Terrell spoke to Grand Haven and Central high school students in the GHHS Fieldhouse in the morning. In the evening, community members of all ages nearly filled the high school’s Performing Arts Center to hear Terrell’s “Violence or Virtue” presentation.
During part of the presentation to both high school students and residents, Terrell spoke about habits — brushing teeth, going to school or work, and speaking with people who look, sound and have the same beliefs.
He had everyone repeat the same word for 10 seconds. After that time, Terrell asked a question, which often received incorrect answers because they weren’t focused on the question at hand. Terrell said that if 10 seconds of programming can elicit that response, image what 10 years or more of programming can do to someone after hearing messages about stereotypes, ethnic groups, genders and themselves.
Although Terrell planned to hold a “PG-13 level” presentation Wednesday night, he said he changed some of his content because the audience also had younger members.
Terrell asked residents to consider and discuss what happens to individuals, people and the planet when we put armor around our hearts.
Terrell had the audience repeat, “In-a-me.” He said that before pointing fingers at an “enemy,” people should consider the three fingers pointing back at themselves.
“We are all infected with these prejudices,” he said.
In the morning presentation, Terrell showed a picture of two children — one African-American and one white — then spoke about conditioning and prejudice.
Terrell shared an example of siblings at the mall and the older sibling pointing out groups of people and judging them based on their appearance. In the example, the older sibling encouraged the younger sibling to not be like certain groups of people.
“Little kids aren’t colorblind — they’re color kind,” he said.
Terrell said that a person’s mind and body experiences can trick a person’s heart.
Terrell shared that he calls bullying “terrorism,” and that racism is the biggest bullying on the planet.
Terrell said that everyone can treat each other with more respect.
Terrell portrayed examples of the ways people interact with someone who is different from them. In one scenario, the person was kind, and in another, a person was rude.
“Cowards follow their friends,” he said. “Warriors follow their hearts.”
Given concerns raised prior to his presentations, Terrell told the high school students that he “censored” his message to them.
Terrell told the students that they should never doubt the power one person can make, and challenged them to create positive ripples with their actions.
In the community and school presentations, Terrell encouraged everyone to let the people in their lives know they love and appreciate them.
After each presentation, Terrell opened up the microphone for the audience to share anything they wanted.
At the evening event, several adults stepped forward to apologize to their children, thank the district for bringing Terrell in, ask for acceptance of everyone, and encourage children to hold on during the roughest and most challenging parts of their lives.
About 55 students spoke and another 40 came forward before the Fieldhouse audience to apologize for their hurtful actions, thank people for supporting them, call for change in their actions, and find what they can learn from the presentation.
Watching and hearing classmates speak up was powerful, said Abbie House, a Central High School senior. She said Terrell’s message was “strong” and “deep.”
Not judging people or taking them for granted were among some of the lessons House said she learned.
“Love people the way they are,” she said.
Amaya Perales, a Central junior, said she hopes people follow their hearts instead of following what a group of people says or thinks.
Central sophomore Aundrea Lugo said she hopes people remember Terrell’s message. The 16-year-old said she believes classmates took the message to heart and were impacted.
Nadia Peckham, 14, attended the evening event with her mom, Sherrie Peckman. Although Nadia heard Terrell speak during school, she wanted to hear more from him because he was empowering and motivating, she said.
Phil Olson, 75, attended the community event with his wife, Annie, and their friends. Olson said his friends previously heard Terrell speak and said he was eloquent. Olson said Terrell’s message is one everyone needs to hear.
“The message is so needed,” he said. “The message of unity and love.”
Annie Olson said she was glad Terrell mentioned the land and Native Americans, as they experienced the first racism in this country.
Wednesday was the second time Bob Hamilton heard Terrell speak in a community setting. He said it’s difficult to hear what Terrell has to say, even though he’s receptive to the message.
On Tuesday, Terrell spoke at Lakeshore Middle School. On Wednesday afternoon, high school staff had professional development training with Terrell. Today, Terrell will work with about 150 Grand Haven and Central high school students on ways they can continue the message he shared.
Makenzie Fairfield, a GHHS senior, was one of the school’s Calling All Colors program members who requested that Terrell come to Grand Haven. While there was some negative feedback surrounding the visit, Fairfield said she thought students were “enraptured” as he spoke Wednesday morning.
“I hope they take their power and make a change,” she said.
Sponsors covering Terrell’s speaking fee include the Brooks family, City of Grand Haven, local Chamber of Commerce, Grand Haven Area Community Foundation and its Youth Advisory Council, Health Pointe, Liv Communities, and the Tri-Cities Kiwanis.