I want to tell the people of Flint: You can be great. You do not need anyone’s permission to be great. You don’t need anyone’s endorsement to be excellent.
MCM: How did growing up in Flint shape the person you are today?
TC: There are so many things that go into making a person who they are. My dad instilled my work ethic. We would shovel snow for our neighbors and we didn’t even do it for money. When the auto industry bottomed out, it made me realize I had to create my own environment. I never wanted GM or any other company or business to determine what happens to me, and that is one reason why I do so many different things. I had really good teachers. I’ll never forget Mr. Eichelberg at Flint Academy. The school was 60 percent African American and 40 percent Caucasian, and it was a MAGNET school, so every kid was chosen to go there. It was my artistic talent that got me in and it was really a great experience. Mr. Eichelberg was my champion for my artwork – he would display it in the school’s showcase. Growing up in Flint also shaped me as an athlete. Flint had more athletes than any other city for about ten years. I remember going to Northwestern and watching Andre Rison and Glen Rice play football, and Terence Green over at Central. I first started working out in a weight room in the basement at Berston Field House when I was 14 years old. A lot of who I am now started there. I left Flint when I went to college in 1987 and would come back every summer. My very first job was at WJRT Channel 12 doing court room sketches and artwork for the news.
MCM: You’ve experienced a few different careers. Could you name one as your favorite?
TC: That would be like naming a favorite child. I can’t do it. I couldn’t imagine having any more love in my heart for my first two kids, and then I had three more. There is enough love in my heart to treat them all the same and I love them all equally. I have no favorites.
MCM: Is there a cause that touches your heart?
TC: I am a very big supporter of equal rights for women – that is my biggest cause. I have been married for almost 26 years and four of my children are girls. I look at them and I realize that the world looks at them less than they look at a man. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a feminist in a lot of ways. It is funny to me that some people who supported civil rights think nothing of treating a woman as less than a man. It’s the same thing, but it’s gender as opposed to race. I was one of them, but I realized the error of my ways. Now, it has become my major cause. I’ve always said that if we treated our women better, there would be so much more of a positive social shift in our society.
MCM: What woman has inspired you most?
TC: My great aunt, Mama Z – she was the matriarch of the family. She had a farm with cows and chickens and we spent a lot of time at her house. She was the first person to take us to church. Mama Z was so talented and smart, such a strong woman. She survived much adversity and experienced many things while growing up. I admired her story. She lived all over the place and worked many different jobs. She was so strong that even in her eighties she worked in her garden. She taught me the value of never thinking of oneself as old. She never said, ‘This hurts’ or ‘That hurts.’ She was a tiny lady but she drove the biggest truck – that was back in the day when we could ride in the back with no seatbelts!
MCM: How often do you come back to visit Flint?
TC: I have three television shows, so it’s hard to get away. The last time I went to Flint was a couple years ago for the Christmas holiday. My parents are still living in Flint. I fly them out to California or we will meet in Detroit. My sister is an attorney in Detroit, so that is the best spot for us to meet. My visits don’t go over 24 hours most of the time. I actually flew into Detroit one time at seven in the morning and took the six o’clock flight back to L.A.
MCM: What is your fondest memory of Flint?
TC: There are two that really stand out. Back in the day, my brother and I would go to the movies at the Northwest Theatre. It was one of my first experiences with movies. I was about 13 years old and my mother would let us go alone. Afterward, we would go out and get a burger or some Famous Recipe chicken. Sometimes we’d walk Downtown for a Halo Burger. In those days, I walked everywhere or took a bus and I felt so free. That was one of the best experiences of my life. I remember thinking what a big city Flint was. And it was pretty safe. Everyone felt safe. My second favorite memory is the day I got the Key to the City. That was around 2009 and Don Williamson was the mayor. I remember getting the Key to the City with my family sitting there and feeling like, ‘Wow! The City thought enough of me to honor me in this way.’ It really blew me away. Those are two simple memories, but they mean a lot to me.
MCM: Do you have advice for young men growing up in Flint today?
TC: The best advice I could probably give right now would be: Change the way you talk to yourself. What I mean by that is you are being told negative things by the media and by other people and what happens is that becomes your own internal dialogue. They are being told that black men are in trouble today, and they start to think that way. You have to think the opposite and say to yourself, I can do it. I can be rich. I have plenty of ideas. I am not a statistic. I can do anything I want to do. When you speak to yourself that way, you start to believe it. The problem is when you hear all that negative stuff, you tend to believe it. The only way to get around that is to change the way you talk to yourself.
Terry’s final thoughts:
I want to tell the people of Flint: You can be great. You do not need anyone’s permission to be great. You don’t need anyone’s endorsement to be excellent. I’ve been everywhere – all over the world. I have been to Paris, Africa and all over the United States and I realized that it starts with what you have. Start something; start a business. If you have a great idea, you are instantly wealthy! That’s all it takes. I believe the next great superstar is coming out of Flint. My parents love Flint, Michigan. It is their home and it’s who they are. The life they built in Flint made me who I am – I learned so many great things from them and from the city. ♦