Hooks Institute welcomes Yolanda Baptist-Green, Reverend Dr. Lasimba Gray Jr. and Kenya Hooks as Board Members
Patricia Hooks Gray and Johnnie R. Turner named Honorary Board Members
April 7, 2021 — The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis welcomes Yolanda Baptist-Green, Reverend Dr. Lasimba Gray Jr. and Kenya Hooks to its’ Board; as well as Patricia Hooks Gray and Johnnie R. Turner as Honorary Board Members.
The Board assists the Institute in the strategic development and implementation of its mission and programs. Members have included community activists, attorneys, engineers, corporate, public relations officials and clergy.
About Yolanda Baptist-Green
Yolanda Baptist-Green is a highly accomplished communications manager with broad experience in developing consistent messaging that is targeted to specific audiences. Yolanda manages projects in the private business sector, faith-based organizations and government organizations. She currently works for the Shelby County Division of Corrections as an employee disciplinary specialist. In this role, Baptist-Green tracks and records employee work performance patterns to improve professionalism and accountability within the organization. A native Memphian, Yolanda received a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Memphis with an emphasis in Public Relations.
“I am honored to join the Hooks Institute Board because I am passionate about networking and developing viable relationships to improve racial, economic and social injustices in Memphis and neighboring communities,” said Baptist-Green.
About Reverend Dr. Lasimba Gray Jr.
Reverend Dr. Lasimba Gray Jr. is a Memphis civil rights activist with international reach. Educated at the Memphis Theological Seminar, he served for 25 years as pastor of the historic New Sardis Baptist Church. His activism and service for the community extended far beyond his church and earned him awards and honors too numerous to list. To pick just one, in 1999, the Shelby County Commission renamed a major section of Holmes Road in Memphis “The Dr. L. LaSimba Gray Jr. Road” to honor Gray for his long tenure of service in Shelby County. Numerous other leadership roles include service on the Board of Director of Tri-State Bank and representation of the American Clergy at the 2005 G-8 Summit in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is highly accomplished in community organization and fundraising and responsible for five historical markers in Memphis. He currently leads an initiative to erect an Ida B. Wells Memorial Statue on Beale Street.
“I was challenged by Pastor Benjamin L. Hooks to be a part of the solutions in life,” said Gray. “I see this in the vision of the Hooks Institute.”
About Kenya Hooks
Kenya Hooks is a native of Milwaukee, Wis. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Hampton University in Hampton, Va. in 1996 and started her professional career at National City Corporation in Cleveland, Ohio. Hooks relocated to Memphis in 2003 to attend law school and received her Juris Doctor from Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2008. She is married to Michael Hooks, the great-nephew of Benjamin and Frances Hook. She worked as a legal assistant for Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks throughout law school and until he died in 2010. Hooks worked in private practice as a civil litigator for Bruce Turner, PLLC, from 2010-2013. In 2013, she began her career at the City of Memphis as an assistant city prosecutor, prosecuting violations of the city code and working in partnership with the District Attorney General's Office to reduce blight in the Memphis community. In Jan. 2019, she was appointed to chief prosecutor at the City of Memphis.
“This is an exciting time in our country's history to be an active participant in the fight for social justice and racial equality,” said Kenya Hooks. “I look forward to continuing the legacy of Dr. Hooks through my service on the Hooks Institute Board.”
About Patricia Hooks Gray
Patricia Hooks Gray is the daughter of Rev. Benjamin L. Hooks and Frances D. Hooks. She is an innovative educator who taught language arts and social studies in the Princeton School District in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pat created and presented reading units for teachers at Core Knowledge Conventions across the country. Her master's degree as a Reading Specialist was earned at Xavier University in Cincinnati. For 21 years, she was an adjunct professor at Xavier teaching undergraduate and graduate-level courses in reading. Her time is currently spent supporting the education ministry with teenagers at her church. She is an avid reader and researcher of relevant issues and topics in society.
“As an advocate of promoting constructive civil rights initiatives and applicable social changes in communities, I am pleased to serve as an honorary board member,” said Gray.
About Johnnie R. Turner
Johnnie R. Turner was born in Hughes, Ark., to sharecropper parents. When she was 3 years old, her parents escaped with their children under the cloak of darkness and made their way to Memphis, where she later graduated from Manassas High School in the top 5% of her class. Her activism began during her years at LeMoyne-Owen College where she participated in sit-ins and was subsequently arrested. She returned to Memphis and taught for 30 years at Memphis City Schools, assuming leadership roles, including serving as executive director for the Memphis Branch of the NAACP. Turner represented District 85 in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 2010 to 2018. Awards include Who’s Who in Black America, Great Women of the 21st Century, Shelby County Schools Hall of Fame and Legislator of the Year.
"I am so thrilled to be affiliated with the Hooks Institute because it continues Dr. Hooks’ legacy of service to others and because Dr. Hooks was critical to every phase of my life,” said Turner. "Dr. Hooks was my attorney when I was arrested while protesting for civil rights during the 1960s and was my pastor and married me to the late Larry Tuner, who also served in the Tennessee Legislature for 25 years."
About the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change
The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute implements its mission of teaching, studying and promoting civil rights and social change through research, education and direct intervention programs. Institute programs include community outreach; funding faculty research initiatives on community issues; implementing community service projects; hosting conferences, symposiums and lectures; and promoting local and national scholarship on civil and human rights. The Hooks Institute is an interdisciplinary center at the University of Memphis. Contributed revenue for the Hooks Institute, including funding from individuals, corporations and foundations, is administered through the University of Memphis Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, visit memphis.edu/benhooks.