Atlantic County Honors Perry Mays With Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award
Mays is active in the community, and fights to keep children away from drugs
When Atlantic County first began handed out the Martin Luther King Jr. Award beginning in 1988, the award was given to one person. This took place each of the first two years, before the county began handing out two a year, every year from 1990-2012.
This year was different, and it was not a permanent shift in a new direction.
“What he has undertaken, he doesn’t have to,” Atlantic County Executive said of the award’s 2013 recipient, Perry Mays. “He has children, grandchildren and a family that he cares about. When you rock the boat, you place yourself in harm’s way.”
Mays is the Stop the Violence Coalition of Atlantic County Chairperson, and the former Director of Community Partnerships for Health Engagement at AtlantiCare. He was there 32 years before he retired.
He started out working in the Emergency Room and rose through the ranks quickly, contributing to the Total Quality Management Fellowship and Healthy Cities Initiative.
“Working at AtlantiCare afforded me the opportunity to do a lot of community work,” Mays said during the award presentation at the county’s 26th annual commemorative celebration of King on Jan. 18 in Atlantic City.
That’s where Mays rocks the boat, and where he puts himself in danger.
Mays has organized and trained individuals to “take back their communities from drug dealers.” This includes the Peace Keepers, a youth group that was in attendance for the ceremony. He has also coordinated 300 anti-drug marches throughout the county. These marches helped spell the end for four locations in which drug dealers were distributing Crack/Cocaine.
They also helped pave the way for the Weed and Seed grant for Atlantic City and Mays’ hometown of Pleasantville.
“We’ve accomplished a lot, but there’s still more to accomplish,” Mays said. “We rock the boat for the betterment of the children. We want the best for our kids. We don’t want to see 13- and 14-year-old kids shot and killed before they even have a chance to live their lives.”
Mays advised those in attendance that if they suspect their children are beginning to head down that path, they need to stop them and have a long talk.
“We all want family,” Mays said. “We have to take back our community or those who don’t care will take it from us.”
Mays said it’s up to everyone to work together for a single purpose in the community, and Levinson spoke about the need for the decriminalization of drugs.
“(Drug addiction) is a disease and there are thugs who take advantage of it,” Levinson said. “ … Mays places himself in harm’s way. This has gone on for years and years, and Mays needs our help now.”
Part of Mays’s work includes the creation of the Healthy Cities basketball team, which recruits former gang members. He also established Faith at Work, a group that focuses on homelessness, recidivism and at-risk children.
Mays has also helped facilitate Pennies for the Homeless, the Young Ladies at Peace program, five gun surrender programs and HIV/AIDS seminars.