Calvin Terrell shifts Prospect’s culture


Public speaker Calvin Terrell talks to the Prospect student body. (Photo by Alyssa Degan)

Kaylie Pasternak and Amanda Feinberg

“I am not a Republican; I am not a Democrat, I am not an anarchist; I am not a Libertarian: I am a soul,” speaker Calvin Terrell said to the Prospect student body at the assembly on Tuesday, Nov. 29 in the Jean Walker Field House. 

Growing up in St. Louis, Terrell had a multiracial and multireligious family, and he attributes his passion for motivational speaking to these roots. Terrell was aware of social justice concepts, but he was only exposed to the depth of these issues after the death of one of his childhood friends.

“I was on a destructive path after a friend was killed,” Terrell said. “I decided to turn that path around and honor his memory by teaching peace to even the people that [have] hate.”

Holding up a black shirt that said: “Support your local white boy,” Terrell put down his microphone at the assembly and explained how a teenager had given the shirt to him as he sobbed in Terrell’s arms, asking for help on how to leave his white supremacist organization.

Terrell now travels around the world roughly twice a month to countries such as Cambodia, spreading his message of kindness and equality for all people. He often speaks to students who are following the same path that he was on years ago and redirects them towards a more positive way of life.

Although some community members disagreed with the presentation, according to Terrell, the impact he had made was abundantly clear as soon as the presentation ended, according to sophomore Sarah Bradburry. 

“I think that you could definitely tell [that students] will remember [the presentation] for a while,” Bradburry said. “I think he was pretty inspirational and motivating.”

Bradburry was weary of the presentation at first, due to researching Terrell on social media, but Terrell says that the concepts he posts on Instagram, such as political cartoons about homophobia, have nothing to do with his beliefs on political parties and are more related to the fundamental rights he believes all people should have. 

“I stalked his Instagram beforehand, and I kind of knew about him a little bit,” Bradburry said. “But in the end, I was pretty happy that I didn’t skip it …. I would say just listen to him, because even though his social media is political, his speech really wasn’t.”

But unlike Bradburry, around 60-100 students got called out of the assembly, according to Division Head for Student Success, Safety and Wellness Nicholas Olson. Olson also mentioned that many kids get called out of every presentation, no matter the presenter. 

Sophomore Ryan Foley was one such student who was called out. 

“[The presentation] was two hours, and I could go home and do whatever I want,” Foley said. “It had nothing to do with the presenter.”

While many students did not attend the presentation, Terrell still hopes that for the students who did, his message of empowerment rang true.

“I want people to always remember that they have power, and to be mindful of how they use their power to be better than history,” Terrell said. 

Sophomore Gabe Smarduch was initially reserved about the presentation, but he found the ideas important for students to remember. 

“[The presentation] had an effect on everyone,” Smarduch said. “It will impact Prospect’s society in a great way. I think that the standards for being a good person have risen.”