British artist and cultural figure Stormzy has received an honorary degree from Exeter University. The rapper collected the award on Tuesday 21st June 2022 during a graduation ceremony. Born Michael Ebenezer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr, the multi-talented artist was awarded the honorary degree in recognition of his extensive work to promote the importance of education and his heavy involvement in the fight against racial inequality.
The rapper has become as well known for his philanthropy work as his multiple hits, the 28-year-old artist first garnered attention for his activism after the George Floyd protests. Owuo issued a statement via his record label outlining his charitable plans, the rapper stated he would donate £1 million annually for a decade to various charities and movements. In 2020 the rapper set up the #Merky Foundation which adopted the promises outlined in the statement, since its formation the foundation has raised millions of pounds to support issues surrounding racial inequality.
A description on the foundation’s website confirms its mission statement, “At #Merky, we have always used our brand to elevate, support and amplify the issues and the voices of the black community. To continue and expand upon our activism and philanthropic work, #Merky Foundation pledges £10 million over 10 years, to organisations, charities & movements that are committed to fighting for racial equality, justice reform and black empowerment within the UK. #Merky will forever remain devoted to improving and safeguarding the lives of those within the black community and this is just the beginning of our lifetime commitment to financially and wholeheartedly back these causes.”
Along with his foundation, the multiple BRIT award winner has also supplied scholarships to black students enrolled at the University of Cambridge, in doing so Stormzy aims to address racial issues reported within higher education institutions. In 2021, the artist also established a new charitable partnership with HSBC UK, the banking company joined forces with the #Merky Foundation to further endorse opportunities within higher education. The new philanthropic collaboration was set up to raise funding and support for the education of 30 students, the “Stormzy Scholars” will receive financial help to cover tuition fees and any maintenance costs for three years.
During his acceptance speech, the rapper joked about how he worried that his philanthropy work had overtaken his notary as a musician. During his rousing and emotional speech, Stormzy also congratulated students and praised their commitment, “The journey I took to get to this moment has been considerably different to yours. You guys have the guts and the grit and the dedication that it takes to study for years and to finish your degree whereas I got my AS results in my first year of college and said yeah, see you later. I didn’t have the same minerals that you guys have. A year later I took another swing at my A levels at a different college until I sat down for my English exam in January and walked out after 10 minutes.”
The rapper continued to praise those graduating, “It took a hell of a lot for you to get here today. Your journeys to get to this moment were hard fought. The road you took was not easy. And this is coming from someone who tried to walk that exact same road and failed. So from the bottom of my heart, I say congratulations, well done and you should all be so proud of yourselves, what you have achieved is incredible. Don’t let anybody downplay it and don’t let anybody undermine it. If you are sat in this room today you are worthy and you are brilliant.”
Stormzy’s acceptance speech continued to inspire the students and those in attendance, “I bear the fruit and I share fruit and, without sounding too fantastical, that’s just what we’re meant to do in whatever way we can… We should always share and support, uplift and help in whatever capacity we are able to.” Within his acceptance speech The ”Vossi Bop” hitmaker gave a very special shout-out to his mother who was in attendance, he stated that it was “always her biggest dream for me to go to university and graduate and then become somebody.“