Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago Honors Al Perry

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Al Perry Passed away Thursday May 14, 2020

Albert Perry, a resident of Hyde Park, overcame the horrors of the Vietnam War to find a life-long calling. Like many veterans of that war, Perry witnessed a lot of traumatic incidents that have had a lasting impact, from the mental stresses of seeing friends killed to being poisoned by Agent Orange.

Although Perry wouldn’t go into detail about his experiences in Vietnam during his interview with the Herald, he did talk about learning how to cut hair while in the service, and he brought that skill back home with him and made it a point to keep sharing it with his community, including starting a school to train others in the field.

Perry was born in Alabama but raised in Chicago in the Oakland community. He grew up with his great-grand-parents who were instrumental in developing his understanding of who he was and how he interacts with the world around him. “My father was not in my life; I had a great grandfather and great grandmother that gave me my foundation. They and my uncles and aunts worked with me and nurtured me. They were good spiritual and religious people. I felt like I was very fortunate to have them around me,” Perry explained of his earlier years. “They let me understand what love looked like and what love feels like.”

While he was growing up, Perry attended Shakespeare Elementary School – which closed in 1996 but reopened to house Ariel Community Academy and North Ken-wood-Oakland Charter elementary school – and attended Hyde Park Academy for high school. Shortly after graduating from high school, Perry was drafted into the war in 1967. When he returned home in 1970, life was difficult for Perry. Transitioning from war to civilian life, Perry said, “I almost went crazy for about two months. I was lost.” Not only was he sick from Agent Orange, but he felt disconnected from his home. He was unable to decipher if the lack of connection was due to his community changing during the time he was drafted into the military or if he himself had changed.

To get him back into a routine in Chicago, Perry’s stepfather suggested that he work with him in a steel mill. “I didn’t like it much. I really wanted to work with my hands and help people, that’s what I really wanted to do. I thought about what I used to do in the military, which was cutting hair. So, I decided to go to hair school while working in the mill,” said Perry. “I found a lot of satisfaction; I saw myself being an entrepreneur, helping people by hiring them and basically that’s what happened.”

Over time, Perry did become an entrepreneur. However, while talking about his career achievements, he shined when he spoke about his time as an educator. Perry became a State licensed Cosmetology Teacher and Barber Teacher. He teamed up with Omar Rivas to create a hair school, called Omar Rivas Academy of Barber Arts and Sciences, and trained Black and Latino youth for 10 years. Some of the students were once incarcerated and unable to find jobs, but this training helped them to work in a shop. He even went on to create a unisex hair program for Chicago Public Schools at Westinghouse College Prep in 1998. While being a barber and training those entering the profession, Perry also was active in the now closed 21st District Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS), where he worked with youth, local businesses and police officers to build and sustain relationships over time. Even though that district was closed, Perry still found ways to work with youth and veterans.

Perry opened a barbershop in Bronzeville called Rayzor’s Edge Salon. After living in Bronzeville for over 40 years, Perry currently resided in Hyde Park and loved it. He cannot imagine moving from Hyde Park, he planned to stay in the neighborhood for years to come. “I feel that Hyde Park is a very diverse community and things that I like and enjoy, I can walk to. Anything I need to sustain me is right here in Hyde Park. I think it is a good neighborhood and I like the lakefront, It’s the dream place for me,” said Perry.

Al owned two hair salons and a barbershop in Bronzeville. He was a prolific entrepreneur and mentor to many your people. (Interview with the Hyde Park Herald)

Al Perry joined Muntu Dance Theatre’s Board in the early 90’s. He served as our Vice Chair for several years. His undying support for our company was remarkable. His love for African Culture and the mission of Muntu Dance Theatre shined exuberantly bright in the communities we serve. As a primary board member Al always did his do diligence to spread the prestigious work that Muntu has done for over the past 48 years. Muntu Dance Theatre owes this God given soul an abundant amount of honor and respect. RIP King, we will never forget you and will hold you high and close to our hearts forever.

WE HONOR YOU FOR YOUR COMITTMENT TO EXCELLENCE AS A PARADIGM FOR LEADERSHIP WHICH WILL INFULENCE GENERATIONS TO COME, FOR YOUR GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT, AND FOR LENDING YOUR CONSIDERABLE TALENTS AND RESOURCES TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF MUNTU DANCE THEATRE.

WE GIVE THANKS AND PRAISES FOR THE GIFT OF YOU.

(From the Heart of Muntu Dance Theatre)

Sincerely,
Muntu Dance Theatre, Board of Directors, Executive Director and Company

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