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Marvell Leroy Terry II was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Marvell L. Terry, Sr., and Cheryl Kelly- Terry. He has six siblings, and attended Rozelle Elementary, Kirby Middle and Kirby High School, all in Memphis. He graduated in 2004, and was an avid track runner with the Memphis Hurdlers and at Kirby High School.
While in high school, Marvell’s commitment to the community began. In 2001, he was chosen by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to represent the 9th Congressional District in their MADD’s Youth Summit in Washington. He has served as Business Professionals of America (BPA) President, Teens for Peace President and Senior Class President. He was also active in NAACP Youth Council, Youth United Way, and Top Teens of America.
Growing up, Marvell struggled to find his identify as a Black gay youth, and later a Black gay young adult, especially while growing up in the Black church and as a licensed minister at the age of 16. Marvell’s coming out experience was very traumatic. While exploring the vices of the gay community in college, Marvell created a profile on a popular hook up site at that time. Elders of his local congregation found out about the profile and coerced him into informing his pastor. In the Summer of 2007, he also received a HIV positive diagnosis test from his Primary Care Physician. These combined experiences lead Marvell to step down from all leadership positions at his local congregation. Marvell would eventually return to leadership roles at his church with the Young Adult Ministry and starting a HIV/AIDS Ministry to educate the congregation and provide routinely HIV testing to the parishioners.
During his time away, Marvell examined his life, and questioned the path that he should now take. He began to recognize that his ministry was in helping disenfranchised communities. Currently he shares his journey through social media as a way to address and decrease the stigma of HIV. In 2009, he founded The Red Door Foundation, Inc, (TRDF) a community based non-profit focused on addressing the immediate and long needs of Black gay and bisexual men in Shelby County, Tennessee and its surrounding areas. TRDF provides referrals to Rapid HIV Testing and Counseling, program coordination, evaluation and community mobilization. In 2012, Marvell received the ‘Light of Hope” Award from the Shelby County Health Department recognizing the tireless work that he has done in the effort to decrease the number of new HIV infection within Shelby County, Tennessee. Similarly, in January 2013, The “Memphis Flyer” honored him as one of the “top 20 under the age of 30” to look out for.
On the local, regional, and national levels, Marvell is a member of the MSM (Men who have sex with men) Taskforce of Tennessee and the Shelby County/Memphis TGA HIV Care and Prevention Group that strives to create a seamless continuum of care for HIV/AIDS diagnosed individuals. Marvell previously served as their Chair and currently serves as Advocacy Committee Chair. He also serves on the Shelby County Ryan White Part A Quality Management Committee and the Tennessee HIV Planning Group that is responsible for crafting prevention efforts for the state of Tennessee, and serves as an Organizing Committee Member and on the Executive Committee as Secretary of the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative (YBGLI); a group of Young Black gay and bisexual males under 30 that is tasked with addressing nationwide HIV epidemics among youths.
Marvell is a PxROAR (Research, Outreach, Advocacy and Representation) Fellow, a domestic program created by AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition to offer training for advocates in biomedical HIV prevention research education and currently serves on the 2015 Host Committee for the National African American men who have sex with men Leadership Conference on HIV and other Health Disparities.
For the last two years without any grant funding, Marvell has been main force behind the Saving Ourselves Symposium (SOS), a grassroots program focused on health outcomes for Black gay and bisexual men living in the South. In the last two years, the SOS have had presentations from various interdisciplinary fields, from state and national HIV/AIDS and STD educators, addressing barriers to care, HIV treatment trajectories, cascade of care and treatment progress that have been made in the fight to address the HIV epidemic within the Black community.
Marvell has also published work in the Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice titled “Prevalence and correlates of HIV-risk behaviors among homeless adults in a southern city;” have facilitated sessions at The University of Memphis, LeMoyne Own College, Memphis Theological Seminary, Union University, Fisk University, Georgia Department of Public Health Annual MSM Symposium and Viiv Healthcare Community Summit.
A sense of communion and unity is important to Marvell who states “It’s where we create community and build character”. He did not find value who he was as a Black gay man until he began to read biographies of people that could speak of his existence: James Baldwin, Joseph Beam, Marlon Riggs, Bayard Rustin and Essex Hemphill. These were strong Black gay writers, actors, political forces that created a path for him to begin to read about people who he considers as modern day Bridge Builders: Dr. David Malebranche, Earnest Hopkins, Cornelius Baker, Dr. Phil Wilson and so many more who he admires, respects and some who presently serve as mentors in his life. Marvell shares the task of building upon and fighting for his community with Daniel Driffin, Corey Yarbrough, Blake Rowley, Kenyon Farrow, Gabriel, Patrick Ingram, Noel Gordon, Devin Barrington Ward, and DaShawn Usher, to name a few of the torch bearers around him. He proudly states “The Black gay community is resilient and for that we all should be proud”.
Through it all, Marvell is coming to grips with the idea of being a vulnerable and authentic community leader. While this task has been challenging it has been most rewarding to mental health. Marvell is currently single and looking for that special someone. Marvell currently enjoys being a uncle and learning how to cook. When not working, Marvell likes to relax with a good book or watch a great movie particularly from the Marvel Comics franchise.
We join Marvell L. Terry II on this day to celebrate his 29th Birthday, and thank him for his life-long advocacy on behalf of people affected by HIV/AIDS, and his many contributions to our community.
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