Quentrel Provo has finally met his biggest inspiration: Barack Obama.
Provo, the founder of the Stop the Violence movement, met the former U.S. president during a VIP session an hour before his show, A Conversation with President Barack Obama, on Wednesday in Halifax.
Meeting Obama, said Provo, was a moment of awe. “I’ve still got chills — and not ‘cause it’s cold outside.”
Obama has been inspiring Provo, 32, for over a decade. A black president is something he never thought he would see in his lifetime.
“It let us know that young black kids can be the president of the U.S. — the most powerful role in the world,” he said.
In the summer, Provo found out that Obama was visiting Halifax for the 70th anniversary of the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council. In early October, he put out a call on Twitter saying he would love to meet his hero.
Community members reached out in support and grabbed the attention of the Atlantic Credit Union, the event’s presenting sponsor, and Provo was awarded first row seats for the show and a VIP pass.
For the last week, he said, he’s been thinking about what to say to Obama. He was nervous walking up to the former president.
“This guy just put me at ease with a handshake. I’m like, ‘really?’” he said with a laugh.
The meeting only lasted a few minutes. Provo said Obama told him he’s heard of him. “It’s crazy. He said to me, ‘Keep up the great work and don’t give up.’”
On stage, Obama talked about global issues, Canada-U.S. relations, and leadership.
Provo’s favourite part was when he talked about failure. “You’re going to fail sometimes,” said Provo. “It won’t be easy, but you learn and keep going.”
Obama even gave Provo a compliment during their private meeting. “He told me I have a nice shaped head.”
Provo has been an anti-violence activist for seven years, ever since the death of his cousin Kaylin Diggs. He founded the Stop the Violence initiative in 2012, which led to its first march, the #SpreadLoveChallenge campaign and a clothing brand. Since then, he’s been an active speaker at anti-violence, anti-bullying and anti-hate campaigns throughout the country.
In October, Provo was honoured at the United Nations in New York City as one of the world’s Top 100 Most Influential People of African Descent Under 40.
Never did I ever dream a boy from Preston would be standing in the #UnitedNations Headquarters in New York City next to #NelsonMandela's Statue to celebrate being named one of the world's Top 100 MIPAD. Last night it was a reality. I dedicate my recognition to ALL Nova Scotians! pic.twitter.com/tQpb4OXTIq
— Quentrel Provo (@mrstopviolence) October 3, 2019
What made meeting his hero even more special, Provo said, is being able to give his parents a signed Obama cap for their 25th wedding anniversary.
“Those are my real-life heroes that are there for me every day,” he said. “That’s why I have the strength to do what I do.”
As for Provo’s activism in the future, he said politics has been “a question all evening. I know I’ve got a bright future ahead. I don’t know exactly where it is.”
His focus is preventing violence in the city and, if he has to go into politics to do that, he said he could. Provo wants to see a decrease in violence, more youth in leadership roles and for people to “feel like this is their Halifax.”
Obama, he said, is one of the reasons he doesn’t give up.
Now that he’s met Barack Obama, next on the list are Tyler Perry, Oprah and, “of course, Michelle Obama.”
About the author
Karla Renic is a multimedia journalist in her fourth year at the University of King's College. She freelances and works as the news editor at...