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‘I’m from a community that doesn’t often get to represent themselves’

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George the Poet looks back on negotiating his place as a young black male in a predominately white grammar school, to rise as a spoken-word star

When George Mpanga was in year 7, a teacher got his class to do an exercise asking how they would all like to be remembered. Mpanga, raised on Harlesden’s notoriously tough Stonebridge Park estate in London and who had recently begun at one of the country’s most prestigious grammar schools – one of only nine black boys in his year – knew the answer instantly: “I want to be remembered as an entertainer with views that other people listen to,” wrote the 11-year-old.

It was an aspiration inspired by growing up listening to rappers such as 2Pac and Nas, musicians that spoke not just to Mpanga’s creativity but his own anger and frustration at the social injustices he witnessed every day and his desire to speak out. It drove him first into rap and grime as a 14-year-old, and later, when he got into Cambridge to study politics, psychology and sociology, write some of the most powerful and socially incisive spoken-word poetry around today.

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