Henry Perry Day: Kansas City honors Black BBQ master who fed thousands for free

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Barbecue cooks paid tribute to the father of Kansas City barbecue by giving away a thousand meals to non-profit groups Friday.

Pitmasters plan to make “Henry Perry Day” an annual tradition. At a time when many in our country are seeking to include the contributions of Blacks and other minorities in our history, Henry Perry Day seems a fitting tribute.

Perry, a Black man, began serving barbecue meals in downtown Kansas City in 1908. 100 years ago, on July 3, Perry fed a thousand Kansas Citians for free, from the lawn outside his restaurant.

Two of Perry’s employees later went on to help found the Kansas City icons: Arthur Bryant’s and Gates Bar-B-Q.

That’s why barbecue society volunteers, together with Smithfield Foods, GEHA, and barbecue restaurants Joe’s, Gates and Zarda are preparing a thousand free barbecue dinners. The meals will be given away to those in need in remembrance of Henry Perry.

“We are very excited to honor him,” Emily Detwiler, CEO of the Kansas City Barbecue Society, said. “As a black man in the time of the 1920s, to have his own restaurant and to be able to be as successful as he was, to be able to contribute back to a thousand Kansas Citians, was remarkable then, and it’s remarkable today. So we are excited to honor him.”

Ten different non-profits will receive 100 meals each to be given away to those they serve.

Perry’s granddaughter also helped oversee her grandfather’s legacy. She says Henry Perry would be delighted to see the giveaway become an annual event.

Mayor Quinton Lucas already has issued a proclamation declaring July 3 to be Henry Perry Day from now into the future.

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