If you watched HBO’s hit drama, Oz, you will no doubt remember Adebisi, the tough as nails African prisoner who intimidated almost everyone at least once, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Well, the England raised actor recently did an interview with The Guardian in which he discussed his new project, Farming, a movie based on his own life. Sounds a bit much for an actor and perhaps even a little cocky? You might not think so when you hear this.
Although he was born in Nigeria, Adewale’s parents gave him to a white family in a practice called farming which is defined as informal fostering. His foster parents who sometimes housed up to 10 African children at a time were what he called “ignorant” because they didn’t understand how to take care of them. They also appeared to harbor certain racist views which lent to their ignorance. Adewale grew up wanting to be accepted in a neighborhood full of Skinheads who beat up anyone who even remotely looked non-white.
So in an attempt to avoid those beatings and also a way to let out his own anger about his birth and foster parents as a confused teen, Adewale became a member of the Skinheads. He hated the fact that he was Black because not only did he not fit in to his “European” world, but he also did not fit in to the “African” world since he hadn’t grown up there. Adewale took on the racist views (and the bald head) of the Skinhead group and participated in various crimes. As he put it:
“When a child wants to be accepted,” he explains, “he’ll do anything. And if it means you’re getting a certain amount of notoriety from a fight, that’s what you’ll do. If all you’ve known is racism, abuse and persecution, then all of a sudden you’re getting some recognition, that’s your new drug. That’s what you want. By the time I was 16 I was someone to reckon with. I was so eager to repudiate any connection with any immigrant race I would go above and beyond. I was desperate to belong to something. That was my drive as a teenager.”
Wow. The story is absolutely compelling and continues to dig deeper about how he got out of that life and the roles both sets of parents played in his life, if any, as he got older. I’ve heard some pretty radical things over the years but it would have never crossed my mind to think that someone could hate themselves so much that they’d join a gang to hurt the very people who look like him.