Before I  begin, just a quick note:  Racism is learned behaviour and racism kills.  It is deeply personal because death is the end game.  Leading up to death are an  identifiable set of behaviours beginning  with the seemingly innocuous act of name calling – the taking of a name.  My Name Is Why. The reason we get angry about racism is because we know the dots join together. The first dot: denigrate a person because of their race. The last dot is The final solution. It’s that simple. A person fighting racism is fighting for humanity.   Can I do my blog now? Good.  Let’s begin.

Heartfelt thanks to friends fans and family around the world for your wonderful birthday wishes. I haven’t been able to reply to everyone  but  I’ve  read every  message.  I am a lucky man to receive such love and kindness from so many.  And to celebrate there’s more good news   I am  delighted to announce that I will be returning as Guest Director at The Brighton Festival in 2021.  And besides this there is another birthday

Just a few months after this magazine which was published in February 2015   for  ‘The Teaching and Learning Conference’  at Manchester Town Hall,  where  I delivered a keynote address to one thousand educationalists,  I became Chancellor of University of Manchester.

It’s  my fifth birthday as chancellor and this (below)  is   the front cover of  the spring 2020 issue of The Association of School and College Leaders magazine, for  The Association of Schools and College Leaders conference at the International Conference Centre  in Birmingham where I also delivered a speech in March 2020.

Five years as Chancellor bookended by these two magazine covers and two speeches. I was proud to mention University of Manchester’s  position on social responsibility  which is one of our three core goals.

I am Chancellor. It is a ceremonial role. Everything I do and have done in the five years is by permission of  The Presidents Office.  If I have done anything good in my tenure  it is down to The Presidents Office. If I have made any mistakes they are my responsibility and mine alone. The latter is what it means to be part of a team. I can do more. I can be more. Always. Here is the 2020 vision.

To celebrate the five years I am now  Patron of The National Association for the Teaching of English.  And talking of ‘English’ I am one of the judges for  The University of Manchester micro poetry competition . It’s open to everyone.   The deadline is  June 20th.

University of Manchester has eleven hospitals and a  poem of mine commissioned by The University of Manchester  is part of  These Are The Hands,  a book of poems  written by staff in The NHS. These are the Hands includes an intro by  Michael Rosen.

Thanks to all the kind people still reading My Name Is Why and to those listening to  the Audiobook. I love receiving all your messages.   The paperback will be out in July.  There’s lots of other stuff I could share not least the booker prize which is the best bookclub in the world.  So far I have read one hundred and twenty one books in one hundred and twenty one days starting on Feb 1st.  Could I  have done it  without Lockdown? No.

I can’t follow a single wave in a river yet the river finds its way to the sea.

Now back to what I was saying at the beginning.  When all this noise has passed, the marching and fighting,  do something.  Stop discussing whether or not violence is the answer.  You are the answer.  Employ more people from other races. Make action.  We are in lockdown and people are marching the streets.  What do they have to do to tell you how deep this goes?   It is not complicated. Do not feel guilt. Make a difference, no matter how small. Do it quietly. Do not expect an immediate ‘thank you’. Give money to organisations which promote equality. Promote equality.   Do not evaluate your actions immediately.  Kindness doesn’t need an immediate evaluation. When lockdown lifts tell yourself ‘it is a new day’ and the new day begins with you.

In addition to this blog I could not love my university more. Read  Black Lives Matter and our university – a message from Professor Nalin Thakar 


  1. Lemn, your Chancellorship of my alma mater has been fabulous and made me feel re-connected as a white middle class graduate who, through chronic illness, has not been able to pursue the kinds of things which (rightly) feature in the magazines. We need so many more people from diverse backgrounds in positions of leadership (formal and informal) and power but the ceremonial matters too.

  2. I love your summary blogs Lemn, and this one is particularly special, being your 5 year anniversary as Chancellor of the UoM. It’s a pleasure to read about all the amazing things you are involved in. When the system decides to kill the people, it kills itself (cf. George Floyd). You are also part of the system, but you help the people to thrive. Keep thriving Lemn x

    • Thank you so much for your blog post. You inspire me to no end. The first time I heard “Inspire and be Inspired” I cried. I have listened to it so many times ever since. I have listened to it at some of the harder times. Every day I try to live up to this standard.

      I am so proud to have a Chancellor like you, I am so grateful like for you, and I continue to have pride every day that we have someone amazing like you being the Chancellor of the University of Manchester. Thank you Mr Lemn Sissay. Thank you so much.

      You have inspired me so much on my journey while I was at Manchester. I am honestly grateful to you. I could cry writing this right now, because you have honestly made such a big difference to my life. “Open the dawn in the open sky”. You inspired me at a time when I needed it so much.

  3. Love a Lemn Blog Day – lovely read. Congratulations on your 5th birthday as Chancellor making a difference as you do. I will endeavour to do the same in whatever small way I can to make the world a better place.

  4. Lemn Sissay, your Chancellorship to the UoM has been superb!! I watched online your installation as the Chancellor back in 2015; During that time i was following up every news and every social media account of UoM; Your speech during your installation was superb!! I started following you also, and you have really bee inspirational. I have got an admission and a scholarship (Equity and Merit) to study MPH staring September this year, and although this will be online, my dream is that one day i get to meet you in the great City of Manchester! “the greatest place on earth!” Keep inspiring and being inspired!!

  5. Congratulations, dear Lemn‼️ All the information available to me, your tireless pursuit of the results to-reach, and some results I know, all this is highly positive in ‘making a difference’. But there is something I think I understand a little better, and that is YOU, you, gifted with an ideal combination of a thousand talents that make you an extraordinary Chancellor, as there are: intelligence, spirituality, empathy, kindness, social engagement, humour even… and many more. I can’t think of a human being a better Chancellor than you, ‘unassailable’ perhaps, irresistible for certain.

  6. Happy Celebrations, Lemn my brother. So proud of you. You rise above it all. So thankful to God to know your story. You are a gift to us Ethiopians!

    Love, Hiwot

  7. Dear Lemn
    I heard you speak at Hay Festival a couple of years ago now and I was deeply touched by your words and your challenges to us all around the care system – congratulations to you on your success and for all that you do to ask the difficult questions and drive forward change. Education is so important for equity, awareness and to live a good life. You have so much to give – please continue to inspire.
    Wishing you the very best.

  8. My son brought me your book “My name is why” for my birthday on Tuesday l have grown up as a mixed race English/African woman in London in the 60’s, wondering many times why things were the way they are ? Your book helped me answer some of those questions and made me proud l had raised an English African/Jamaican son to search out other truths and find stories that are true.
    Thank you Lemn Sissay for helping us tell a generation the truth. x

  9. Hi Lemn,
    I teach in Salford and, with colleagues, am writing a Literacy scheme for Key Stage 3 focused on the Black Lives Matters movement and the events of the summer in America and here. I am including your work in the third lesson of a 16 lesson sequence and will be using your ‘Making a difference’ poem and this blog as well as excerpts of the recent BBC Imagine programme about you. I am really conscious that after exposing our young people to Ffloyd George’s death and the reaction around the globe, I need to offer them hope – hence using your work and life story. Thank you for your wisdom and inspiration – I know that they will engage with you, your story and work so well, especially because you are so geographically immediate to them.

    Would you be able to offer our young people some words in a reply here that I can share with them? We would love to welcome you and the students of the University of Manchester to our school, but I am conscious that this would be a very large ask of a very busy man in context of a global pandemic! Words here which they can come and find, would be awesome.

    You are a shining Mancunian light, thank you so much. We talk to our young people about becoming ‘change makers’ and you are a glorious example of this,

    Bec Tulloch

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