White Actor Who Says He's "Born Again" African Wins Grant Meant For "People Of Color"
This story should sound eerily familiar.
The U.K. has its own version of Rachel Dolezal.
Anthony Lennon, a self-professed “born again African” is being criticized for winning a two-year grant that was meant for “theater practitioners of color,” the U.K. Independent reports.
Lennon, 53, is the artistic director of Talawa, an all-black theater company in East London. Last year, the Arts Council England named him one of the recipients of a £406,000 ( $531,674) grant, which was supposed to be allocated to minorities. Lennon applied for the grant as a person of “mixed heritage.”
The London native, who was born to white Irish parents, claims that he endured the “struggles of a black man,” and he’s been sticking to the same story for years.
Lennon alleges that he was subjected to racial bullying as a child because people thought he was biracial. He went on to change his middle name from David to "Ekundayo" and seemingly commenced to living a transracial lifestyle.
Although Talawa backed Lennon’s application, the Arts Council appears to be distancing itself from the scandal. “This is a very unusual case and we do not think it undermines the support we provide to black and minority ethnic people within the theatre sector,” the company said in a statement.
Other responses to Lennon's racial ruse have been less diplomatic.
“Many of us are becoming sick and tired of racial imposters who are commodifying blackness for their own financial gain. You cannot wear the cloak of blackness when it suits you,” said Habeeb Akande, a British-Nigerian author on race and religion.
According to the Evening Standard, Talawa received calls asking that they reconsider Lennon’s job position. “If the role was advertised for a person of color, then it has been given under a false pretext, and I think it should be overturned to give someone else an opportunity,” noted Vijay Shaunak of London’s Tara Arts theater company.
Ironically, Lennon's self-appointed blackness is rooted in white privilege. That said, he's not exactly hiding the fact that he's a white guy. The Independent cited a 2012 speech where he told an audience about his faux blackness, and a 1990 BBC docuseries on Lennon noted that while his parents are “indisputably white,” he “earns his living as a black actor, because ever since he was a child he has looked black.”
On Sunday (Nov. 4) Lennon offered another puzzling admission to The Times U.K. stating in part, "My genes are white but I'm black."