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TEDxToronto 2019: Anthony Morgan, Human Rights and Civil Liberties Lawyer

Anthony is a lawyer and the Training & Development Consultant in the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit. As a lawyer who practiced in the areas of civil, constitutional, and criminal state accountability litigation, Anthony has an interest in anti-black racism advocacy. Anthony has appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada and the United Nations treaty bodies and is a regular commentator on issues at the intersection of justice, race, and multiculturalism.

(To see Anthony live on the TEDxToronto stage on October 26th, purchase your tickets here.)

What was your first “million-dollar idea”?
I’m four years older than my little brother. When we were little, he absolutely loved his baby bottle. It didn’t just feed him, he used it to self soothe by just sucking on the nipple. But he would always misplace his bottle. When he did, he would wail inconsolably. I became the baby-bottle finder. I remember it occurring to me that if there was some kind of button you could press to make the bottle beep loudly when you can’t find it, things would be so much easier for my brother—and me, of course.

What’s the wildest idea you had to sell somebody on? How did you do it?
The viability of a successful career focused on racial justice lawyering and thought leadership in Canada. I committed to this work before Black Lives Matter was the clarion call of our generation. And no one really saw it on the horizon when I made this commitment. If they did, it was only imagined as resonant for the U.S. context alone. But in my final year of high school (2004), I decided that this is what I wanted to commit my life to. My parents needed a lot of convincing. Sometimes they still worry about how long this will last and sustain me. I think I’ve managed to sell them on it by showing them it led me to being able to do a TEDx Talk. LOL. That, and I’ve managed to fashion a unique and interesting career that’s allowed me to be one of Canada’s effective and influential racial justice advocates.

Name a big idea in your lifetime that you can’t believe never took off?
Universal access to high-speed Internet and an attendant smart computing device for all youth from 1st to 12th grade. Tech literacy today is as important as alphanumeric literacy. The accident of being born into a family that can or cannot afford high-speed Internet and computing devices determines far too many futures of young people. These things are expensive and so because racism in society is largely expressed through diminished access to economic opportunity, racialized kids pay the biggest costs of the digital divide.

Name one thing, as a society, we aren’t spending enough time thinking about? What would be a good first step?
Perpetually growing wealth inequality. This growing gap is increasingly unsustainable as it will lead societies across the world—humanity in general—to catastrophic social unrest. People will only allow themselves to watch fewer and fewer own more and more concentrated wealth for so long. A good first step would be reforming school curricula so that there’s an honest, ethical and responsible resocialization about capitalism and its impacts on people and our planet.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your day-to-day work? How do you take it on?
The biggest challenge I face in my day-to-day work is individuals’ fear, ignorance, hopelessness and suspicion when it comes to advocating for policies and practices aimed at equitably addressing systemic anti-Black racism in Toronto, Canada. Because we are socialized to see racism as a U.S. phenomenon and our country as a multicultural promised land, speaking honestly and directly about the pervasiveness and persistence of anti-Black racism is regularly responded to with disbelief, dismissiveness, frustration and sometimes even anger. I’m committed to helping our society achieve racial justice, in a society that tends to see it as being impolite to talk about racism.

Where do you look for inspiration?
I look for inspiration in Black art, culture, history, writing and literature. I also look for inspiration in the daily lives of Black peoples and communities. I look here because I’m inspired by the fact that that Black folks still find amazing, resilient and creative ways to live, love, laugh, build relationships, families and maintain hope amidst many formidable historical and ongoing challenges that act as barriers to Black joy and well-being.

If you could achieve one goal in the next 18 months what would it be? And why?
In the next 18 months, one goal I would really like to achieve would be finding consistent and healthy life balance. I absolutely love my work. So I tend to work a lot. And when I’m not working, I’m thinking about work. This means health, family, friends, social life and sometimes even finances are not properly prioritized. Finding balance would make me healthier, even happier than I am and almost certainly more effective in the work I love so much. For clarity’s sake, I define my work as “supporting and leading thoughts and actions that help create better lives for vulnerable Black individuals and communities.”

(To see Anthony live on the TEDxToronto stage on October 26th, purchase your tickets here.)

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