civil Rights Leaders" on Thursday, April 2, at 6 p.m. in the University Center Theatre. A reception will precede her remarks at 5:30 p.m. in the theatre lobby. Cooper is a 2009 alumna of the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts at Emory University with a PhD in American studies. Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Howard University, with bachelor's degrees in English and political science. A scholar of black women's intellectual history, black feminist thought, and race and gender in popular culture, Cooper writes extensively about both historic and contemporary iterations of black feminist theorizing.

For more information on the MLK Award presentations and Dr. Cooper's address, contact Dr. Ladrica Menson-Furr at 678-5455 or