Aaron Perry was very excited that his Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association Men’s Health & Education Center, located on Madison’s west side adjacent to JP Hair Design, Madison’s largest Black barbershop, was hosting in-person absentee voting for the Aug. 9 primary elections. It was a unique opportunity for the hundreds of Black men who come to his center and to JP’s Hair Design every day to get involved in the political process.
Last Friday, while hosting a dual in-person absentee voting and vaccine clinic, Perry, the president and founder of the Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association, says a white man deliberately stole the very large voting sign and heavy base that holds the sign in front of his building that indicates that his center is a place to vote. He says the man also removed several vaccine clinic signs from the area and that both of the actions were an intentional attempt to prevent folks from voting and getting vaccinated.
“This is clearly an attempt to suppress the vote. And an attempt maybe even to make people fearful,” Perry tells Madison365. “But it is not going to work. And my thing is that this is my business … and the fact that this coward comes to my business, and thinks that he can do this is disturbing. We understand that there’s privilege in our community, but we’re also talking about a very well-trained former police officer that will not play this game.
“Again, I want him to understand that I am serious — and please don’t let my calm demeanor fool you. That’s the message that I would have for this individual.”
Perry is indeed a former police officer, along with being the first African-American insulin dependent diabetic Ironman triathlete and a nationally recognized men’s health advocate. His health center on Madison’s west side has been a game changer for so many Black men seeking health resources and information.
Up until the vandalism took place last Friday, Perry says that everything was going really well at the center.
“It was a great day. We had a nice flow of people came through and next thing I know I was alerted to the fact that all the signage was gone,” Perry remembers. “And they didn’t know what happened to it. And so I ended up going and speaking with just a few of the businesses (in the mall) and come to find out that they said that there was a white guy that came and basically took the voting signs. And he walked around and intentionally picked up all of the vaccine signs and then he left the premises.”
The main voting sign was huge (pictured, at right) with a heavy base, so that was no easy task.
“It was a very big sign to let people know that they could vote here. But not only that, he took all of the vaccine clinic signs that were strategically placed around the area and literally placed on city property,” Perry says. “As soon as it came to my attention, I got together with the voting staff, and they ended up contacting the clerk of courts, who subsequently reached out to me and got my input on it.
“They indicated that they would be referring it to the city attorney, and a report was filed with the FBI for voter tampering,” Perry adds.
Yesterday, four days after the original vandalism took place, Perry got a a call from Jeff Patterson, owner of JP’s Hair Design.
“He told me that he came back to his property – he owns the mall – and he said, ‘Aaron, all of these voter signs and clinic signs are outside your front door.’ My doctors leave at four o’clock so clearly they would have noticed that,” Perry says. “So, clearly, they were returned after 4 p.m. which is pretty much when the mall is very quiet.
“So this is a clear, intentional attempt to disrupt voting and disrupt vaccine clinics,” Perry adds. “And the coward must have felt the weight of the justice system coming down on him because I did post this on social media. I believe part of that may have contributed to him getting scared and bringing the signs back.”
Perry says that he knows who the person is but he’s going to leave it up to the owner of the property to divulge that information.
“When bad things happen to good people, what happens to the good people? And that’s where I’m at,” he says. “We’re just trying to do a good community and public service for our community. And we get smacked in the face with something like this. This was an intentional act. To disrupt voting and the vaccine clinic … that’s sad.”
This is not the first time that Perry has been harassed since he started his clinic and he doubts it will be the last time. Either way, he says, accountability is coming.
“There have been other cowards that send me messages on [Facebook] Messenger. And I asked them, ‘Why don’t you post this on my Facebook page and quit hiding behind Messenger?’ But I have gotten some very racist and very derogatory messages ever since I started focusing on Black men’s health. Prior to that, when there wasn’t a real clear focus when my organization had started, I never encountered any of this. Now that we have a free clinic that’s focused on Black men, we’re starting to see the ugliness that exists in our community.”