George the Poet has revealed he turned down an MBE because he believes the British Empire is “pure evil”.
The spoken word artist, real name George Mpanga, made the remarks in the final episode of Have You Heard George’s Podcast?, in which he discusses the legacy of colonialism.
A recipient of an MBE becomes a Member of the Order of the British Empire, an accolade Mpanga said he could not accept because of the “colonial trauma inflicted on the children of Africa”.
London-born Mpanga, who is of Ugandan heritage, said he initially told a friend he would accept the award if he was offered it, but when they nominated him and he was selected, he felt “a burning sensation in my chest”.
He said: “I’d like to apologise to the friend who recommended me on my assurance that I’d accept. I didn’t know I would feel this way.
“I see myself as student, admirer and friend of Britain, however, the colonial trauma inflicted on the children of Africa, entrenched across our geopolitical and macroeconomic realities, prevents me from accepting the title Member of the British Empire.”
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He added that while “the gesture is deeply appreciated, the wording is not”.
“It will remain unacceptable to me until Britain takes institutional measures to address the intergenerational disruption brought to millions as a result of her colonial exploits,” he said.
“I have no issue with other black people who have embraced this title. I encourage variety of thought across our society and within my community.
“I encourage future generations to seek the relevant information to make an informed decision. What do the words British Empire mean to you? I love this country but I do so with transparency.
“I do so with a belief in the integrity of the British people. I will continue to give my life to the improvement of British society. But I will not be told how to feel about my history.”
Mpanga is not the first culture star to have turned down the honour, with Danny Boyle, Jon Snow and Stephen Hawking among the other celebrities to have shunned the offer of an MBE, OBE or CBE in the past.