Douglas Terry, who was a young man in the 1960s when the Black community was in the midst of a struggle for civil rights, believed empowerment and equality were the key to justice.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, he graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and was awarded a track and field scholarship to Texas Southern University. Experiencing firsthand the negative effects of segregation in Houston, Texas, he decided to transfer after his first year. He returned to Brooklyn and resumed his studies at St. John’s University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in education with a concentration in social studies. Determined to further explore his passion for social studies and deepen his understanding of education, Terry pursued and obtained a Master of Arts degree in education from New York University. He continued his educational endeavors by entering a doctoral program. However, the birth of his daughter interrupted his studies and precipitated a shift in focus from education to the development of his career.
In 1964, Terry began teaching social studies at Boys High School, where he introduced and implemented a Black history syllabus. His life experiences and passion for education and social studies helped him teach students the values of equality and civic collaboration. Terry was also the head coach of track and field. From 1965 to 1974, he led Boys High School (known by friends and rivals as “The High”), to numerous New York City and Eastern State titles, as well as championship victories at the prestigious Penn Relays in Philadelphia. Throughout his tenure at Boys High School, Terry baffled rival coaches with his ability to transform great sprinters into great distance runners, and have “dedicated” sprinters competitively compete at distances up to 3 miles.
In 1966, he started the Kangaroo Track Club. This alumni club, which uniquely combined his dedication for academics and track and field, brought past track runners back to the school to motivate current athletes to continue their education. He is very proud of the fact that 90 percent of his athletes went on to higher education, with 70 percent graduating with a degree.
“If he said you could do something, then you could do it,” said James Jackson, his first champion distance runner, who would go on to coach the Boys High team after graduating from Purdue University. “You could not be on the team unless you were doing well in class. He was the total coach.” In 1969 when the civil rights struggle raised tensions in the Black community to an all-time high, Terry, along with the Kangaroo Track Club, started hosting Olympic development track meets. These meets
established an opportunity for children aged 6 to 18 to improve their track and field skills while simultaneously providing a safe and welcoming outlet outside of the tenuous social situation that enveloped the Black community.
In 1974, he was appointed the head coach of track and field at Brown University in Providence, R.I. He was the first Black head coach and as such he wanted to encourage more participation in track and field on the part of the Black community. Terry realized that African-Americans were underrepresented in positions of sports judges and officials. He sought to improve this lack of representation by encouraging qualified African-Americans to pursue such positions and by suggesting their appointment to his superiors. His advocacy for the Black community directly led to increased diversity among sports officials and set an important precedent for the future of track and field. He then established the Olympic development track meets at Brown University, and in 1977, the meets became national. This expansion offered opportunities for inner-city children across the country to come to Brown for a track meet weekend, where they were exposed to an Ivy League institution. This experience exposed these children to the possibility of attaining a higher education, which they may not have considered.
In 1980, Terry was given the Jefferson Award for his work with the community. In 1979, Terry was appointed by the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church to be the editor of the Ebenezer Grapevine, Rhode Island’s only Black newspaper. This publication focused on the Black community locally, nationally and internationally. Then in 1984, he was given permission to establish the Ocean State Grapevine, which he distributed in Providence, parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Terry was awarded the NAACP Community Service Award in 1987 for his commitment and achievement with the Black print media for his work with this newspaper.
In 1989, Terry’s career came full circle when he returned to what is now Boys and Girls High School to teach social studies. On discovering that his African-American history syllabus had been set aside in his absence, he reintroduced his old curriculum and promoted contemporary students’ exposure to themes of equality and civic engagement.
In 2001, he joined the ranks of the Fruit of Islam, the military arm of the Nation of Islam. He was given the roll of business manager of the Muhammad Mosque No. #7 gift shop, and after four years in that position, he was appointed secretary treasure of Muhammad Mosque No. #7, a position he held for six years. Presently, he is a distributor for the Nation of Islam’s Historical Research Department.
Instilled with his ideas of social change, his daughters continue his tradition of helping the community in their own ways. One daughter teaches law at Howard University and the other is a social worker at Columbia High School in Maryland.
At age 79, despite his many illnesses, Terry still contributes to his community by writing in and distributing the Our Time Press newspaper, as well as by staying involved in the events around the nation. His activities include events such as the Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus and the Black History Bazaar in Albany, the Penn Relay in Philadelphia, Dance Africa Bazaar in Brooklyn, the International African Arts Festival in Brooklyn, the Harlem Book, the Harlem Week Festival, the West Indian Day Carnival in Brooklyn and Kwanzaa celebrations held in Brooklyn, Harlem and Jamaica.
Terry hopes to re-established the Kangaroo Track Club to revive Black Family Day, which 70,000 people attended on Memorial Day in 1974.
In keeping with the Million Man March slogan, Justice or Else, 10-10-15, a movement not a moment, Terry is planning a Black Family Holiday Bazaar, on Black Friday and Saturday. The dates are two days after Thanksgiving at Boys & Girls High School, along with an Olympic development track meet on Thanksgiving. Day.