A white theatre director who ‘self-identifies' as black has come under increasing pressure to forfeit his name from a scheme set up to help ethnic minorities in the arts industry.
Anthony Lennon, who despite being born to white Irish parents, is one of four people awarded a publicly paid traineeship designed to assist "theatre practitioners of colour."
The scheme has reportedly been funded by a £406,500 grant from the Arts Council of England with the aim of delivering a "comprehensive programme of talent development for Bame leaders." ‘Bame' is an acronym for ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic.'
The revelation has caused some to question his leading role as a trainee artistic director at a black-led theatre company in London called ‘Talawa.'
While Mr Lennon acknowledges his white ancestry, he tried to justify his claim to self-identifying as a black man during an interview back in 2012, saying that, "although I'm white, with white parents, I have gone through the struggles of a black man, a black actor."
The Times exhumed an ebook written by Mr Lennon approximately 10 years ago, in which he claims to have started calling himself black after being bullied while growing up by people who thought he was mixed race due to his "high check bones" and "curly hair."
Anthony Ekundayo Lennon: my genes are white but I’m black— Ronke Lawal (@ronkelawal) 4 November 2018
"A theatre director who has won funds meant for ‘people of colour’ has admitted his parents and grandparents were all white."
This man has taken up so much space in the theatre world.https://t.co/G4Ew6iQeVc
Lennon — who has allegedly described himself as ‘Africa born again' — also appeared on a BBC television programme in 1990 called ‘Everyman' to discuss his experiences. The synopsis of the show reads: "Anthony Lennon was born in Kilburn, west London. His parents both come from Ireland and are both indisputably white. Yet Anthony now earns his living as a black actor, because ever since he was a child he looked black."
And the thing is, had his role of Ekundayo failed he could've have just backed out and gone back to just being Anthony Lennon. Actual BAME actors don't get to pull out. The roles he took, the funding he took, those will never come back.— Corvus Corax (@Errandboy5) 4 November 2018
Yet, there are those in the black arts and theatre community who hold little sympathy for Lennon's story. Vijay Shaunak, of Tara Arts, which leads the Black Theatre Live national consortium, is quoted widely as saying that: "Diversity needs to be looked at consistently, that's fundamental. If the role was advertised for a person of colour, then it has been given under a false pretext, and I think it should be overturned to give someone else an opportunity."
The logical next stop on the self-identification roadshow…— Paul Embery (@PaulEmbery) 4 November 2018
…White theatre director declares he is black.
The consequence of a society that elevates feelings over objective truth. https://t.co/iZfsTLzYtL
A spokesperson from the Artistic Director Leadership Programme that awarded the traineeship funding to Lennon has been quoted as defending the decision, saying that, "Talawa were satisfied Anthony was eligible for the opportunity as a result of a relationship with him over a number years, in which he has identified as a mixed-heritage individual."