Leadership is honed in many ways, and for Adonis Perryman, a 2017 Phillips High School graduate, leadership stemmed from being the oldest of eight siblings.
The 18-year-old is his mother’s help in raising them, and has been a rock for his siblings during challenging times like when the large family faced instability and lived with relatives.
He has been that same rock at Turner A.M.E. Church in Bronzeville, where Perryman serves as a junior trustee overseeing youth activities.
This steadfast teen will be honored as a “Rising Star” by the DuSable Museum of African American History at its annual “Night of 100 Stars” gala June 24 at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.
“When I found out I was getting the award, I was surprised, because I thought, ‘What did I do? I didn’t really do anything,'” said the North Kenwood-Oakland youth.
The coveted “Rising Star” award annually honors amazing Chicago Public Schools students already making their mark. Perryman’s pastor sings his praises.
The teen has acted as a father to his younger siblings while maintaining a 3.8 grade-point average. His daily routine starts with ensuring his younger siblings get to school and back safely. Evenings, he ensures everyone completes homework and chores.
“I get their clothes out the night before. I wake up early to help them get ready, then we leave out. When walking down the street, each smaller kid grabs an older kid’s hand. And after school, we use the same system. Their buddy helps them with their homework, and after all of it is done, I check it,” Perryman said. “Basically, it’s a structure thing. If I keep everyone going the way I picture it, I’m able to get done what I need to do too. We function as a unit.”
He and his siblings live between their grandmother and uncles, and in recent years, Perryman’s grandmother had been sick, in need of a heart transplant. It was him she depended on during medical emergencies, said the grandmother.
“When his grandmother first started bringing them to the church, I noticed Adonis would come in and sit with his head down, and the younger kids would listen to him. He just had a command over them,” said Turner A.M.E.’s pastor, the Rev. Sheila Wilson Freelon.
“I said, ‘Wow! This young man has leadership ability!’ He was doing such an excellent job in that family role that I asked him to be a junior trustee,” she said. “He’s done an excellent job there as well. When youth are at church for choir rehearsal or other activities, I can count on Adonis to make sure they’re where they’re supposed to be, doing what they’re supposed to be doing. He just has this quiet authority about him. He doesn’t have to raise his voice. Others listen.”
Perryman is active in Turner A.M.E.’s social justice efforts, helping lead anti-violence marches. He has been accepted to Northeastern, Indiana State and National Louis universities, and plans to study criminal justice.
“I want to become a defense lawyer, because I feel like there’s a lot of brothers locked up because they can’t afford lawyers. For me, it’s personal,” the teen said.
Freelon turns to Perryman to inspire other youth.
“I started pulling him up to speak. He’s very articulate and can say profound things, off the top of his head. I told him, ‘God has a plan for you,'” she said. “Adonis deserves this honor because he has persevered through challenges that others may find too difficult to overcome. Not only has he overcome them, but he is yet overcoming, and blossoming as a leader of people in the midst of it.”
The DuSable event annually recognizes Chicagoans or those with Chicago ties who have made outstanding contributions through careers and civic engagement.
Also being honored this year:
- Eva Maria Lewis, a 2017 graduate of Walter Payton College Prep, also will receive a “Rising Star” Award.
- Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., will receive the President’s Award.
- Ertharin Cousin, former executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, and a Stanford University distinguished lecturer and visiting fellow, is this year’s recipient of the Humanitarian Award.
- Chancelor “Chance the Rapper” Bennett, one of the newest members of the museum’s board of trustees, is receiving the Trail Blazer Award.
“This is something else, to get an award at an event with Chance the Rapper,” said Perryman. “I wasn’t expecting this. Surely, I wasn’t. But I’m thrilled.”