The Detente Collective

Sam Westfall, Ra Kazadi, Terrance Newman, and Shaine Hailey

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This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

There are heroes that walk among us in plain sight. These individuals don’t wear capes or fancy outfits, and most importantly, they don’t have superpowers.

They don’t need them.

These heroes are simply ordinary people doing extraordinary things. They are teachers, athletes, and students — a group of individuals that come together as a community, known as The Detente Collective.

Sam Westfall, Ra Kazadi, Terrance Newman, and Shaine Hailey have meticulously worked behind the scenes in building that community that has taken up such initiatives as feeding the homeless, hosting school supply drives, and supplying clothes and personal hygiene products to domestic abuse survivors.

It all started with an idea, but it took a group of individuals willing to put action behind those ideas to make something happen.

“Originally, me and Sam Westfall were in BSAAC (Black Student-Athlete Advisory Committee), and we wanted to do a lot of different initiatives, like getting school supplies run to local schools, helping out with women’s and children’s initiatives, delivering blankets to people experiencing homelessness and sporadic food drives,” said Kazadi.

“To maximize our efforts, we decided to form The Detente Collective outside of that so we could get more people involved that shared our mission and goal. We want to meet people where they’re at and do it as fast as possible to get people what they need as quickly as they need it.”

One shared mission and goal

Newman and Hailey were two of those individuals with the same mission.

Both of the SMU football players had taken it upon themselves to start cooking for the homeless. So that fell right in line with The Detente Collective’s plan to feed those in need.

The timing was perfect as well, considering it was at the height of the COVID pandemic, when people were losing their jobs and falling into financial peril.

“Me and Shaine were cooking for the homeless, and we all kind of just got together. Shaine already had the outreach, and I just kind of had the cooking background. Then Shaine and Ra had the idea of getting together and collaborating,” said Newman.

Hailey’s motivation behind the collaboration stemmed from the fact that $100 spent at the grocery store every week could feed 40 people. It’s a staggering realization when considering the things people typically spend that kind of money on in their everyday lives.

That number put Hailey’s feet to the fire to want to do more and help as many people as he could.

“What really drives me is just figuring out ways that people our age can learn how to give back,” said Hailey.

“There’s a certain wave of vibration that we all get that is really shared throughout all of us when we’re out there giving to people. It’s a good vibration that shares happiness, joy, and peace. That’s really what pushes me to keep striving for ways to help those that can’t help themselves and are coming through hard times. It’s always good to give back, especially when I have an abundance.”

Navigating uncharted waters

Of course, the efforts of The Detente Collective haven’t come without their challenges. Westfall admits the group jumped straight into things without any real-world experience in running an organization.

So they’ve been learning as they go and figuring things out on the fly.

But despite the inexperience, there was never any hesitation on the part of the group to get things up and moving, especially when there are so many people out there desperate and in need of help.

“I think we are all walking in uncharted territory. But I also think it’s a learning process in the most impactful ways to help the community and how to form and run an organization,” Westfall said.

“Even though we learned that in classes and stuff, it’s different in the real world. Navigating our schedules is always difficult as well, but it’s all a big learning process. I’m glad we just jumped into the water because it’s only knee-deep. We’re still learning and growing.”

One of the biggest hurdles for the group has been finding a lane or specializing in one specific thing. There are so many projects and initiatives in need of able-bodied individuals to step up to the plate and help out.

And yet, the unique thing about The Detente Collective is the fact that they have no lane.

They can help in a variety of different ways by providing assistance through multiple organizations. The group has done drives with Hope’s Door New Beginnings and Genesis Women’s Shelter. They’d package onesies, milk, baby bottles, clothes, and beauty and hygiene products.

They’ve also partnered with restaurants to pass out food to the homeless, along with collaborating with Eastbay backpacks to give away nearly 100 backpacks to kids for school.

“We are here to collaborate with a whole lot of other organizations. If they need volunteers, we have access to thousands of students at SMU, along with our own followings and audience. Why not use that audience to help out as many people as we can? One of my teachers told me work begets work,” said Kazadi.

“The more work we do, the more work that we have to do. It kind of rolls by itself. But there are times when we have to go chase an opportunity. That’s when we sit down as a collective and formulate a plan. That’s when we go through the who, what, why, where, when — and then we do it. I think that’s the thing that kind of separates us from other nonprofits is that we operate really fast because we’re a tighter-knit group.”

"I think we are all walking in uncharted territory. But I also think it's a learning process in the most impactful ways to help the community and how to form and run an organization," Westfall said.

The power of empathy

An example of the speed and efficiency of the group has been their work at Adelle Turner Elementary School, where they helped provide masks, hand sanitizer, ink, paper, and other regular school supplies.

In one instance, they were actually faster than the district in providing needed supplies for the school.

And it came out of their own pockets.

“It was 125 guys donating $10, $30, and $40. Some guys donated $100. It was just what little change they had at the moment. There was no NIL at that time. Just seeing people step up like that made me want to keep doing this forever. So that’s the plan,” said Westfall.

The group has raised upwards of $30,000 for the initiatives, and their efforts have touched many more lives in the process.

But none have been more thankful than members of the group itself, through shared conversations with the people they’re helping.

Empathy goes a long way in this world. It’s the lifeblood that keeps The Detente Collective going.

“One of the moments that really changed things for me was a conversation with a homeless man under a highway. He told us that he’s watched our games, and then he started talking about his situation,” said Newman.

“Through that conversation, I learned that it only takes one thing or one event that can change your life completely. Some people look at homeless people as nasty, weird, or aliens. But I’m thinking, man, that’s you with a different event, you know what I’m saying? We’re so blessed here at SMU with all of its resources and just the life we get to live day in and day out. It was a very humbling moment for me.”

The group is hopeful for many more humbling moments to come as they continue to push forward with their initiatives.

Westfall isn’t willing to put an end goal on the work because he doesn’t see an end in sight. There’s no cap or ceiling on making positive changes through the efforts of the collective community.

“We’ve always wanted to have a national impact with The Detente Collective, if not a global impact. As we grow, our initiatives will grow with us as well,” said Westfall.

That growth extends beyond the Dallas area. Anyone can be a part of the collective and help make the world a better place by starting with their own communities.

One rock can cause the tiniest ripple in the ocean, but a bunch of rocks together can form a mountain capable of causing waves.

“I’d say get engaged with any community organization that you know is helping people and that you feel like aligns with your values. No matter where you are, make being a part of your community a priority,” said Kazadi.

You can check out The Detente Collective here: