“We’re dealing with the whole person.” Aaron Perry kicks off national book tour to inspire Black men’s health and wellness

    Aaron Perry, the founder and president of Rebalanced Life Wellness Association, kicks off his nationwide book tour on Nov. 29. (Photo by Isaac Trussoni)

    Aaron Perry, the founder and president of Rebalanced Life Wellness Association, has been a longtime champion of men’s health in the Madison area and beyond, especially when it comes to Black men getting in touch with the entire picture of their health and well-being. With his own history of overcoming health challenges, to now being an inspiration for many diabetics looking to find a better sense of managing the disease, Perry is as passionate about his community’s health as he is his own. 

    Where that passion first started to develop was in Perry’s work as a police officer in the Madison area, as many of the challenges for people who Perry ended up often bringing to jail started to display a visible pattern.       

    “I used to be a police officer, and I had a number of cases where I felt like the only crime was guys were just in poor health,” Perry explained to Madison365 at his first book tour stop at Resilient Hair Design on Madison’s West Side. “What I mean by that is, these guys had been trying to knock bills out and got overwhelmed and the collection agency is calling, then it’s easier to just try to work and find a job to get paid under the table. No medical coverage. Because they have outstanding warrants, I’m driving them to the Dane County Jail, and I would always look in the rear-view mirror and I said, ‘Man, what can change to keep you from being in the backseat of this car in the future?’”

    A young man gets a haircut at Resilient Hair Design while reading one of Aaron Perry’s books from the book tour.

    Perry recalled turning back up at the jail with applications for jobs, Urban League expungement clinics, and other resources to better handle financial struggles for those he saw struggling, but was soon relegated back to simply enforcing the law. Wanting to do more, Perry started the organization that now makes a huge impact for many who need healthcare attention the most with his Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association.

    Perry is extending the work he has done in Madison to establish a focus on men’s health in Black barbershops throughout the nation by introducing a new series of books that he hopes to bring to barbershops across the country. In his nationwide book tour, that kicked off at Resilient Hair Design Barbershop on Madison’s West Side Wednesday, Perry has the goal of visiting 250 Black barbershops and impacting 30,000 Black men across America.

    “Now that COVID has kind of eased up a little bit, guys are back to waiting one, two, or three hours for the haircut,” said Perry. “Now we’re gonna put those books in their hands, and we’re encouraging them to read these books while you’re waiting to get your haircut. At the end of all the books, there are reflection questions. We’re asking guys, when you read the stories, and you get to the end, let’s reflect on what you read and how it applies to your life. That’s the goal of what we’re trying to do. The other main goal is getting in the door with the barbershops. I am going to encourage all of the owners to consider putting the men’s health center physically in their barbershops.”

    Five books in a health-related book series, all written by Aaron Perry, will be featured on the book tour.

    Perry hopes that these spaces can continue to provide not only knowledge but also resources as the goal with the health centers looking to get men on a stable health track within 45 days. Perry spoke to the importance of going beyond just screenings when necessary and actually pushing for visits with medical professionals to run tests and find the best courses of action for treatment. 

    To Perry, the biggest benefit of bringing health care and building awareness of personal health to the space of a barbershop is the comfort and accessibility it offers as dealing with issues like heart disease, diabetes, blood pressure, and sleep apnea can often be intimidating and intimate concerns for those at risk.    

    “We’re dealing with the whole person,” Perry said in closing. “We’re not dealing with just parts of their story, we’re dealing with the whole person. That’s the neat thing about being in the barbershop is that guys will come in and they unmask. They let their guards down. They don’t have to be protective. They don’t have to be worried about being judged, and that is what’s so neat about bringing healthcare to the barbershop. That’s what separates us from your standard medical clinic or hospital.”