Terrell was raised by his mother, Vanessa, and his two older brothers Antwan and Robert; he is the youngest of the three. They grew up on the East side of Pittsburgh. In 1984, after Vanessa got a job at Kane hospital, she moved to Hazelwood. Terrell attended Allderdice High school. By the time he was 16 his first child was born, a daughter. By the time he was 19 he had two boys, and he met Saundra Cole who would become his wife. In 1995, he was arrested and charged with capital murder.
Terrell Johnson became the poster child in the Greater Hazelwood neighborhood and throughout Pennsylvania on how young inner-city youth are targeted by racist police officers and judged by an incentive, bias, unjust, racist judicial system. He was incarcerated at the state correctional institution SCI Greene.
Saundra sought help to prove his innocence, but was confronted with problem after problem trying to convince traditional organizations such as the NAACP and others to take up her cause. Saundra, confused and frustrated, confided in Terrell and shared with him what the spirit of god was laying on her heart in terms of starting her own nonprofit organization to fight for Terrell and against the injustices faced by young black men in the community.