Rap anthem kicks off initiative to showcase diverse but overlooked entrepreneurs

A series of Leeds-based events and activities have been launches this week focused on diversity and inclusion which is being marked with the release of the “D-List Anthem.”

A rap written and performed by Hip-Hop MC, poet, writer, theatre maker and human beatboxer, Testament, the D-List Anthem is a gritty tune celebrating the incredible stories and successes of regional entrepreneurs, who are at the top of their game but often overlooked.

Supported by a grant from Leeds City Council’s Innovation@Leeds programme, the D-List seeks to make non-diverse spaces, events, conferences, and workplaces a thing of the past. 

Founded by Mel Ellyard, the platform has over 150 searchable profiles of exceptional entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds – of race, colour, sexual orientation, of every ability and disability, and age.

Ellyard said: “We are not just ‘one thing or another’ we are a unique blend of many things and experiences.

“Celebrating our uniqueness and representing our communities is what the D-List is all about, role models for future generations. Because if you can see it, you can be it.

“Include Me, an open community platform, was founded in Leeds in 2020. Driven by lived experience and amplified by the challenges and isolation of diverse founders building and scaling their businesses.

“Through working with communities and organisations wanting to make a difference, we came up with the concept of D-List (the Diversity List), to give a voice to incredible innovators, representing a variety of backgrounds, sectors, emerging technologies, ethnicity, and abilities.

“The List was received well and continues to grow each week.”

The team are planning several other events between March and May.

These include a creative competition, where local graphic designers will be invited to design non-fungible token (NFTs) telling the stories of D-Listers for auction at Climb23, an outreach programme to Leeds-based schools and education institutions giving young people the opportunity to talk to inspirational D-Listers.

The D-List is one of a dozen initiatives recently chosen to receive grant support from the Innovation@Leeds programme, which aims to ensure people across the city have the means to realise their business ambitions.

The initiatives are designed to give grassroots entrepreneurs access to the kind of know-how, training and networking opportunities that can improve their personal investability, while strengthening Leeds’s reputation as a place with a thriving innovation ecosystem.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “We want Leeds to be a centre for the kind of innovative business activity which makes a real difference to people’s lives by driving inclusive growth, promoting collaboration and tackling inequalities.

“These Innovation@Leeds grants – and other strategic investments by the council in Leeds’s innovation ecosystem – have an important role to play in fostering that culture of bold thinking and opportunity for all.”

To listen to the D-List anthem and share, click here. Or to find out about the D-List and join or nominate, visit https://d-list.uk/register-now/

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