PERERA, JOHN B. (10 Jan. 1934 - 17 Jan. 1998) was a lifelong activist for social justice, human rights and the environment. He was born in New York City to Ruth (Brinton) and Charles Allen Perera. A QUAKER, Perera maintained his status as a conscientious objector by doing social work in El Salvador and Mexico for the Friends Service Committee during the KOREAN WAR. He studied sociology at Haverford College in Pennsylvania as well as at Ohio State University. During the 1960s, he instructed students in Columbus on how they could serve their country while conscientiously objecting to the war in Vietnam. After coming to Cleveland in the 1970s, Perera drove a truck for a food co-operative and developed serious respiratory problems - problems he attributed to the fumes from diesel fuel. Perera quit his job and took a disability retirement allowing him to devote his free time to social activism.
Perera actively supported a wide range of causes including: draft resistance, anti-poverty work, prisoner advocacy, Central American solidarity, environmental protection, Native American rights, and feminism. He was instrumental in founding and orchestrating several projects of the Northeast Ohio Greens. One of these included the "Committee of 500 Years" which sought to celebrate the cultures that were here prior to European colonization and the 500 years of resistance to efforts to destroy them. The committee and Perera sponsored demonstrations protesting the Cleveland baseball team's name and Chief Wahoo logo. Another project was the Ohio Greens Anti-Nuclear Organizing Committee, which substantially contributed to the cancellation of the Midwest Interstate Low-level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility. He fought for tougher clean air standards and worked with the Coalition for a Clean Environment and the Clean Air Committee of the Sierra Club. Perera was known to wear an outrageous and attention getting outfit to environmental protests that consisted of a gas mask, a yellow sticker and huge rubber boots. Perera also served on committees of the American Lung Association and the Earth Day Coalition. He also worked with the Interreligious Task Force on Central America in its efforts to close the School of the Americas, a U.S. Army training center for Central American military personnel - many implicated in human rights abuses in their own countries. Perera was the first man to serve on the board of the Woman Speak Out for Peace and Justice, the Cleveland Chapter of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. He also belonged to the Greater Cleveland chapter of Women for Racial and Economic Equality.
Perera and his wife Judy had three children: Brian, Brinton, and Beth. He died of an apparent heart attack and his remains were cremated.