JRSM 1700: Honors Interview Essay Interviewee: Marshonn Calvin

The individual upon whom this essay is focused is Marshonn S. Calvin Sr., broadcasting instructor and former technical manager at a variety of local news stations throughout the Mid-South. Though born in Kankakee, Illinois, Calvin decided to move back down south in order to familiarize himself more with his family roots, all of whom originated from the East Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Clarksdale, Mississippi. Originally, Calvin didn’t plan to pursue a field in this subject, as his major initially was in Graphic Art Design. 

While attending The Historically Black College “Rust College”, he secured an opportunity to work at the university’s WURC 88.1 FM radio station and RC-TV2 television station, and these experiences had allowed to become familiar with a whole new career path that greatly served his interests.

After switching his major to mass communication, Calvin pursued a series of internships for the NBC News World Headquarters at Rockefeller Plaza and at NBC Eastcoast Operations office in Brooklyn, New York which presented a great opportunity for him to become more familiar with the intricacies of broadcasting. There, he performed daily research and content analysis for a variety of well-known series such as “Another World”, “The Cosby Show”, “The Conan O’Brien Show” and “Dateline NBC”. While reminiscing, Calvin remarked often upon how these internships were truly what “lit the fire in [him]” and developed his passion for broadcasting.

After the aforementioned internships and his subsequent graduation from Rust College, Calvin spent time as floor manager and engineering operator at a variety of stations, most notably NBC WTVA News Channel 9 in Tupelo, MS and later WREG News Channel 3 in Memphis, TN. While he didn’t decide to root himself at either of these stations, Calvin was able to develop serious on-the-job experience, experience that helped propel him to the location at which he would spend the next ten years of his working life: WMC TV-5 (now called WMC Action News 5) Throughout his tenure there, he served as production manager, floor manager, and even crew chief for a time. 

Calvin claimed that his work at Channel 5 (WMC TV-5) was the most enriching experience he’s ever enjoyed throughout his time as a broadcasting professional, though it wasn’t without struggles. A man of his position was required to work long, often grueling hours while handling a multitude of projects and responsibilities. This never dissuaded him, though, as he proclaimed that old adage of “if you enjoy what you’re doing, you never work a day in your life”.

​When asked if he had rather done anything else, including returning to the world of graphic arts, Calvin said he had no regrets for the path he’s taken. Broadcasting is where he felt he has truly been able to express himself. Further, he claimed to have been kept interested in the field thanks mostly to his appreciation for the art of “news”. He often remarked how he enjoyed being “in the know”, deeming it “rewarding” and felt it ultimately contributed to his growth as both a professional and individual. Though he was presented with a variety of more lucrative offers throughout his career, Calvin kept feeling the call of the station. It had also helped that his wife Tamela Woods-Calvin, one of his primary inspirations, has also had an extensive background in television where she is The Television Station Manager for TBN’s (Trinity Broadcasting Network) Memphis Local Affiliate WBUY TV-40 and she had served in part to motivate him in continuing his career in broadcasting. 

In 2003, despite such an extensive and satisfying career in television management, Calvin decided it was time for a change. Working at WMC TV-5 (now WMC Action News 5) had been one of the most fulfilling opportunities he had ever experienced; however, the increasingly grim focus by the local news industry on negative news had dissuaded him from continuing any further. After having discussed with some of his mentors in the industry, Calvin decided the “only way to give back” would be to become a teacher. He ended up choosing Millington Central High School as the staff at the time were so receptive to the idea of developing a broadcasting program at the school. Not only was Calvin hired as the sole broadcasting instructor (at the time), but he had been given authority to design the entire department himself according to his own layouts and expectations. This was a fairly impressive privilege bestowed upon someone who for all intents and purposes had no prior experience in the education system, yet the risk had paid off. In his fourteen years of teaching, hundreds of students have successfully graduated from his broadcasting program. Mr. Calvin has been the only father figure most of us have ever had and he goes above and beyond to help mentor all of us. 

Mr. Calvin has helped me through so many situations that I had to endure during my four years in high school at Millington Central High School. I wouldn't have made it through my senior year in 2016 without his guidance. He is not only my favorite teacher but he is the only father figure that I have that I can always depend on. 

Broadcasting students from his class have consistently proven competitive in The National and Memphis Regional NAACP ACT-SO competition, and two have won silver and bronze medals from The National Telly Awards and The Communicators Awards for filmmaking. One of Calvin’s most notable projects at Millington Central High has been the school’s TV show, “Trojan TV”, which he began operating in 2009. While this program is notable not only for having provided a great service to the school, it has also managed to keep a lot of troubled kids out of harm’s way. One of Calvin’s most commonly used phrases was that “you’ve got to keep the students busy and out of trouble”. 

The students of Millington Central High School were a diverse bunch, which included both the privileged and impoverished. Calvin noticed an opportunity to help elevate those with troubles at home to a position where they could make something out of themselves and more beyond their circumstances. “Productivity is key”, he would often mention. He remarked upon how you would have to be invested in each of the kid’s lives beyond the traditional role of an instructor, often acting as both their parent and counselor as well. I know personally that Mr. Marshonn S. Calvin, Sr. goes above and beyond to make sure his students have good self-esteem, and that they are preparing for their future endeavor.  Many of the student’s families in the communities of Millington, TN and Memphis, TN cannot afford to financially support a broadcasting program such as this one and we are in need of help from NBC News.  

On the note of professionalism, Calvin keeps students updated with the current trends of the industry, often presenting them with technology that studios aren’t using now but look to use in the future when the students will have graduated.

Much like his time as a broadcasting professional, Calvin doesn’t plan on teaching forever. After he retires from Millington Central High School he mentioned the next medium he wanted to pursue was that of film, which seems only natural considering his background in radio and television. Specifically, he plans to create books, television shows, become a minister and produce films each of which would be associated with a specific theme such as: Civil Rights, Historical Projects, Documentaries, and Successful Relationships. Accompanied by his wife Tamela and a few of his former students, he considers this to be an exciting prospect, yet another grand opportunity in a life which he considers immensely blessed by God.

Calvin’s personal philosophy is perhaps one of the most honest, altruistic, and straightforward any man could claim to uphold. As has been reiterated multiple times throughout this essay, Calvin extols the values of pursuing opportunity, taking whatever chances you may be given in order to advance yourself in life. Though he is a humble man and would not admit this to your face, he exists without a doubt as proof of this philosophy, as he came from extremely humble beginnings and fulfilled a nearly 30-year long career in which he has touched thousands of lives with great benefit. 

The focus was never placed upon Marshonn Calvin, rather it was his family, mentors, friends and the population at large which he has served almost every day of his adult life. 

It’s no wonder that his favorite quote is a fitting one from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: 

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of their individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

-Bradley Martin
Former MCHS Student

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