Young, gifted and black: Performers choices

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The Independent Online

Now is the best time to be young, black and gifted. If you are, Britain wants to find you, as opposed to bury you, which means we are beginning to create a tradition of black actors, dancers, musicians and performers, who are able to stand on the shoulders of an excellent creative heritage. Recognising young black people in this way catapults us all into another league; it's a wonderful thing

Kwame Kwei-Armah is an actor and playwright. 'Elmina's Kitchen 'was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2004. 'Statement of Regret' opens at the National Theatre on 14 November

Kano, 22, Rapper

This east London grime pin-up was catapulted into the spotlight when his debut album, Home Sweet Home, won him a prestigious Mobo award for Best Newcomer in 2005. His latest album, London Town, was released in September and includes collaborations with Craig David, Damon Albarn and Kate Nash. Last month, Kano picked up the Best UK Hip Hop prize at the Black Entertainment Television Awards in LA.

Kano: "I guess music was always in me. My brother got his first set of decks for his 16th birthday and it just seemed natural for me to pick up the microphone and start messing about with lyrics. I started battling in the playground at lunchtime and pretty soon it led to a set on a pirate radio station. Then I started getting a name for myself on the underground scene and got my record deal from there.

"I think there is a lack of self-belief in the black community, where young people believe that they can't do certain things because they believe the stereotypes that society creates. They think: 'If you expect all young people to go out and shoot each other, then that's what I will be,' so they become the stereotypes. We've got to stop focusing on the negatives and create some positive role-models for young black people."

Shevelle Dynott, 21, Ballet dancer

Dynott is one of the rising stars of the English National Ballet and was first spotted by the Royal Ballet's Chance to Dance scheme at his primary school in Brixton. Dynott has since performed at the Royal Albert Hall and with the ENB.

Kwei-Armah says: "Ballet is one of the few areas where young black talent is not winning awards. But that looks set to change with dancers like Dynott."

Javone Prince, 27, Actor

Prince, whose stage performances in Raisin in the Sun (2005) and Sugar Mummies attracted much critical acclaim, was recently noted as "one to watch" by The New Statesman. Prince's first film role was in Lars von Trier's Manderlay (2005) alongside Danny Glover and Lauren Bacall.

Kwei-Armah says: "His dynamic performances generate such tension you can barely tear your eyes away from him."

Dizzee Rascal, 22, Rapper

Today, he is one of the biggest names on the UK's urban music scene, but Dizzee has come a long way from the east London council estate where he grew up. His debut album, Boy in Da Corner, earned him the Mercury Prize in 2003 and his third album, Maths + English, was nominated again this year.

Kwei-Armah says: "Dizzee is the sound of young Britain today – able to be part of his generation as well as leading it in terms of thinking."

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