A white Irish theater actor and director claims to be an “African born again” and has passed himself off as black, receiving taxpayer funding meant for minorities.
Anthony Ekundayo Lennon, who was born to white Irish parents in England, has adopted the identity of a black man and chosen an African name, saying he has “gone through the struggles of a black man.”
Lennon, who is naturally darker-skinned, claims he was bullied as a child by people who saw him as mixed race.
He says his school caretaker called him 'n*****' and threatened to attack him with a dog, the Daily Mail reports.
He has previously argued in a book: "Everybody on the planet is African. It's your choice as to whether you accept it.”
A very special day spent with the @TalawaTheatreCo TYPT Run it Back company prior to their final show directed by @coralmessam - A phenomenal vibe - made even more so by having many many former TYPT members coming through including @MichaelaCoel and having @Jonzid at the matinee! pic.twitter.com/GSGSHTqIyC— Anthony E. Lennon (@Lennon_Anthony) September 1, 2018
However, in 1990, he stated: “My parents are white and so are their parents, and so are their parents, and so are their parents.”
On choosing a new name, Taharka Ekundayo, he said: "Taharka is the name of an Egyptian pharaoh and Ekundayo means 'weeping becomes joy.'"
"I was at a stage in my life where to address myself as Anthony Lennon did not fulfill me; it didn't seem to allow me to express myself as I saw fit," he said.
"Some people call themselves a born-again Christian. Some people call me a born-again African. I prefer to call myself an African born again."
Lennon said as a young actor he struggled to get white parts and later found success with all-black theater groups.
With @christummings in Tewodros directed by Jatinder Verma - 1986 at the Arts Theatre, Leicester Square. Black Theatre Forum. Sharing while reflecting on the wealth and history of UK Black Theatre#BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/HK1Ph5qron— Anthony E. Lennon (@Lennon_Anthony) October 3, 2018
He started out as a trainee with a black-led theatre company named Talawa, applying as a “mixed heritage individual.”
He has since worked on all-black productions and won a paid traineeship as a “theatre practitioner of color.”
According to his Twitter page, he is now the Associate Director and Artistic Director of the Leadership Program at Talawa Theatre Company.
Lennon was one of four people to be awarded a part of a $532,496 (£406,500) grant, as part of a two-year residential traineeship on an Arts Council England-funded program.
One black actor told the Daily Mail: "When I discovered his background I thought it was unfair that a white man had taken a black person's place on a Bame scheme."
However, the consortium that awarded the funding said they were “satisfied” Lennon was eligible because he had identified as mixed-heritage “over a number of years.”
The Arts Council England said: “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.”
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