Dwayne Morgan began his career as a performer in 1993. In 1994, he founded Up From The Roots entertainment, to promote the positive artistic contributions of African Canadian and urban influenced artists.
In 2014, Morgan received the Renaissance Planet Africa Award for Career Achievement, and was acknowledged by the Ontario Black History Society as a Community Trailblazer, following up on his 2013 Scarborough Walk of Fame Induction.
Morgan has published 8 books, most recently his first children’s book, Before I was Born, which followed his memoir, Everyday Excellence (2013), Her Favourite Shoes (2011), The Sensual Musings of Dwayne Morgan (2010), The Making of A Man (2005), The Man Behind The Mic (2002), Long Overdue (1999), and chapbooks, The Revolution Starts Within (1996), and Straight From The Roots (1995).
Dwayne’s work ethic has taken him across Canada, the United States, Jamaica, Trinidad, Turkey, Bermuda, Barbados, England, Scotland, Belgium, Budapest, Germany, France, Norway, and Holland.
Geosi Gyasi: You’re a poet, speaker and social entrepreneur. Which of them came to you first?
Dwayne Morgan: Poetry came to me first when I was 18 years old. By the time I had turned 19, I had started my own business, putting on talent shows, so that my friends could have a platform to perform. My experiences over the past 23 years have given me the lessons that I draw on when I speak in front of audiences.
Geosi Gyasi: Did you know as a child that you would one day become a poet?
Dwayne Morgan: I never saw poetry in my future. I have always been a shy introvert, and would never gravitate to anything that involved speaking in front of people. This came out of the blue and is a reminder that the universe will use us for what it needs us to do.
Geosi Gyasi: What are the prospects of becoming a poet? Is it all that lucrative?
Dwayne Morgan: It definitely isn’t an easy path as a poet, however, I have found a way to live off of my art for over two decades. I believe that that requires a good understanding of what is happening with people, a good understanding of self, and a lot of creativity. My career has afforded me everything that I want, and has allowed me to see the world in ways that I never imagined that I would.
Geosi Gyasi: I am particularly interested in your roots. Where do you actually come from? Could you tell me a little bit about your heritage?
Dwayne Morgan: I was born in Toronto in 1974. Both of my parents are immigrants from Jamaica. My sister and I were the first members of the family born outside of Jamaica. It is strongly believed by many, that our Jamaican ancestors would have come from Ghana.
Geosi Gyasi: What inspired you to set up “Up From The Roots” entertainment?
Dwayne Morgan: Up From The Roots was started as a platform to create opportunities for young artists to get on stage and perform. The name was inspired by the Jamaican hero, Marcus Garvey, who said that “a people without knowledge of their history, is like a tree without roots”. The vision was to create a business that was self-sustaining and not dependent on government funding to survive. Thus far, I’ve managed to keep the formula going for over twenty years.
Geosi Gyasi: Has the aim for which you set up “Up From The Roots” been achieved?
Dwayne Morgan: I would say that I’ve achieved the goal. At present I produce about twenty shows per year, for audiences of 25-500, depending on the show, and shining the spotlight on dozens of artists per year.
Geosi Gyasi: What factors influenced your first children’s book, “Before I Was Born”?
Dwayne Morgan: The story of ‘Before I Was Born’ came to me while on the way to a Kanye West concert. I ended up writing the first draft in the parking lot at the arena. As the father of a daughter, I loved the fact that the story affirmed girls, and put the spotlight on positive relationships between them and their fathers.
Geosi Gyasi: Why did you decide to write your memoir, “Everyday Excellence”?
Dwayne Morgan: I decided to write ‘Everyday Excellence’ to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of my career. When I first began, there was no-one who believed that I would still be doing this after two decades. Most people have no idea how I’ve managed to live off of my art for as long as I have, so I decided to write a book that shared my life philosophies, and how I’ve managed to achieve the things that I have.
Geosi Gyasi: Could you differentiate between a speaker and writer?
Dwayne Morgan: A speaker is one who has something to say, and gets in front of people to share it, while a writer is simply one who communicates their ideas through typing or writing.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you have any fond memories of the day you performed for the former Governor General of Canada, Honourable Michaelle Jean?
Dwayne Morgan: I can’t say that there were fond memories per se. It was exciting to have the opportunity to present my work in her presence, and with that came a lot of nerves, but I learned very early that people are just people, so I reminded myself of that and was able to relax and execute.
Geosi Gyasi: You are the founder of the Roots Lounge open mic and Poetry Slam, as well as the Toronto International Poetry Slam. Could you spend some time talking about Poetry Slams?
Dwayne Morgan: Poetry slams are competitive poetry competitions that have exploded in many parts of the world. The competitions can be individual or team, and are judged by members of the audience. The slam was created as a way to get the audience involved in the show, and make poetry readings more exciting and better attended. I have been instrumental in cultivating the poetry slam scene in Canada. I also have a partnership with one of the local school boards, that has me working with 45 schools, each of which has a poetry team, and the kids write and perform their poems in competition against other kids.
Geosi Gyasi: Having written and produced eight books and six albums, do you see yourself writing more books and/or producing more albums?
Dwayne Morgan: The answer to that would be yes, as I am now up to nine books, and my next album is almost finished being recorded.
Geosi Gyasi: Tell me about the work you do with photography?
Dwayne Morgan: Photography has always been a passion of mine. My writing is very visual, and when I can’t find words, I pick up the camera and try to tell stories through pictures. I am self-taught with the camera, and now have a few exhibits under my belt.
Geosi Gyasi: You’ve won several notable prizes like the Young, Black, and Gifted Trailblazer Award, Planet Africa Award, Scarborough Walk of Fame Induction among others. Which of them do you feel most proud of?
Dwayne Morgan: I am most proud of the ‘Scarborough Walk of Fame induction’. I grew up in Scarborough, and to have the city honour your contribution in that way, is remarkable and humbling. In the middle of cities major shopping mall, is a star in the ground with my name on it; that will outlive me, and will serve as a reminder to my daughter of what my life and contribution meant.
Geosi Gyasi: Looking into your career as a poet, speaker and social entrepreneur, do you feel fulfilled?
Dwayne Morgan: I am very fulfilled. I have lived a life beyond my dreams. I have traveled the world. I have touched lives. I have taught, and I have learned. I feel blessed to do what I do, and to have had the experiences that I’ve had.
Geosi Gyasi: This summer, it would be your first time coming to Ghana and your second in Africa. Could you tell me about your expectations and what you already know about Ghana and Africa in general?
Dwayne Morgan: I am very much looking forward to coming to Ghana. I don’t know what to expect, and I learned long ago to live life without expectations, as that saves you from disappointment, and allows you to be in the moment and savour each life experience for what it is. I am both scared and excited to visit the areas where my ancestors may have touched the continent for the last time, before reaching the caribbean. I know that everywhere in Africa is different, so I am not expecting a similar experience to what I had on my visit to South Africa. My plan is to soak in as many different experiences as possible, and bring them back with me. Many of my supporters will never experience many of the things that I am privileged to experience, so I will be taking as many pictures and videos as possible to share the trip with them.