Armando Perez, 1947-1999
by Alfredo Texidor Irizarry

Lower East Side community organizer Armando Perez died April 4 of injuries suffered in an assault early the previous morning, outside his wife’s apartment in the Ravenswood Houses in Queens. He was 51.

Perez co-founded the Charas community and arts center in the 1970s and was active in the neighborhood’s struggles against gentrification in the 1980s. More recently, he helped organize public-housing tenants against privatization, and did much of the groundwork for Margarita Lopez’s election to the City Council in 1997. Last year, Charas was sold to a speculator for $3.15 million. It is still fighting to save itself.

The murder is unsolved. Some speculation centers on Ravenswood drug dealers, seeking revenge for Perez’s efforts to get them out of the projects.

On Monday, April 10, Armando Perez, District Leader of the Lower East Side, was finally laid to rest after a two-week whirlwind of activities. Armando’s violent beating on April 3, resulting in his untimely death at 7:30 AM on April 4, Easter Sunday, left a very bitter effect on his hundreds of friends, colleagues, and family.

Two days later at a vigil for him, Sandy Rivas was evoking the sacrament of the resurrection, when it thundered one time and rained fiercely. We all experienced a very holy moment trying to un- derstand the significance of his cruel death on Easter Sunday.

From the beginning there were many bizarre circumstances, which led to many speculations. Some questions remain unanswered, like why did the police wait 15 hours to investigate the crime scene? Why hasn’t the city medical examiner come forth with a determination consistent with his injuries? Their position is they have determined that his death resulted from “blunt trauma” and was not “self-inflicted.” No one investigating his death has said it was a murder or even an assault. They have even toyed with the idea that it could have been an accident. We are outraged.

The fact is, our brother Armando was violently beaten in a ferocious battle for his life. Armando was not the type of guy who would go down without a fight. He was very well known for his strong physical ability even if he appeared lean. The nature of his injuries indicate he fought back trying to protect himself, blocking, kicking, and punching in a fierce exchange lasting several minutes. The fact that both his fists were swollen adds truth to this, and that his hand was broken in two places could be explained as from blocking a strong blunt object.

Armando was not afraid of death, but no one expects to find it around the corner in a flurry of blows. His family and friends cry out for justice because we all know he did not deserve to die like that. He was our champion for civil rights, and he believed in the system even if many times it kicked him in the back, like Mayor Giuliani allowing Charas/El Bohio to be put on the auction block last July and sold for $3.5 million. It hurt Armando very badly, because he felt betrayed after working for so long and so hard.

Armando was one of our best who saw well beyond the mundane obstacles of social injustices. His life was a celebration of justice, freedom, and the true American way. He was a hero of Loisaida much larger than any issue or principle we can ever create, because Armando believed in the power of all people. He believed people working together could accomplish the hardest tasks, like removing politicians from office that are not representing our constituency.

Armando was a people person bringing the issues to the people, in their homes, in their stores, in the schools. He walked the streets as proud as a cacique because he was part of this neighborhood. He helped build it back up when the city neglected us. He belonged to Loisaida as Loisaida belonged to him. His dream will never die. Justice will be served. Armando’s legacy will live forever. He has beaten those who thought they could get rid of him. When will we learn that one can never kill a dream, it keeps coming back stronger and stronger, until righteousness will reign in every nation and war is no more, forever. Armando, we love you and miss you very much.

Just Like You
I look just like you
as I see my
Reflection in the sun.
I look just like you
As I hand out the flyers
Of your demise.
I look just like you as someone
Stops me in the street and shouts
Hey! You look just like Armando!
I walk just like you
I talk just like you
I act just like you
Hey! You look just like Armando!
I walk just like you
I speak just like you
I look just like you
I talk just like you
I am just like you.