AN ACTOR with white parents who describes himself as ‘an African born again’ is under fire for receiving public money that was earmarked for black and ethnic minorities in the UK.
Anthony Ekundayo Lennon has been hired as a theatre company’s trainee artistic director under a scheme to support ‘people of colour’.
The Londoner, who has darker skin than his Irish parents, says he was racially abused as a teenager by bullies who assumed he was black.
He went on to carve out an acting career, sometimes playing black roles.
He later added his African middle name and reportedly wrote: ‘Some people call themselves a born-again Christian… I prefer to call myself an African born again.’
But he now faces a backlash after it emerged his two-year position with the Talawa Theatre Company is funded from a £406,500 ‘diversity’ grant awarded by Arts Council England to further the careers of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) B Writer Coco Khan tweeted: ‘Lennon is the epitome of white entitlement, to be at centre of everything, to have access to every word, every culture, every community. That’s not being an ally (esp when it might end up destabilising BAME arts funding).’
Former councillor Seyi Akiwowo called for the money to be refunded, adding: ‘The levels of disrespect is insane.’ Some critics compared Mr Lennon, 53, to US ‘black’ activist Rachel Dolezal, who was ‘outed’ by her parents in 2015 as being white. Hanna Ines Flint tweeted: ‘Rachel Dolezal come get your cousin.’
But Mr Lennon has never hidden his white heritage. He told a BBC documentary in 1990: ‘My parents are white and so are their parents, and so are their parents, and so are their parents.’
An arts council spokeswoman told Metro it was not responsible for the administration of the diversity programme but added: ‘Talawa raised their wish to support Anthony with us.
‘In responding we took into account the law in relation to race and ethnicity. 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.’
A spokesman for the theatre said Mr Lennon did have mixed heritage and was ‘an exceptional person for the role.’ Mr Lennon was unavailable for comment.