His Brilliant Career

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Perriman laughs. "There are a lot of leaders and activists in this community, but it's hard to find an active community leader," he cracks, repeating a phrase he and Sears often employ. He tells Rushin that he still plans to return to the Dolphins next season, though he allows for the first time today that his goals may be changing. "If this becomes my main focus," he tells Rushin, "if my energies need to be here, then maybe I will just go into this full-time. I'm going to do the most I can wherever I can do it."

It's late afternoon by now. Perriman leaves Rushin to swing by New Birth. He needs to sign some papers for a smaller charity gospel concert he is promoting later this month. And he is in discussions with Victor Curry about expanding the football camp concept across the county. "At these camps there's not going to be any football, though," Perriman says. "We will focus solely on the importance of education, of staying off drugs, and of stopping gun violence." The plan, no more than a concept at present, is to reach more than 100,000 kids.

He and Sears head into the church offices. Barbara Miller stays in the back seat of the Navigator, saying she'd like to rest. "Nobody knows how much he really helped me out after Coota was killed," she says softly. "He really helped me out. He lent me money and he got things in order for me. He helped out with the bills, and now he's trying hard to be my friend. Nobody knows these things, because he does them real quietlike." She looks out the car window at Perriman disappearing into the church. "He's in a lot of pain. He just don't show it to nobody."

When Sears and Perriman return, he is in high spirits. His business appointments concluded, he turns up the volume on the rap music that thumps from the stereo system. As the vehicle cruises down NW Seventh Street, Perriman twists his torso in time with the beat while he cocks his head back to warble the refrains. He is up. He shows no signs of the anguish Miller mentioned.

Indeed, Perriman is remarkably detached when speaking about Garyn's murder. "At the time, I felt feelings of revenge," he explains. "I am helping the police department to bring these people to justice. But vengeance now is out of my heart. The feeling in my heart is one of forgiveness. Even of them. They took my brother, [but] it was his time to go."

As it is for most people who grow up Miami's inner city, death has been a regular visitor in Perriman's life. This year, it is Garyn. Before, it was Randy. Most devastating was the loss of Perriman's mother Charlene in 1989. This is the one death that Perriman has trouble shaking off.

He remembers how she used to call him every single day when he was at UM. "The phone would ring and I'd tell everyone that was my mama. And they'd laugh and say, 'How do you know?' And I just knew. I'd pick up the phone and sure enough it was her."

Charlene was 46 years old when she died of heart failure. "I was playing for New Orleans," Perriman recalls. "I had to fly down to the hospital to see her. She was on life support, and I was the one who had to make the decision on whether or not to turn off the machine. My father was there but they knew they couldn't trust him, that I was the only one who could be counted on to make a rational decision. The doctor told me that she could live on life support but she would be a vegetable for the rest of her life. I know my mama, and I know that she never wanted to live like that, so I told them to turn off the machine.

"Afterwards, the pain inside me just built up tremendously. I went back to New Orleans, but there was just this huge pressure, this enormous pressure building up in my chest. It kept building and building. My blood pressure went up too, getting so high that the team physician told me that I was killing myself. He said that I had to let her go or I was going to go myself. But the pressure just kept building. Then one day it all just came out. I started crying and crying. I cried for five hours at least. I was on the ground, rolling around, just crying. When I finally stopped, the pressure was gone. My blood pressure dropped back to normal. I could go on. I still miss her. I miss her every day." The anguish in Perriman's voice is obvious.

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Robert Andrew Powell