Eva Longoria Parker wins Freedom Award

Actress to be honored for her charity work

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Actress Eva Longoria Parker of "Desperate Housewives" fame has been named a recipient of this year's Freedom Awards along with a Nobel Peace Prize winner from Kenya and an American civil rights activist.

The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., announced the winners Tuesday and said the awards will be bestowed in a ceremony Oct. 6. It's the first year women will receive all three awards since the museum began honoring leaders in civil and human rights in 1991.

"It really speaks to the compassion, the power and the energy that women have when it comes to creating change," said Beverly C. Robertson, the museum's president.

Longoria Parker will receive the Legacy Award.

A Corpus Christi native, Longoria Parker founded Eva's Heroes, a charity that helps developmentally disabled children. Her sister Lisa, who is intellectually disabled, was the inspiration for the charitable group.

The actress also is the national spokeswoman for Padres Contra el Cancer, Spanish for Parents Against Cancer. She donated a house to a Hurricane Katrina victim and launched a campaign to house victims of the Haiti earthquake. She also has received awards from various Hispanic and Latino groups.

National Freedom Award winner Dorothy Cotton was the education director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1960 to 1968 and was at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis when Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot on April 4, 1968. The National Civil Rights Museum is located at the site of the former hotel.

After King's death, Cotton served as a vice president at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta and was a regional director for the federal government's agency for volunteer programs from 1978 to 1981.

Cotton also visited the former Soviet Union, China, Vietnam and nations in Europe and Africa to discuss social and humanitarian issues.

International Freedom Award winner Wangari Maathai of Kenya founded the Green Belt Movement, which has helped plant more than 40 million trees at farms, schools and churches. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

In the early 1990s, the Green Belt Movement worked to register voters and pressed for constitutional reform and freedom of expression in Kenya. Maathai was arrested and charged with sedition and treason in Kenya, which dropped the charges in November 1992 amid heavy international pressure.

In December, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon chose Maathai to be a U.N. "Messenger of Peace" to focus on climate change issues.