This week Anthony Lennon takes an ancestry DNA test and Hong Kong appeals to Trump
Christina Ivey and Sana Haq, Christina Ivey and Sana Noor Haq
09 Sep 2019
A still from BBC’s Chilling Out
The UK is still wrestling with itself. Parliament will be prorogued this evening as our future remains uncertain. Civil war seems inevitable as the country splits into two: people who don’t want a No Deal Brexit and those who want to kill democracy just for fun. In one of the many great tragedies of this week Love Island winners Amber and Greg have also parted. Whatever happened to staying together?
Read on to find out what else went down this week.
Anthony Lennon just took a DNA test turns out he’s 32% black
I remember coming across a story last year in The Times, the headline reading ‘Theatre job aimed at black directors given to a man who said he was white’. Anthony Ekundayo Lennon applied to Talawa Theatre Company on a grant scheme, and became one of four people to win a paid, full-time residential traineeship funded in collaboration with the Arts Council England, specifically aimed at BAME creatives. The controversy kicked off when The Sunday Times dredged up an old ebook that Anthony had written a decade ago, where he claimed “Everybody on the planet is African. It’s your choice as to whether you accept it.” His statement collided with another he had made during a 1990 BBC TV play called Chilling Out: “My parents are white and so are their parents, and so are their parents, and so are their parents.” Whilst the production was purely fictional, it had become a docudrama that had been inspired by real-life experiences.
It seemed that Anthony had used his white capital to thrive on a scheme that shouldn’t have been made accessible to him in the first place. In a new interview, Anthony told The Guardian that he had always been taunted with racist jibes alongside his ethnically ambiguous brother. As children they would hide in a cupboard from ferreting neighbours who would come to ogle them, with the school caretaker even telling him “run, n*gger.” As his thespian ambitions grew, casting directors constantly told him that “there were no parts for mixed-race characters.”
Shortly after Chilling Out, Anthony legally adopted a Yoruba middle name Ekundayo, which translates to “weeping becomes joy”, a sentiment that is surely indicative of his personal struggles with identity. Once the story broke out of his alleged fraudulence, he was driven to near-suicide, when he remembered his two daughters and pulled back from a train platform.
Recently, Anthony took an ancestry DNA test that shows his genetic makeup by country, where he’s 32% West African. Of course it’s confusing that he wasn’t aware of his African heritage before applying to the scheme, but this case opens up interesting questions around race, oppression, and identity. Whilst Anthony’s African heritage has been genetically confirmed, an individual’s sense of blackness can’t become contingent on error-prone DNA tests.
Hong Kong is still not OK
Why are Hong Kong protestors waving American flags and pleading with Donald Trump? As the civil unreal continues some of the activists have begun making appeals to US President to “liberate” Hong Kong. What they mean by this is for US Senators to pass the proposed “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act”, which is already favoured by Democratic Senators. The bill would require the US State Department to annually certify Hong Kong’s autonomy in order for Hong Kong to retain its special trade status with the US. This trade status has been the backbone of Hong Kong’s economy, so it’s massively important that it endures.
It’s indicative of the instability in the region that Trump is viewed as a figure who could help alleviate the pain in the region shaken by clashes with police and tear gassed streets. Public outrage was triggered in early June by the proposal of a bill which would allow extraditions to the mainland. The bill has now been withdrawn by Carrie Lam yet despite concessions made by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, emotions are still running high. Small contingents of protestors have set fires, vandalised subways and barricaded the streets as riot police detained dozens of dissidents. Journalists have complained that officers have targeted them with pepper spray while they’ve been reporting on the unfolding events.
The whole ordeal is doing a number on tourism, with arrivals falling by over 40% in the Asian financial capital. This is compared to figures from last year, and a sharp decline from the 5% drop of recorded at the end of July. Perhaps this is because in August, protestors occupied Hong Kong International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world and caused the mass-cancellation of flights. It’s a far cry from 2018 when Hong Kong was one of the world’s most visited cities, recording over 30 million visitors.
Hong Kong visual artists have explored five defining moments of the protests, here.
• Robert Mugabe passed away this week at 95, his nephew told BBC that the former Zimbabwean leader died “bitter” and feeling betrayed.
• Indya Moore raised awareness of violence against trans women at the Daily Front Row’s annual award show. They wore an Oscar de la Renta gown and paired it with earrings which included the portraits of the 16 black transgender women who have been murdered so far this year in the US.
• Nicki Minaj announced that she would be retiring from music to start a family.
• Bangladesh is making it harder for Rohingya Muslims living in refugee camps to communicate by forcing a communication blackout. The government has been trying to block their access to sim cards and therefore to the world.
• Scientists have had a breakthrough with Malaria finding a new “highly effective” way to kill the parasite.
• “Siri, what is the equal pay gap? Hello?!” Reports have found that Apple programmed Siri to deflect questions on feminism or the Me Too movement.
• In Mexico City, a woman who was raped and had a stillborn child is being tried for aggravated homicide for the third time. The attorney general’s office said: “There are no elements to consider her a victim, on the contrary, the only victim is her son.”
Moment of the week
Boris getting trolled IRL makes all of this a little easier.
This article is a part of gal-dem’s Race Review column, a weekly news roundup centring the issues faced by people of colour.