Terry Josiah Sharpe’s mission as a military police officer in the Army was to protect lives, but also to fight when necessary. He served two tours in Iraq—from 2004 to 2005, and then again in 2005 to 2006. So, when he got out of the service in 2007, he felt a new mission at hand—this time, one of peace.
“There’s a lot of bad permeating throughout our communities. While America might not be perfect, we’re in a very privileged nation. But instead of appreciating what we have, we’re competing, either for the nicest car, the nicest house, the nicest whatever. Meanwhile, 800 million people have to walk over four miles a day to get to dirty water. We get clean water to wash our dishes.”
The San Diego veteran decided if he couldn’t find the good, he would need to become the good. Two years ago, in 2014, he started the company Music.Life.Change and set a goal to build a more positive world through social change as well as music, something Sharpe is passionate about.
“Music has been my passion and my place of peace since I was a child,” says Sharpe, who wrote and sang "Angels Will Soar," available on iTunes, an emotional song dedicated to “the harsh realities of what domestic violence is about,” he says.
He donates proceeds from the song’s purchase toward Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, a domestic violence advocacy group that holds healing retreats for survivors as well as offering Grants of Hope, a financial assistance program that help survivors overcome economic challenges after leaving abuse. The song was able to fund the nonprofit’s first grant for the program.
“I grew up in a troubled childhood and through expressing that I’ve learned the power of music,” says Sharpe, whose father abused his mother until Sharpe was 5 and his parents divorced. His mother remarried and though his new stepfather wasn’t abusive to Sharpe’s mom, he did start abusing Sharpe, so much so that the young boy ended up spending time in a foster home.
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As a result, Sharpe says his experiences have given him a unique empathy toward survivors in intimate partner violence situations.
“I had this fear of my stepdad, but also very much wanted to have a dad in my life. I understand still wanting that love and affection, but having fear. I feel like it’s very parallel to a woman married to an abuser.”
Blowing the Whistle on DV
Since its inception, Music.Life.Change has donated more than $350,000 to charitable causes such as Break the Silence and Sharpe says his goal is to donate over $1 million by 2020. Part of that involves his initiative to “Blow the Whistle Against Domestic Violence.” Supporters can purchase a bright purple survivor whistle and attach it to their keys, not only as a symbol of support, but as a functional tool should one feel in danger.
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“It originally stemmed from hearing about domestic violence in the NFL, and how [the organization] wasn’t taking an outspoken stance on it. They weren’t necessarily giving out punishments that people were looking for,” says Sharpe. He cites the case of New York Giants kicker Josh Brown, whose ex-wife Molly Brown reported more than 20 incidents of domestic violence over several years, one of which was in May 2015, when the football player was arrested on charges of assault in the fourth degree. The NFL originally suspended Brown for one game, but ended up releasing him from the team last October after he admitted publically to being abusive toward Molly, though continued to deny he ever struck her.
According to ESPN, Molly accused her ex-husband of pushing her into a mirror in their bedroom, throwing her on the floor, jumping on top of her and pinning her face to the carpet with his forearm on the back on her neck.
“They blow the whistle to stop the players on the field, so we’ll blow the whistle to stop them off the field,” says Sharpe. He’s since sold some 2,500 whistles in six countries, and hopes to partner with charities this year who want to use the whistles as a fundraiser for their organization.
Sharpe is also hoping to work with corporations on something he calls “The Gratitude Experience,” offering motivational speakers and keynote concerts to companies that want to show gratitude toward their employees while also inspiring them to spread positivity. It’s apparent Sharpe is trying to be a new type of entrepreneur—one that isn’t focused solely on profit margins.
“I was told if you ever start a business where you’re making money, there’s only one reason why you should do it and that’s to change the world for the better,” Sharpe told The San Diego Voice and Viewpoint last year. “I felt very comfortable about being able to create a business built on the foundation of gratitude.”
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