Speaker Calvin Terrell discusses concerns about upcoming presentation with parents


Alexis VanSingel

Speaker Calvin Terrell showcases poem as a last message for parents at the Question and Answer Session. Many questions were raised about Terrell’s upcoming presentation and answered by him throughout the course of the meeting.

Alexis VanSingel, News Editor

A meeting was held with upcoming guest speaker Calvin Terrell Monday night after questions were raised by parents about his presentation. Terrell is scheduled to present at the high school on Wednesday morning and was brought in by the Calling All Colors club. A question and answer took place in the Performing Arts Center to address parents’ concerns.

Within the meeting, Terrell first talked about what he would be presenting to students. This was followed by an opportunity for anyone in the audience to participate in the discussion about his content.

When asked for questions, the room stood silent for a few moments, until one mother raised her hand. She inquired on Terrell’s past presentations in which he gave the students scenarios to imagine relating to violence.

“I want to make sure that those “imagine” scenarios don’t cross into that visualization exercise for my child,” she said. “So, I’m not sure how those differ and maybe you could clarify that for me. Because whether you’re intending to put an image in their mind, I have a seventh grader. That’s putting an image in her mind.”

Terrell responded with an explanation of how this presentation content differed and what it would include instead.

“What I do it’s kind of like a skit, me acting scenarios,” Terrell said. What I’m trying to do is I put a mirror up to show our best and our worst, and what tends to happen is the youth are sometimes like, ‘Woah that looks like somebody I know,’ or ‘That reminds me of something I did,’ but I’m not saying, ‘You’re doing this.’  I just show scenarios that happen in schools.The scenarios are really just intense bullying.”

At the conclusion of this conversation, another mother was quick to address Terrell’s topics of white privilege and white supremacy. She turned toward the administration to ask them if this supremacy was what they perceived the parents and students to be.

Terrell jumped in to answer this.

“Everything is,” Terrell said. “I am speaking the land of the English on native land. That’s white supremacy. Your school is focusing on success for all. If you are really behind success for all, I’m saying the structures we have put in place as a society are not success oriented. We have to evolve as a nation. If we don’t, we’re going to tear eachother apart, and part of that is naming the issue and doing the hard work.”

Another mother was impressed with the message, but feared the students would lack hope for the future.

“It sounds like you’re expressing some hard truths with these kids and I know Grand Haven has a lot of issues with suicide,” she said. “I think that our kids need to be empowered with what they can do.”

This was answered with confidence from Terrell.

“I tell the kids I’m going to help them remember their power and how to use their power so I am not hear to fill out their cups,” Terrell said. “I am hear to animate out the power that is already within them. That journey of empowerment is really about having the strength to apologize, to thank, and to ask questions and so that’s why you all, whether you disagree or agree with me, the beauty of America is that we can do this.”

After many questions from  concerned parents, the meeting turned to a different direction half way through. People began to raise their support for Terrell, starting with a teacher from Muskegon Heights High School who had previously seen his presentation and talked with schools in Holland who had also hosted him.

“I saw nothing but beautiful positivity from students when I saw this happen in Holland,” she said. “As a teacher, I want to see that real change in my school, so I wanted to find out, after he left, how did it go? And the principal from the school in Holland said it went fantastic, that the school culture has changed. There really has been an uptake in positivity. I would like to see you guys assume positive intention.”

As it turned out, a teacher from the Holland school district was also in attendance of the question and answer session who had gone through Terrell’s intensive training along with the rest of her staff.

“What I can tell you that has surprised me in my years of teaching and I think surprises the staff as we work with Calvin, our kids are more ready for these conversations than we think they are,” she said.

Within Terrell’s last response to parents’ questions, he talked about how as teenagers stuck between childhood and adulthood, students are feel the urge to take a role.

“They want a voice,” Terrell said. “They’re stronger than you know.”

The question and answer portion of the night ended with a last note from Principal Tracy Wilson.

“We have a responsibility to make sure that every single student that walks through our front door feels included,” Wilson said. “We are team Grand Haven. We are one family. We are one team and every kid in this building does not feel like they belong.There is a lot of work that needs to be done here. We’ve been doing it for twenty years in our district and we’re not done. It is something that your children need to know and it is something that your children have asked to learn more about.”