Terrence J has many different talents all in one—a media guru, actor, activist, ambassador, and more. Many of us were introduced to him in 2006 as one of the hosts on BET's 106 & Park, where he remained until 2012. You may have also met him through E! News where he was a co-anchor from 2012 to 2015. In the years since, Terrence J has expanded into the acting world with film credits to his name like Stomp The Yard: Homecoming (2010), Think Like A Man (2012), Think Like A Man Too (2014), Baggage Claim (2013), The Perfect Match (2016) and more. He's also hosted MTV's reality television series Are You The One? and Power's official after-show Power Confidential. The resume keeps expanding, but there's something else that is very near and dear to Terrence J's heart—expanding and promoting HBCU culture, an initiative he's currently fulfilling through a nationwide HBCU Homecoming Tour in partnership with Pronghorn. We caught up with him last week to talk about all things HBCU.
Terrence J's Next Journey Is Empowering HBCU Culture
We caught up with the actor and media guru
An HBCU is who really took a chance on me. I didn't have great grades and I was on academic probation. By the time I graduated, I had a 3.7 GPA, I was a student body president, and member of Omega Psi Phi.
- Terrence J
Before all of the success, Terrence J attended North Carolina A&T State University where he was the Student Government Association President, a DJ for North Carolina A&T's radio station, and a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity (he was initiated to the Mu Psi chapter in Spring 2004). Without North Carolina A&T State University, Mr. Terrence J says he wouldn't be the man he is today. "I enrolled in an HBCU in 2000," he tells ONE37pm. "People told me don't go there—it's a secondary education and the schools weren't as good. I heard of all these things but for me, an HBCU is who really took a chance on me. I didn't have great grades and I was on academic probation. By the time I graduated, I had a 3.7 GPA, I was a student body president and member of Omega Psi Phi. My time at an HBCU changed my life."
The matriculation, getting excellent mentors, multiple internship and job experiences, and meeting the professors that invested the extra time in him are all elements Terrence J credits as helping him be where he is today both personally and professionally. "It changed my outlook as a Black person," he says adding: "It changed me as a man and my outlook as a productive member of the community." The mantra of HBCU's he continues is about giving back, and now the multi-hyphenate is returning the knowledge, game, and blessings to current collegiate students and young adults across the nation.
We spend millions of dollars on spirits but don't have the representation, that's why I partnered with Pronghorn.
- Terrence J
This inaugural program with Pronghorn launched at Howard University in Washington, D.C on October 19th, stopped at Spelman and Morehouse in Atlanta last week, and is descending upon North Carolina A&T tonight to bring wealth tools, mentorship resources, and recruitment opportunities to thousands of Black students this fall. "I've gone to many homecomings in my time, and one of the key ingredients to having a good time—whether you're going to the club, cookout, tailgating, etc., is to make sure your spirits and cup are full. What I noticed over time is that no matter which HBCU I went to, it had people and ownership that didn't look like us. We spend millions of dollars on spirits but don't have the representation, that's why I partnered with Pronghorn as they have multiple initiatives that speak to that in terms of diversity, getting those internship and mentorship opportunities, landing job, funding, and more."
Each year, more and more young Black students are making the decision to enroll in HBCUs, and that includes collegiate-bound athletes who have previously been told going to an HBCU is something that will hinder their professional opportunities. According to a recent article from the HBCU Career Center, new data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that HBCU enrollment has increased by 7 percent between 2020 and 2023 compared to a 14 percent increase between 1976 and 2021 alone. So I asked Terrence J if the individualized attention Black students receive from HBCUs is increased compared to non-HBCU's. "Oh 100 percent," he remarks. "I grew up around a lot of different people, but I didn't have a real understanding of my people when I came out of high school.
A lot of high schools don't speak to the Black experience. The topic of slavery is a couple of days, they don't break down The Civil Rights Movement, Jim Crow, and segregation all the way to Black Lives Matter. When you go to an HBCU, it's all about the Black experience from the people that you meet—because you're going to meet people from all across the country. I remember meeting a classmate that was from Tulsa, Oklahoma—I didn't know what the Tulsa Massacre was about until I met that classmate. I didn't grow up in an affluent neighborhood so I didn't know what Jack & Jill was. I didn't even know what fraternities or sororities were about when I graduated high school! You're going to meet so many different people, professors, and deans that are going to change your life. The experiences you are going to have are like none other."
When I pledged a fraternity and got to meet Black brothas from all over the world they changed my perspective
- Terrence J
Terrence names influential figures like Deion Sanders and Will Packer among the individuals who have helped elevate and take the promotion and publicity of HBCUs to the next level to get great recruits, and Mr. J himself has been quite busy during this homecoming season. "I'm doing 30 days of HBCU homecomings—I've been on the road like 25 days hitting schools from Mississippi, Alabama, Hampton, and Atlanta to talk to students about HBCUs—this tour with Pronghorn really speaks to what HBCU pride, entrepreneurship, and collaboration is all about." A quick look at his Instagram account will show you just how busy he's been and what a time it's been.
Having accomplished the things he has in his career puts Terrence J in a unique position of now being able to extend a hand down. Knowing he's now in a situation where he can influence others, I asked Terrence who/what made the most impact on him during his collegiate years. "Oh my God—probably my fraternity brothers and my frat line," he tells me continuing: "They changed my life! I never met my biological father—my stepdad is Hispanic—I grew up in a half-Black and half-Hispanic household so I didn't really have a Black man in my life during those formative years to talk to me about the experience of being a Black man. When I pledged a fraternity and got to meet Black brothas from all over the world they changed my perspective. The pillars of Omega Psi Phi, the pillars of what we are, the camaraderie and competition between us and other Black fraternities—it changed me."
After college, Terrence J's rise was quite quick with BET's 106 & Park being what introduced him on a national level, and the ascension increased from there. It wasn't too long after handling hosting duties that he found himself immersed in the world of acting. "I remember the day I was at 106 & Park and said I wanted to movies. Will Packer, who went to a completely different HBCU, (Florida A&M University aka FAMU) is the one who told me about the audition for Think Like A Man. Steve Harvey is my fraternity brother, Taraji P. Henson and Lance Gross went to Howard—I met so many people in my early career in the industry that went to HBCU's that helped mentor me in the space and give me opportunities. All of that was life-changing, and I'd say one out of every ten meetings I'm going to meet someone who pulls me aside and is like "Clark Atlanta Pride!"—it's a community.
While there might be a competition during the school years, when it's time to come out it's all about collaboration, working together, and partnering with each other. Speaking of events that bring you together, unfortunately, not everybody will have the opportunity to get this wisdom in person. For those unable to attend Terrence J's tour stop, here are three things he plans on covering:
- "We'll start with the liquids. Ten To One is an incredible brand that's owned by Ciara, but you would never know that! So I want to talk about brands like Ten To One, IslandJon Vodka, Greenwood Whiskey, and more.
- "Next I'm going to talk about the opportunities—there's over 1800 jobs that are going to be created by Pronghorn over the next ten years and their initiatives. I want to see more and more sistas and brothas get into this multi-billion dollar industry and profit from our knowledge.
- "Third and final thing—we're going to have fun! When we come to your school we're going to have a great time and it's going to be all about the HBCU experience and pride.
And if you happen to meet Terrence J at one of his tour stops, while randomly out and about, or wherever fate decides, what's going to catch his attention to be able to use him as a resume reference? "It's all about passion, determination, and hunger but the biggest thing is collaboration. I was born to work with people that are collaborative—it's not about an individual thing it's about community. It's not about "me," it's about "us," and we're looking for people right now. We're looking for interns, people we can mentor in this industry, owners, entrepreneurs, and people with big ideas."
You heard the man. It's all about collaboration.
You can continue to keep up with Terrence J. via Instagram.
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