Imagine winning an international business competition, working for multiple state and national lawmakers, traveling the globe and holding leadership positions in some of the most prestigious organizations and non-profits in the country, all while being a full-time college student. All before the age of 25.
That’s how Anthony Collier is living. A proud Texas Southern University (TSU) alum, Collier has studied at Cairo University (Egypt, North Africa), visited seven foreign countries as part of the TSU Debate Team, served as TSU’s Student Government Association president, and worked for U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, State Senator Borris Miles and State Rep. Ron Reynolds. He’s currently attending the University of Texas’ law school, serving as SGA president and president of the largest student-run national non-profit, the National Black Law Students Association, representing every Black law school student in the nation.
This Houston-born, central Texas-raised game-changer is already taking the world by storm, serving as one of the leading voices in the call to get UT to stop singing “The Eyes of Texas,” a song with deeply racist roots. And the Defender discovered that Collier’s story is only just beginning.
DEFENDER: What made you choose TSU as your college?
ANTHONY COLLIER: So, I read The Miseducation of the Negro by Dr. Carter G Woodson, and it really made me want to go to an HBCU, and Texas Southern University is the only HBCU in Houston. So, that’s where I initially put TSU on my radar. Also, when I went to Admitted Students Day, they took us to the Debate Team office and I met Dr. Thomas Freeman, and I was immediately captivated by him. He just had this magnetism about him. I was like, “This is a man I need to learn from; a man I need to study. This is somebody I want to spend some real time with. So, after meeting Dr. Freeman, I was sold and I joined the debate team, got a scholarship, and it’s been on ever since.
DEFENDER: When did the University of Texas come into the picture?
COLLIER: It really started because I did the Texas Legislative Internship Program (TLIP) while I was at TSU. So, my junior year at TSU, they were trying to get me to do TLIP. Initially, I said no because I was like, “I’m running for student body president. I need to be on the yard right now.” But Senator Borris Miles came up to TSU, went to Dr. Michael O. Adams at the Barbara Jordan Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs. And he said, “Give me your best student.” Dr. Adams called me on my cell phone and said, I got somebody who wants to talk to you. And it was Senator Miles and he offered me an internship at first. I said, “No, I can’t do that right now.” But after we got off the phone, I sat there for a minute and I realized that this was not an opportunity I could pass. If I have a state Senator calling my cell phone like this, I have to take this. So, I called back, and told him I changed my mind. And he graciously accepted it. So that’s how I got my foot in the door. Now in the gap year between undergrad and law school, I was a legislative director in the Texas House of Representatives, for Rep. Ron Reynolds. While I was working in Rep. Reynolds’ office, I got a call from the University of Texas School of Law basically saying they wanted me to go there and they gave me a full scholarship. And since they gave me the full scholarship, since I was already living in Austin, working at the Capitol, since I already had an apartment downtown near the law school, because I was working at the Capitol, that’s kind of why I decided to go to the Texas Law School. It kinda just fell into place.
DEFENDER: What led you to speak up and out about UT and the singing of “The Eyes of Texas”?
COLLIER: Students had already been against the song. But once George Floyd happened, it got international attention. And then the football team said, “We’re not singing the song anymore.” The football team joined with student activists. And that’s how we ended up here. Now, the reason why I got involved, they reached out to me because the (UT) president put out a commission to try to convince people that the song was okay. And students were like, we’re not okay with this. So, myself along with Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP and a mentor of mine, representative Reynolds, who’s the vice chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and who I worked for last session before I went to law school, and student leaders, the president of the Black Band Students, and another young brother named Xi’an James, who’s an organizer on campus and works with the Black Student Union, we organized this press conference to basically let it be known that this is unacceptable.
DEFENDER: You’ve worked for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, State Rep. Ron Reynolds, State Senator Borris Miles. So, is politics in your future?
COLLIER: It does seem to be a bug I can’t shake at this point. I’m not sure in what capacity, because I mean, I am in law school. I am interested in practicing law. I am interested in civil rights law. I was an NAACP 2020 Law Fellow. I worked on impact litigation, suing the Trump administration in the Supreme court. And while I was there, we actually defeated the Trump administration in the Supreme Court over DACA. A lot of people don’t know that was the NAACP who won that DACA victory in court. And so just being a part of that team was an incredible experience. So, I am interested in civil rights law as well, but I can’t rule out politics either because I just love it. It’s a great experience. And even the work that we’re doing here and during this session, like passing a Duty to Intervene Bill, passing a Ban on Chokeholds, these are things that people said would never happen. But we’re delivering that for our constituents for everybody in the state of Texas. So, I do enjoy the work.
DEFENDER: What are your responsibilities as chair of the National Black Law Students Association?
COLLIER: It’s not a traditional student organization, because we’re a 501-c-3. So, I’m chairing an international nonprofit. Some of the things I’m working on right now is establishing in the boss of pre-life dominoes. I’ve already got 20 scholarships secured that are fully funded, that are going to help these Black college kids, first-generation college students, get into law school. Some of the other things I’m working on of course is a pre-loss symposium, academic and chapter leadership retreat, job fair to help students get jobs. And then we’re going to have our national.
DEFENDER: Was it always your dream goal to become a lawyer?
COLLIER: Actually, no. Growing up, I didn’t know any lawyers. I’m a first-generation college student. But during my freshman year, at a UH panel discussion, Dr. Elwyn Lee was speaking. And what he was saying on the panel, it just captivated to me. So, I went up and introduced myself to him after the panel, and based off of our conversation, he told me, “You should consider going to law school.” He was the first person who told me that. He said, “We have this pre-law pipeline program at the University of Houston. I want you to apply for it.” So, I applied for the program, I got in and I was so successful in the program I got the highest score. And that’s when I started to realize that law school was something I could see myself doing. He said, “We have this pre-law pipeline program at the University of Houston. I want you to apply for it.” So, I applied for the program, I got in and I was so successful in the program I got the highest score. And that’s when I started to realize that law school was something I could see myself doing.
DEFENDER: To what do you attribute your success?
COLLIER: It’s really, God, honestly. I really think that there’s a lot of young brothers who are just as smart, just as talented, just as ambitious, but for whatever reason, they slipped between the cracks. And it easily could have been me. Like when I was in high school, I went to alternative school twice. I was always in the principal’s office. I got 31 detentions my first year. But I feel like the hand of God was really on me. And there were brothers in the church who stepped up and helped me get on the right path. I always think about Malcolm X, how he wanted it to be an attorney, but his teacher told him, “That’s just not a realistic job for a Negro.” And how he ended up spending eight years in prison because of mistakes he made at a young age. And I really believe that easily could have been me. There’re so many sharp, young brothers in the system right now who never got the chances that I got. So, I don’t think it is me. I think that it’s the hand of God in my life. And the people God put in place, like great mentors who have been able to lead me down this journey. And I think that that’s so important. It’s like the rose that grew up through the concrete. I just happened to slip through the cracks. But I want to remove the concrete and create a space for so many other Black men and women to grow, as well.