Terri Minor Spencer: Force of Nature in Her Community

“Good Morning, Boom Shakas! Have A Great Day, Do It With Your Chin Up & Back Straight”

Scroll down Terri Minor Spencer’s Facebook page and you’ll see many messages like this one—and in Terri’s case, what you see is what you get, even on Facebook. As a community activist in her hometown of Pittsburgh, she’s a force of nature, exuding positivity, warmth, determination, and vision. It’s hard to imagine her any other way.

But in 1992, Terri found herself feeling anything but positive. “I was messed up when I went to prison. I needed help. I really needed rehab, but that wasn’t available to me.” Only two months into a long prison sentence on drug charges, she was sent to solitary confinement (SHU) after corrections officers found two onions in her cell. Her 17-day stint in the SHU shook her deeply.

Soon after, a big “ah-ha moment” came when she witnessed another prisoner and a guard having sex. “It was in the laundry room. I turned on the light and saw them, and I just froze,” she recalls. “This is going to be me, I thought. If I don’t stop how I’m feeling, what I’m doing here, this is going to be me. The very next morning I put in to see my counselor and I told him I needed help. And I took whatever help they could give me.”

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