Featuring: Leslie Perry
Story Man; Bridge-Builder Man; Inspiring Man
I am grateful that a documentary was created to honor Leslie Perry. With all the impact that he had in California and anywhere he roamed, it was fitting for the filming to take place. Leslie was someone who was happy to be backstage, on stage, or enjoying what was happening on that stage. While he had the power to perform, he recognized the power to listen.
He loved the theater world, though said that the 1960s was a tricky time for black folks to find opportunities to act. That didn’t stop him and likely energized him more. He helped with plays in all areas of producing and acting with the Aldridge Players-West in 1963. Despite his love of the theater, he wanted to do something different. That’s when storytelling came into the picture.
He felt drawn to tell stories as Frederick Douglass, that great orator, statesman, and abolitionist. Someone said that it was hard to follow Leslie when he performed, especially as Frederick Douglass. People preferred to open for him rather than follow his act. Leslie saw storytelling as a way to share how he felt on the Civil Rights Movement and where he felt the country was at for the time-being with great hope of peaceful progress.
Leslie’s peaceful tactics of guerilla street storytelling brought skepticism from the Black Panthers. Yet, once several members of the Black Panthers experienced Leslie’s storytelling as Frederick Douglass, they respected his ways to stir the heart and call people to action.
One time, Leslie did a performance of Frederick Douglass at Ventura College in 1972. A teacher teaching on campus at the time later on discovered that Leslie would bring back the performance on the same campus in 2008. She made it a point to attend.
He was honored with the ORACLE Award from the National Storytelling Network. Leslie was one of the founding members of the Los Angeles Storytelling Festival.
When Leslie was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), he found ways to perform fundraising events for many ALS charities. It was never about him but of the other people facing ALS. He brought attention to the need to treatment and cures.
This is only a hint of what Leslie did throughout his life. Again, the fact there is a documentary can only share so much as well. Leslie Perry truly was the “Story Man,” a term he said often and became the title of his first book. He had a way of “being.”
From one of this stories, “The Knee-High Man,” he ends with “You don’t need to be big, you need to be smart.” Leslie Perry was smart as well as many other wonderful traits like kindness and commitment.
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You can see more details on Leslie Perry with the Story Artists Memorial.
Here is that documentary though many videos and films can be found:
Do you know a Story Artist who has passed on and want others to remember them? Memories? Pictures? You can submit names and memories of Story Artists who have passed on through our online form.
I appreciate Leslie Perry. The more I learn about him, and more I am in awe. I want to give him a big hug and say thank you. I look forward to doing that after this time on Earth.
Leslie Perry still has a story. You have a story. We all have stories.