Fighters are only made when they’ve learned to never take no for an answer.
For over 15 years, Terra has been an advocate for working families in Detroit, Ecorse and River Rouge. She began her career in political advocacy and organizing when she served as the African-American & Faith Coordinator and Detroit Delegation Organizer to the Michigan House Democrats. In this position, she served 17 State Representatives, fostering relationships between their offices and their constituents, including those in the 6th District.
Terra’s journey into public service and advocacy came as a personal mission growing out of her own life’s tragedies and struggles. As a very young child, her mother was the victim of violent crime. Due to her mother’s untimely death, Terra was raised by her grandmother in Detroit. During her college years, she suffered a work-related closed head injury, leaving her with several diagnoses including dyslexia, brain trauma, and other serious learning challenges. Due to the experience of head injury, she later became an advocate for those with learning disabilities by working for access to tutoring and other state-mandated accommodations so they could succeed.
Later, Terra served as the Executive Director to the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, where she was the first executive director to be voted in by state legislatures. Terra initiated outreach programs that served to boost organ donation and affordable urban housing development projects. Additionally, she instituted workshops to increase minority contractors’ access to business funding, and other programs to address growing health concerns within urban communities.
Terra has had the distinguished honor to have served two Detroit mayors in key roles. For Mayor Dave Bing, where she was the first woman appointed as the Faith-Based Liaison and Director of the Department of Senior Citizens and Consumer Protection. In that position, Terra created the Senior Protection Workshops program, where seniors received access to local, state and federal resources; she started the “Seniors in Motion Physical Enhancement” Program, and held legal and tax assistance days where seniors were able to meet with volunteer attorneys to discuss legal matters and have their taxes prepared for free.
Currently, Terra DeFoe serves as a senior adviser to Mayor Mike Duggan, with a portfolio of responsibility that includes public engagement, advance & logistics management, as well as faith-based, senior citizens, returning citizens, gang intervention, and homeless affairs. During her time in the Duggan administration, some of her most recent activities include reactivating the Detroit Senior Citizens Advisory Commission; creating the Senior Citizens Resource Guide; managing “Senior Friendship Day,” where more than 3,000 senior citizens gather for a day of fun and live entertainment; creating Mayor Duggan’s Clergy Roundtable; co-developing the Detroit Land Bank’s Community Partnership agreements; managing the Adopt-A-Park program; and supporting both the Detroit Police Department’s Ceasefire programs, as well as the city’s Detroit At Work Expungement program, both of which are intertwined in a mission to put Detroiters into jobs. She also served as the Director of African-American and Faith-Based Engagement for the State of Michigan during the Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign.
During COVID-19, she converted her rapid response skills to join the City of Detroit’s Code Blue Team which provided human services oversight and community impact coordination to thousands of families and senior citizens in need. Code Blue also provided Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to homeless individuals; safe stay shelter-in-place sites for homeless and returning citizens who test positive for COVID-19. Code Blue offered support to faith-based organizations and other community based nonprofit organizations for food distribution activities.
Terra is a licensed Evangelist under the leadership of Pastor Marvin N. Miles of the International Gospel Center in Ecorse, Michigan, and founder of “Vessels of Hope.” She serves as a Board Member to several organizations including the Detroit Area Agency on Aging, Gift of Life Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program, Northwest Activities Center Community Programs, Ceasefire Detroit Youth Violence Prevention, and World Community Impact. She is a Chaplain with the Detroit Police Department and a Wayne County Sheriff Deputy Reserve. She serves on the Executive Board of the Michigan Democratic Party 13th Congressional District and serves as Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party Faith Caucus.
Terra is a graduate of the Bethel Christian University for Religious Studies where she earned her Doctorate degree. She is the proud mother of her son, the late Emilio DeFoe and her daughter, Tiera DeFoe, a graduate of Bethune-Cookman University. Terra recently married Ronald Griffin, a retired Detroit Police Officer, and Elder under Rose of Sharon C.O.G.I.C.
Had Terra listened to the people who told her “no” early on, she wouldn’t have been able to give her life to service, to God, and to helping people. Terra is a fighter!