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Gridiron Veteran Works To Educate On Racism Through Poetry

Lorenzo Perry

Lorenzo Perry has always made a difference. His actions have always been powerful.

The former Bryant University and La Salle Academy star running back and owner of GameDay Fitness has served as a positive influence to thousands of young athletes with his instruction and guidance.

Yet, his most powerful message has come while off the field, away from the gym. A coach and mentor framed by a chiseled body and kind voice, Perry’s most influential message is communicated through poetry.

His spoken word against racial injustice released following the recent heinous death of George Floyd is perhaps more powerful than any instruction he has ever given on a field.

While his football career has been well documented, few are aware of Perry’s passion for writing free verse. He writes, but keeps his output private.

In fact, Perry’s recent poetic verse was just the second piece he has ever shared publicly. The last was back in 2007 when he was a student at Bryant University.

“Poetry has always been a hobby of mine .. I enjoy writing poetry,” said Perry. “But I rarely share.”

Lorenzo Perry social media

It has been more than a dozen years since Perry shared his spoken word. While both pieces centered on diversity, this one is different. Much different.

“I don’t write a lot. I have been trying to get back into it. This situation (George Floyd) and environment lit a fire and ignited me to write,” said Perry. “I was able to express my thoughts. Poetry helps me talk through some of the things going on.”

Like much of the nation, Floyd’s cruel death left Perry enraged, hurt and heartbroken. Like many concerned about the current environment and devastating issues occurring in the country, he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

“The more I watched the news, it kept pulling me back to the paper,” said Perry.

He decided to revisit a way of addressing his emotions, the spoken word, to help him come to a personal understanding. He grabbed a pen and the strong words began to spill onto the paper. With the stroke a the pen, his feelings against racism flowed. Perry addressed racial injustice, his disdain for violence and the need for change.

Reluctant at first to share, Floyd’s death spoke to him and Perry wanted to pass that message on to others.

“Maybe there are some people who would appreciate this and would find some kind of meaning in this  …” said Perry.

So he recorded his poem and posted the video to his social media channels.

 “A little something I put together to help me express the pain and hurt! That latest video of George Floyd brought me to tears as I watched that man take his last breath pleading for help, and calling out to his mother. Love all my friends from all walks of life that continue stand firm against racism and hate ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏼✊🏻

Perry has unintentionally become a motivator for change. It was never his plan. No one, especially Perry who’s not a fan of the limelight off the gridiron or out of the gym, could have expected the outcome.

The response has been overwhelming. His fierce, thoughtful outcry for change has been viewed more than 30,000 times on his social media platforms. The post on his Facebook page alone has been viewed by 20,000, shared 500 times and received 400 comments. Combined with a similar post on the Game Day Fitness Instagram page, his untitled spoken word has been viewed 30k times over just two weeks.

“I never thought it would be received like this. I had no idea it would receive this traction,” he said. “Anytime you speak on sensitive subjects we are not sure how it’s going to be received or how the message is going to be conveyed. I was a little reluctant to put myself out there.”

On the field, the sideline, and in the gym, he has received praise. Off the field, Perry knows his subject matter well. He has been racially profiled.

“I have experienced some racism during my life, but I am fortunate that it has been more covert and not as ignorant, blatant and treacherous as others have experienced,” said Perry. “Maybe it’s because of my athletic success or the part of the country in which we live. But any level of racism is disgusting and completely unacceptable.”

He gave an example.

“Because you’re a kid from an urban neighborhood dressed a certain way, prejudices are reflected onto you and may not be the definition of who you really are,” he said.

He has been pulled over by the police.

Perry insists he’s not perfect. Once he was pulled over when his foot was too heavy on the gas pedal. The speeding ticket was justified. In another instance he was stopped for having a tinted window. Also justified.

But he questions the time he was stopped in Providence’s Smith Hill section after he circled a block several times unable to find a library and another time when he was pulled over by an undercover Providence police officer.

“They (officers) were pretty much profiling and pulling over anyone they thought could be carrying guns. They pulled me over and asked, ‘Where are the guns?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t carry guns.’ They proceeded to search the car and then let me go. The detective told me to ‘leave the guns alone’ as I was getting back in the car.”

Perry recently sat down and discussed racism with Carter, his eight-year-old son. Carter loves football and fitness and is a mirror image of his father. Carter would rather focus on speed, agility and footwork. Perry’s off-field message to his son was far more important: The world isn’t always fair, that he may be treated unjustly due the color of his skin. The conversation is difficult.

“He doesn’t really understand. He goes to school and plays with kids of all races. This is still hard for him to process,” said Perry. “Race plays such a huge role in how one is perceived even though we are pushing why it shouldn’t be that way. I’m trying to help him understand that unfortunately the world we live in right now can be very judgmental.”

Four children under the age of 10 comprise Perry’s blended family.

“I teach them to respect and to accept individuals from all walks of life. I teach my kids to be proud to be black,” said Perry.

“I’m just really hoping that all my kids are comfortable with who they are and know they are just as smart, powerful and capable as anyone else in this world,” he added. “I’m encouraging them and telling them that inclusion, equality and diversity are crucial elements that make society run.”

Perry’s spoken word video has been shared by everyone from family, friends and strangers to 12-year NFL veteran and Rhode Island native Will Blackmon, Perry’s longtime friend. His inbox is filled with heartfelt messages and requests for participation in groups and coalitions, including one from his alma mater, Bryant University.

“It’s healing,” said Perry. “With issues like this many struggle with how to communicate and express our thoughts in a way that is well received and understood. So for me to piece together and have the support and praise that it’s been getting, it’s awesome. It’s been healing not just for me, but for so many.

“What’s great is there are so many different angles and perspectives and how people make sense of it … people that have reached out to me and how different pieces have spoken to them,” he said.

He is hoping his message calling for change, actually does just that — even if it changes just one person’s view.

“People are calling for people to educate themselves and be informed,” said Perry.

“Racism is still very much a reality. People from various parts of the country are so removed. The outcries diminish these things because that’s not their reality. There is a need to step back, listen, understand and emphasize where others are coming from. Maybe people see things from a different angle and help you to understand. Reality for you is not the reality for somebody else.”

He’s hoping his viral message may change that.

“How can we change? How can we be better? I’m hoping by sharing this video someone will see things a little bit differently,” said Perry,

I march and pray today with the hopes of a better tomorrow