Terry what name do you go by?

Terry Fernando Newton.

Do you have any nick names?

Yeah, some people call me The Poet, The Happy Day Man. Those who knew me for a number of years they call me Newt.

What year were you born?

1956, Miami Florida.

What high school did you attend?

I attended Coral Gables Sr High and graduated in the class of 74”

Do you have any siblings?

Yes, I have 5 brothers and 1 sister.

Terry, that’s my first time hearing that you have siblings.

Well, I grew up with my grandmother Estella Whitehead.  My sister and my brothers grew up with my mother and the other siblings grew up with my father.

Who was Mrs. Stella Whitehead and what role did she play in your life?

Mrs. Estella Whitehead was my mother’s mother, which made her my grandmother. She instilled discipline, principles of the Bible and she really pushed me to be more than just anybody in the neighborhood.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood growing up in Coconut Grove.

Well, growing up in Coconut Grove was quite an experience. I grew up with my Great, Great Grand Mother, who lived to be 117 old, Mrs. Dank Elam-Hawes and her son was Mr. Burl Hawes and he was the one who obtained the land on Grand Avenue so that the black kids could have a park to play on.

I grew up with so many people that were pioneers in Coconut Grove and they were like family members. So they inspired me as I grew up and I learned about their accomplishments.

What is your earliest memory of writing poetry?

My earliest memory goes back to 1995. One night, I was meditating and praying because my youngest son had gotten into trouble, I told God that if you help me to get him out of trouble, I will do what you called me to be. So, I woke up, at least I thought  that I was awaken but it was a light and it inspired me and it told me through my mind and heart that it wanted me to write and I thought that it was a joke. Me writing, I could never write that well. But when I awaken I saw an ink pen on the floor and I tripped out. I ran around the house and I told everyone that the light inspired me to write. So everyone starting laughing and said no light inspired you to write with that handwriting. So within a few days I told my story to two newspapers companies, the Miami Herald and the Miami Times and they did my first write up about it.

What drew you into writing poetry?

Well, actually, I was someone that was quiet and just looked and listened a lot. During that time period there were a lot of things going on dealing with the different cultures and hearing about the Viet Nam War and the Civil Rights March. To add to that the school that I dreamed about attending was phased out and that school was George Washington Carver Sr. High School. So, when we got to Ponce De Leon Jr. High School, I noticed that it was different. There were different cultures. There were some things going on which inspired me to write about.

So what did you write about?

I wrote about the different cultures, how they did not get along. I became like a bridge between the cultures. I became friends with the whites and the Spanish. However, do to the different culture mix it became a hostile environment.

Did you compete in poetry contest when you were in school?

No, I did not.

I have always none you to be laid back, very well-mannered and a polished person, what is your writing style?

Free style, basically, I started out writing about whatever came to my mind or memory and whatever it was I would write about it. People did not know me when they saw me. They would her me on the radio or read my writings through the news press they started calling me the poet. But basically, I was better at being a spoken word free style artist that just happens to write down what I could remember.

What are some of the awards that you have received for your writings?

Over the years, I have received many local awards and national awards which have led to international touring and some awards that stuck to my heart because my first major award I was honored by the late Governor of Florida Lofton Chiles. Following that, I received recognition from my writings by two former United States Presidents and Mayors.

Who were these Presidents?

Former President Bill Clinton and Former President George W Bush.

What is your most precious writing that you are most proud of and why is that?

My most precious writing is You Just Have to Have Faith. Because, that is the essence of human life. You can’t do anything without faith. I always add that in my writings when I write.

Does writing come easy to you and what do you do to get yourself in a writing mode?

Well, writing comes easy because I am a visual. Everything I see, I record it in my mind. If I do not write it down right then I loose it. Seeing helps me to write and then with my imagination I put creative thought with what I see.

Who are your role models in poetry and how have they influence your writing?

Langston Hughes and Miya Angelo, they wrote about the essence of our culture. They knew how to cross over into other cultures to make them feel a human experience where it would not be limited to a culture experience.

Who are some of the people that you have met through your writings?

I use to do a Coconut Grove Poem and these individual that I encountered I also grew up around them; these are the ones that stick to my heart Winston Scott, the first black astronaut to walk in space, Mrs. Halen Bentley responsible for implementing nurses into schools county wide, Mrs. Rosebud Byrd, she was the first head librarian in Florida, she was responsible for the Joseph Caleb Library, Gerald Tinker and his cousin Larry Black, they won Gold Medals in the 1972 Olympics, yes and I grew up with the Great Reverend Theodore Gibson; who took a case to Florida Supreme Court and won. It enable for better housing and schools for blacks in the city of Miami. There were other prominent people. Dr. Simpson, she was the first black pediatrician license in the state of Florida. The list goes on. Mrs. Thelma Gibson, she was one of the first black nurses at a major hospital Jackson Memorial. So, all of these people were instrumental in my life. As I said before my great grandfather Burl Hawes he started the Black Veteran Legion throughout the State of Florida which now is a part of the American Legion and he was instrumental in building Macedonia church when it moved to its present location. For those who do not know, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church is the oldest black church in Dade County which makes it two years older than the City of Miami.

I can see that you have been around a lot of prominent people who have played a positive role in shaping you.

Oh yes, I said that I wanted to be like them.  I want to be able to touch a community, I want to be able to touch the world, I want to leave something that will inspire everybody not just blacks. I don’t care what culture or what color; I want to touch the lives of everybody with hope and faith. The gifts and talents that you get from God that you can make it happen. That is my legacy that Terry Fernando Newton was known for touching the lives of others and inspiring them with hope not just with words but with work of actions.

Where could local expiring Miamian poetry writers go to share their poetry with an audience?   

There are several places; one that comes to mind is B Side Entertainment open mike works here and West Side Ports

Do you see poetry having a renaissance as it did in the mid-sixties and seventies? 

Well, what has over shadowed poetry is Spoken Word Poetry and it appeals more to the younger generation and that is what really rebirth the poetry movement. That’s what helped me get started. Poetry was basically on life support. When Spoken Word Poetry started, which originated in Chicago the other city followed like New York, Washington DC and Miami. It touched us here, as a matter of fact; I was one of the first new Spoken Word Artist in South Florida to help bring national attention to inner city poetry here in South Florida. With the birth of Spoken Word Poetry, it’s going to continue to grow because it inspires the youth to express themselves through everyday life.

Terry, what would you say to those young minds that are expiring to pursue poetry as career? 

Well, what I would say to them is that when it comes to making money it’s not as big as if you were a rapper. Poetry is like the essence of human life and nature. It can inspire you to go into writing, teaching or even becoming a philosopher. But poetry by itself, if you’re looking for financial gains it won’t happen but you will be able to make a substantial amount of money but not with poetry alone. You will have to incorporate something else with it such as being a song writer or a speech writer for someone. That’s when poetry or spoken word can really take you to a higher level of success. However, if you do a lot of national and international touring then you could see dividends paying off.  Because, internationally, poetry and spoken word poetry there is a larger audience.

How has poetry shaped your life?

Well, poetry has shape my life because it helps me to be a speaker for those that don’t express themselves and for those that once walked the path that are no longer here and  it helps me to be a speaker for God; given Gods words of hope, love and unity. Poetry helped me to express myself better because I use to be laid back, kind of shy, it has opened me up to be a talker and to reach out to other people in areas where I wouldn’t want to hear what they had to say.

In closing where would you like to see poetry transcend?

I would like to see it being promoted more through the schools and in community organizations. What poetry does, it allows people to express themselves. There are a lot of people out there who are hurting emotionally and physically. Poetry can help take some of that pain away from people. I have had some of my followers tell me that my poetry or spoken words help them express their hurt and pain. Poetry is a beautiful thing.

Terry, this concludes our interview with you. Sports Elite thanks you for sharing and expiring those that wish to fulfill poetry as a profession or as a hobby. We look to adding some of your poetry writings to our site.







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