02/16/2017 01:25 EST | Updated 02/21/2017 10:12 EST

Tyrone 'T-Rex' Edwards Talks White Privilege, Black Lives Matter And Mutual Respect

"We're getting to a time where people are starting to accept that they have white privilege. That wasn't something people were speaking openly about five years ago," says Toronto-based TV host Tyrone "T-Rex" Edwards. "So now we have people say, 'I have white privilege. Man, I didn't even realize.'

"That's cool. But guess what?" he adds. "To some people, equality means, 'Wait a minute, what do I have to give up? I don't want to give up anything. What do I have to give up in order for you to feel equal?'"

Edwards attributes this reaction to fear of change and lack of understanding that what’s actually being talked about is just levelling the playing field.

"It's important that people grow up understanding that equality doesn't mean that you're losing something in order for me to gain something."

"It's important that people grow up understanding that equality doesn't mean that you’re losing something in order for me to gain something," he explains. "It means that we all gain more by seeing the benefits in unity [and] embracing differences instead of shying away from them."

Edwards, who also co-founded the 10-year-old Toronto-boosting company 1LoveTO, is a host on E! News and Much, where he handles high-profile interviews and also co-hosts events like the MuchMusic Video Awards.

A father himself, he's also involved in the national youth rally We Day. He was hosting the Toronto event when he spoke to HuffPost Canada backstage about issues impacting black Canadians.

"At the end of the day is racism alive and well? Yes, it's stronger than a lot of things. In some cases, it's stronger than love. It’s stronger than self-love."

"But," he stresses, "it can't be forever."

Proud to be Canadian right now, not because I think I'm safe from what Trump's win has ignited in the world but because of our Prime Minister who said when I asked, "We will continue to work with and maintain a good relationship with the U.S., we will be fine and we will maintain our values." This only a few hours after the results were in. What I took from our brief convo is that maintaining our values means we will continue to fight for equality & respect excluding none. Our values are inclusive and begin and end with love always. WE have a lot of work to do because if anything Trump taking office proved was that there are still too many that think to empower themselves they must devalue others. Arm yourself with knowledge share it with love generously and often. Talk, ask questions, talk more because WE need to make this world great for all. #LeadWithLove #WeDayOttawa #RemembranceDay #OneLove 📷@vitoamati

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Edwards, who spent a number of years in the U.S. playing high school and NCAA basketball as well as studying business and speech, is also supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Beginning as a protest against police violence, it has since evolved into the biggest civil rights movement since the 1960s. While originating in the U.S., the Black Lives Matter-Toronto branch has been in the news regularly over the past few years. Their demonstrations have ranged from camping out at police headquarters to protest the police killing of Andrew Loku and briefly stopping the Pride Parade to demand a ban on police floats to organizing a recent march at the U.S. consulate against Islamophobia and white supremacy.

"Black lives matter. Can't we say that? Because if you can't even say it, how can people feel it?"

Since its inception, the movement has faced a furious backlash, including the "All Lives Matter" effort to diminish their basic ask to not be disproportionately profiled, beaten and even killed by authorities.

"You say 'Black Lives Matter' and people are like, 'Oohhhhhhh, don't say that!' It's like damn, yo! Black lives matter. Can we say that? Because if we can't even say it, how can people feel it?

"We need to say it right now," Edwards argues. "It's a reminder for everyone…who may not see the examples of black lives mattering."

A Year Of Miracles

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Edwards has been especially focused on helping black kids know that they matter through efforts like The Remix Project and his former Concrete Hoops program, a not-for-profit camp he helped run for 11 years to teach kids basketball – and life – skills.

His efforts supporting underprivileged youth, as well as providing a positive role model on television, earned Edwards the 2016 Mandela Legacy Hope, Success, and Empowerment Award, alongside Naomi Campbell and Reverend Al Sharpton.

"Concrete Hoops was an idea to create a basketball camp that we thought was cool,” he says. “We could use basketball, something that we knew and loved and understood very well, as our vehicle, our platform."

So alongside dribbling, defence and shooting stations, they’d have a self-confidence station – "we called it swag, so we were speaking the language" — a conflict-resolution station and others that got the adrenaline-fuelled kids to really open up and "share things that they probably wouldn't share if it was a class or a workshop that they had to attend. So we had some really good times."

"It’s about that open dialogue, that honest dialogue. It's about respect."

Edwards says that what needs to happen right now is for people on all sides to look past their preconceptions, to "see people for more than just their shell" and judge them as individuals not stereotypes.

"At the end of the day, there's room for improvement everywhere. There's room for improvement within our communities and there's room for improvement within our policing," he says.

"It’s about that open dialogue, that honest dialogue. It's about respect."

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