By the time Perriman finishes speaking to a second class, he is running late for an appointment with County Commissioner Barbara Carey. He quickly collects a certificate of appreciation, pumps hands with principal Hunter, and hurries off to the Joseph Caleb Center in Liberty City.
Carey has enlisted Perriman for her campaign against the celebratory firing of guns on the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve. At her request, he has agreed to tape public service announcements for radio and television. "Who better to be a spokesman than someone personally affected by stray bullets," Carey says when the meeting convenes in her office on the top floor of the center.
It wasn't stray bullets that killed Garyn Perriman, of course. Still, more young people are killed by guns in Miami's black community than die of natural causes, according to Carey. "Brett didn't know the role in life that God offered him," she says. "It is to save lives and fight for a better tomorrow. That's his God-given gift. His other talent helped him to be a role model and to achieve success. Now this talent is a way that the whole community can profit from the bad things that have happened to him."
Perriman nods. Carey answers questions from a lone newspaper reporter while Perriman sits silently. He is scheduled to talk to the commissioner about the gun buy-back program he wants to start, but she indicates she has to run off to another meeting. He says he'll discuss it with the television reporters waiting downstairs. "Oh, the media's downstairs?" Carey asks. "Then I'll go down with you." He glances at his beeper as if reading a message, then tells Carey that the reporters have just left. When the commissioner turns away, Perriman smiles at Sears.
That Perriman can recognize Carey's disingenuousness is a testament to his own political savvy. Sadly, he's grown accustomed to politicians who seem more driven by PR than action. "A lot of our community leaders need to take more of an initiative," he says after Carey leaves. As he speaks, he tears into a lunch of roasted chicken provided by the commissioner's office.
Perriman himself is well positioned to run for public office. "Based just on name recognition and what he's done in the community, he would do well politically," opines former Miami city commissioner Richard Dunn. "Coming up from the area, the Scott housing projects, would be an asset. And money should be no problem for him. I think he would do well."
Is politics in his future?
"It will be," Perriman says quickly. "I don't want to jump on anyone's toes just yet, but it is in the plans."
That said, he insists he won't even think about moving to Miami to run for the seat currently occupied by Art Teele, should Teele be indicted as expected. For now he wants to accomplish as much as he can through sitting politicians like Carey, who he notes did participate in a vigil honoring his late brother. "I like to be indirectly involved in politics, out of the limelight," he says, finishing his chicken. "You want to be in a position where you can get the politicians to do their jobs better. With my business skills and my personality, I can get that done."
Barbara Miller, nibbling on a crust of freshly delivered potato pie, can't help but speak up. "This man," she says gazing at Perriman, "he's going to be the mayor someday."
Lunch over, Perriman heads to radio station 99 JAMZ (WEDR-FM 99.1). He has plans for an urban music concert against gun violence. He wants 90,000 people to attend, and he wants all the proceeds to fatten a scholarship fund created in his brother's name. "Everything happens for a reason," he says, returning to his brother's death. "The things we go through are for a reason. Then we can identify the problem. And then we can attack the problem."
Jerry Rushin is the radio station's general manager. He invites Perriman, Sears, and Miller into his office, which is overrun with CDs and music posters. Perriman spells out his vision for the concert and says he has a reputable promoter already onboard. From Rushin he'd like some advertising and, if possible, a musical act or two. The meeting is informal; there are no contracts to sign, no date for the concert has even been set. Sitting behind his desk in a padded leather chair, Rushin says he is more than willing to help, as soon as he sees the specifics. He also speaks of the leadership vacuum that Perriman discussed over lunch. "You know, you shouldn't have to be the one doing this," Rushin says, referring to the charity scut work. "There are other [community leaders] who are supposed to be doing this."