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Who inspires you? Mayor Boris launches Black History Month competition

11 October 2011

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has today launched a competition to find the UK’s most inspirational black public figure in conjunction with the Metro newspaper and the Press Association.

Over the next two weeks the public will have the chance to vote on the Metro website ( for 61 influential nominees who have had a major impact across science, academia, politics, music and sport.  

From acclaimed academics like  W.E.B Du Bois, or the pioneering civil rights leader Martin Luther King, to modern day figures such as Olympic gold medal winning Dame Kelly Holmes and the acclaimed artist Yinka Shonibare whose ‘Ship in the Bottle’ currently occupies the Fourth Plinth, the person who attracts the most online votes will be deemed the most inspirational.

The competition takes part during Black History Month, which is a means of championing Black culture, history and heritage. It also seeks to spread and affirm the huge contributions the Black community have made to Britain.
The Mayor Boris Johnson said: “This is a snapshot of the myriad of inspirational Black men and women out there who inspire us all every day. The line up celebrates truly iconic figures spanning the last 200 years, from amazing leaders like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King whose immeasurable hard work has changed the world, to the home grown talent of novelist Zadie Smith, and entrepreneur Damon Buffini, the choice is endless.  It’s fantastic that Metro and the Press Association have joined forces with us to stage this prominent Black History Month competition and exhibition and I encourage everyone to get voting now.”

Many of the featured men and women have strong connections to the capital, whether they were born in the city like actress Thandie Newton and designer Oswald Boateng, or they have become ‘honourary’ Londoners through living in this great city, like socialist C.L.R James and justice campaigner Doreen Lawrence. Other nominees include Notting Hill Carnival founder Claudia Jones and historic political activists Marcus Garvey and George Padmore.

In the music category London-born songstress Leona Lewis and Soul II Soul creator Jazzie B join Dame Shirley Bassey and Courtney Pine, alongside the international trumpeter Louis Armstrong. Other well known entertainment figures include actor Idris Elba, supermodel Naomi Campbell, Reggae Reggae Sauce inventor Levi Roots and Oprah Winfrey.  

Alongside the competition, City Hall will be hosting a special photographic exhibition celebrating a selection of the nominees from 13th- 30th October.