A white theatre director is under fire for claiming to be black to win grants that are meant for people of color. According to The Independent, the man’s name is Anthony Ekundayo Lennon (David is his original middle name) and he identifies as a “born-again African.”

Although he was born to white Irish parents, he says “Everybody on the planet is African” so “it’s your choice as to whether you accept it.”

He talked about his racial identity when he appeared on a 1990s episode of BBC series Everyman, the synopsis for which says: “Anthony Lennon was born in Kilburn, west London. His parents both come from Ireland and are both indisputably white.

“Anthony now earns his living as a black actor, because ever since he was a child he has looked black. When his friends, who are mostly black, find out about his background, fierce debates invariably follow; about whether Anthony really can call himself black, and about what black skin means to those who are born black.”

Critics have described the decision to award Mr Lennon with “crucial funding dedicated to artists of colour” as a “kick in the teeth” for black aspiring actors and artists.

According to reports, he won a Arts Council England two-year fellowship for artists of color by applying as a mixed heritage person. Lennon, who has worked on all-black productions, was awarded $500,000. He previously said he’s “gone through the struggles of a Black man” because of his hair texture and high cheekbones in an ebook, pulled up by the The Sunday Times.

His story is being compared to Rachel Dolezal, who is known for sparking the debate around racial identity when it comes to white people identifying as black.

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