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Stormzy is photographed as he arrives at the Royal Albert Hall on Dec. 13, 2019.
Graham Berry for Global Citizen
Citizenship

Stormzy Will Donate £10 Million to Black British Issues Over Next Decade

Why Global Citizens Should Care
While protests continue against racial injustice around the world, there are some celebrities who are stepping up in long-term, meaningful ways. The UN’s Global Goal 10 for reduced inequalities aims to tackle racial inequalities, alongside inequalities of age, disabilities, and more, and three things will go some way to hit that objective: action, awareness, and grassroots funding. Stormzy has consistently provided all three. Join our campaign here by taking action to help combat the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has on marginalised communities around the world, including people of colour.

In 2013, Julie Adenuga — influential former Beats 1 DJ, global tastemaker, and sister of UK rappers Skepta and JME — started a petition to build a statue for Wiley, the Godfather of Grime, in his home borough of Tower Hamlets, London. 

It was about recognising a man who “inspired a whole generation”, a gesture to bring a community together. But the monument never materialised, and Wiley transitioned from sacred godfather to disgruntled uncle, beefing with the kids he helped raise. Now, as effigies to slave owners tumble across the globe, new heroes have risen to break old chains.

All this begs the question: where the heck is Stormzy’s statue?

Stormzy — the first grime star to earn a #1 album and the first solo Black British artist to headline Glastonbury, among listless other cultural and political achievements — has once more made headlines for his impactful activism tackling systematic racial injustice in Britain.

On Thursday, the south London born Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr. committed to donate £10 million to Black British causes over the next 10 years, a move he described as just the “beginning of a lifetime commitment.”

Specifically, Stormzy will use his #MERKY empire — a brand that encompasses his music, fashion, festivals, books, and more — to support organisations, charities, and movements committed to “fighting racial inequality, justice reform, and Black empowerment within the UK.”

Stormzy, 26, joined thousands of Black Lives Matter activists and celebrities including John Boyega and Madonna in London on Sunday to protest the killing of George Floyd at the feet of a police officer in Minnesota. The next decade’s worth of donations accounts for half of his total current wealth — according to the Sunday Times Rich List published on May 16, he’s worth £20 million.

“The uncomfortable truth that our country continuously fails to recognise and admit is that Black people in the UK have been at a constant disadvantage in every aspect of life – simply due to the colour of our skin,” Stormzy said in a statement. “I’m lucky enough to be in the position I’m in and I’ve heard people often dismiss the idea of racism existing in Britain by saying, ‘If the country’s so racist how have you become a success?!’”

Related Stories Dec. 20, 2019 6 Reasons Stormzy Is a Leading Light in the Fight Against Poverty and Inequality

“I reject that with this: I am not the UK’s shining example of what supposedly happens when a Black person works hard,” he added. “There are millions of us. We are not far and few. We have to fight against the odds of a racist system stacked against us and designed for us to fail from before we are even born. Black people have been playing on an uneven field for far too long and this pledge is a continuation in the fight to finally try and even it.”

In response to Stormzy’s commitment, the Leader of Croydon Council — the rapper was born in South Norwood, in Croydon — is set to submit a motion to grant him the honour of “freedom of the borough”. It’s in recognition of the artist’s lifelong work fighting racism throughout his career. 

In 2018 and 2019, he paid for two Black students each year to attend Cambridge University — one of the most prestigious universities in the world — for the entirety of a 4-year undergraduate course as part of the “Stormzy Scholarship”. In 2017, he donated £9,000 to help a young Black woman from south London study at Harvard in the US.

Related Stories Aug. 16, 2018 Stormzy Launches Scholarship to Send Black Students to Cambridge University

He has also launched a partnership with Penguin Random House called #MERKY Books to help young writers from underrepresented communities get their first big publishing break; cancelled a headline festival appearance to protest an alleged racial profiling scandal; and ensured the 2018 BRIT Awards highlighted the Grenfell Tower tragedy. 

Then on Dec. 13 2019 — the day he released his last album Heavy Is the Head and the day after Britain’s general election — Stormzy performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall for the inaugural Global Citizen Prize award ceremony, celebrating the world’s leading activists fighting to end extreme poverty by 2030. Moreover, he featured on the first ever Global Citizen EP, overseen by Coldplay’s Chris Martin in honour of Nelson Mandela’s human rights legacy.

So again, as the far-right marches to protect monuments to controversial historical figures this weekend, that salient question lingers. Where is Stormzy’s statue?


Join the movement to help combat the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has on marginalised communities — including people of colour, those living in extreme poverty, and others facing discrimination — by taking action here to support the Global Goal: Unite for Our Future campaign. For more information on COVID-19, the efforts to combat it, and how it impacts vulnerable communities around the world, read our coverage of the pandemic here.