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White theatre director who scooped chunk of £400k arts funding meant for 'people of colour' says he classes himself as a 'born again African' and proclaims he 'has gone through the struggles of a black man'

A theatre director chose an African name and scooped taxpayer funding for ethnic minority arts leaders despite admitting his parents and grandparents were all white.
Anthony Ekundayo Lennon has worked on all-black productions and last year won a paid traineeship as a 'theatre practitioner of colour'.  
Born to Irish parents but naturally darker-skinned, Mr Lennon has called himself a 'born-again African' and said in 2012 that he had 'gone through the struggles of a black man'. 
Starting his career as an actor he embraced his chosen black identity and took a middle name from an African name book as he felt his given name did not 'fulfil' him any more, The Sunday Times reported.  
Anthony Ekundayo Lennon (pictured) has previously said 'Although I'm white, with white parents, I have gone through the struggles of a black man, a black actor.'

Mr Lennon was born in Paddington to white Irish parents but said he was bullied as a child by people who saw him as mixed-race because of his darker skin. 
He says his school caretaker called him 'n*****' and threatened to attack him with a dog.  
He has previously argued in a book: 'Everybody on the planet is African. It's your choice as to whether you accept it.'
But in 1990 he stated: 'My parents are white and so are their parents, and so are their parents, and so are their parents.'
His two brothers developed similar features making clear his appearance was a family trait, he said.   
Mr Lennon reportedly started out as a trainee with a black-led theatre company in Shoreditch named Talawa, applying as a 'mixed heritage individual'. 
He has since benefited from taxpayer support to propel his career as a black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) leader in the arts. 
But some black actors have expressed disquiet that a supposed white man had taken funding meant for a black person. 
Anthony Lennon (right) poses for a picture with actress Michaela Coel at a Talawa event

He was one of four people to be awarded a part of a £406,500 grant, as part of a two-year residential traineeship on a Arts Council England-funded programme. 
One black actor said: '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.'
The consortium that awarded the funding said they were 'satisfied' Mr 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.'
Mr Lennon was also recently an assistant director on Britain's first all-black production of Guys and Dolls. 
As he grew older, he struggled to get white parts and later found success with groups such as the Black Theatre Forum.
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 fulfil 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.'
In 2012 he said: 'Although I'm white, with white parents, I have gone through the struggles of a black man, a black actor.' 
In 1990 the 24-year-old Lennon appeared in a BBC Everyman drama documentary exploring race called Chilling Out.
Speaking on his identity he said: 'When I'm alone in my bedroom looking in the mirror, thinking about stuff I've written down, thinking about my past relationship-wise, pictures on the wall, I think I'm a black man. I've not said that to anyone. And I won't say it outside.'
As part of the documentary the actor Lennie James, star of The Walking Dead, responds by accusing Lennon of cultural appropriation. 
'Sometimes I feel like you are watching me. Watching me to say this equals a black man. Then you're taking it from me, and sticking it on yourself,' he said. 

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