Role models who inspire hope in the marginalised
22 March, 2019
THE meteoric rise of the Somali Mayor of Sheffield is both an inspiring and cautionary tale.
Magid Magid has been hailed as a role model for young black men and women looking to break through in politics. He recalled how he looked around at the faces of those who insisted they represented him and felt he had no chance of joining them.
In Camden, women are evenly represented on the council, the gender gap is said to be closing. Equality has been the buzzword of the past generation of Labour politicians. Young and old feel their views are represented.
And yet, disgracefully, in the entire history of Camden Council, there have only ever been six black councillors elected to the Town Hall.
The issue is equally evident in the boardrooms of major institutions in Camden that are, despite condemnation, dominated by white faces. NHS hospitals are, in the main, run by middle-aged white men. The Town Hall’s highest paid directors are almost universally white.
It all trickles down, adding to the racism, unconscious or otherwise, that causes so much hostility in society. It cements divisions in public life. In extremity, it paves the way to Christchurch-style attacks. The national media has played its part.
The Magid Magid event in Kentish Town had echoes of the sensational appearance of Michelle Obama at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson – the girls school in Angel.
Her spine-tingling “be whatever you want to be” speeches, first in the height of Obama-mania in 2011, and also last year, no doubt raised the aspirations of a generation of schoolgirls to succeed in socially conscious ways in later life.
The strong role model can have a huge impact. For many young people, who have grown up in care or without a strong family unit, well-placed words of a positive mentor could be invaluable.
Terry Ellis speaks movingly (page 14) about how he, a white working-class boy from Camden, was nurtured into a life of crime with the wrong kind of guidance. He is trying to do his bit to give something back.
And, yet, role models are not the be-all-and-end-all of the conversation. If that is the fallback, the real obstacles in society do not get removed. The true problems pinning down those at risk, marginalised and isolated do not get tackled.
A rising tide raises all boats, was a motto of John F Kennedy. Prosperity, redistributed, is the solution.
IT is not clear why the man became trapped under a bus in Camden Road, or whether any of the safety changes promised several years ago would have made any difference. What is clear is that there is a problem in Camden Road. The past decade has seen a steady stream of near misses, serious injuries and horrifying deaths.
Cycle safety changes have caused such intense disputes over the years. Often, the hostility engendered has brought about delays and, as with CS11 Swiss Cottage, seen poorly thought through projects scrapped completely.
The failure is with public authorities who, so often, are unable to take the majority with them.