Terry Crews, best known as an actor, entertainer, author, athlete, and survivor, spoke to a large crowd of students, faculty, and staff at Cal Poly Pomona, about how adversity and resilience marked his life journey.
Hosted as a collaboration by Male Success Initiatives and Survivor Advocacy Services (SAS), the Nov. 15 event began with a personal meet-and-greet with select students from programs and organizations across campus, including Renaissance Scholars, ASI, Hermanos Unidos, and Kellogg West. Students had the opportunity to talk at length with Crews as he learned more about their own college journey and experiences.
The idea to bring Crews to campus first sparked from a discussion about men of color with Christina Chavez-Reyes, chair of the liberal studies department, who mentioned him as a potential speaker. Reggie Robles, senior coordinator for MSI, began researching Crews’ interviews about his new book, “Tough: My Journey to True Power.”
“At that point I knew I had to get him to Cal Poly Pomona. MSI and SAS discussed one of our first community partnership grants. This would be a series of programs that would talk about sexual harassment, toxic masculinity, awareness of language, and definitions of terms,” said Robles.
For leadership in both MSI and SAS, it became evident that Crews had a message that spoke directly to the students they serve daily, particularly with his insistence to use the resources around oneself to improve and grow beyond one’s wildest dreams.
“Cal Poly Pomona as a community is going through a time of great transition, turmoil, and uncertainty. I felt that Terry would be the beginning piece that helps us begin to heal,” added Robles.
At the main event inside Ursa Major, Crews kicked off with a 30-minute inspirational telling of his journey and the struggles he faced both growing up as a Black man in an abusive household in Flint, Michigan and his experiences overcoming addiction and navigating the NFL and Hollywood.
“Terry provided so much wisdom from his own lived experiences. What I hope our Bronco family takes from his keynote is to live authentically you — to dream big, visualize your goals, and don’t let setbacks determine your future. We all have the potential to be amazing,” said Joel Gutierrez, director of MSI.
Following his keynote, the event shifted into a Q&A session where senior Maria Pia and sophomore Angel Corona posed several questions to Crews. One such question centered around advice for men, particularly men of color, to destigmatize therapy, something that Crews credits for saving his marriage and his life.
“You need to get better for you. That was a foreign concept as a man. I didn’t understand it. So, I went to [therapy] and I started to realize I had this whole thing wrong. This whole ‘male, machismo’ thing is the wrong message. This isn’t strength. In fact, going to therapy is the strongest thing you can do,” he said.
Crews also detailed his experience as a sexual assault survivor and his decision to come forward at the height of the #MeToo movement, one of the first males in Hollywood to do so.
“The courage of all these women coming forward… as someone who went through the same thing, I would have felt like a fake if I just stayed silent,” he said. “So, I put out these tweets and closed my phone and the world had changed.”
Amidst the insightful answers and moments of comedy (including an impromptu robot dance after a request came from the crowd), the main message of the evening kept emerging – the importance of resilience, grit, and discipline to achieve one’s dreams.
“Discipline is remembering what you want. Understand this — we’re talking about dreams. You will never, ever reach a dream without discipline. If you don’t know what you want, you will never understand discipline,” he told the crowd.
At the conclusion of the main event, attendees had the opportunity to purchase a copy of “Tough: My Journey to True Power,” get it signed by Crews and take an abundance of selfies with the actor. The pictures and memories were only a snippet of what attendees would take away, however.
“The way he presented himself was very genuine. One thing that stuck out was that he showed he wasn’t Hollywood — he was his dreams. As a fellow man of color, that made me feel empowered,” said junior Jose Guillen.
“Interviewing Terry Crews was one of the most memorable college experiences I’ve ever had. Thank you to CPP, MSI, and SAS for making this possible,” said Pia.