We need a hero
Marcus Rashford challenged the British Government to do better, and it did. Using his profile as a star footballer for Manchester United and England, Rashford spoke out on the plight of disadvantaged children who would go without because of the economic pressure the coronavirus pandemic placed on their families.
It was not too long ago that Rashford was one of those kids who looked forward to breakfast clubs and free school meals to supplement what could be provided at home.
So when tone-deaf Boris Johnson announced in March that meal vouchers would discontinue during the summer as usual for more than one million children from low-income backgrounds, Rashford sprang into action, lamenting that “the system isn’t built for families like mine to succeed”.
Apart from raising £20 million (about $24.7 million) to supply three million meals through an independent charity, the 22-year-old appealed on social media and in an open letter to MPs for a government reversal on this ill-advised policy.
It worked and he is now viewed as a national hero.
Rashford is not the first sportsman in Britain to use his station in life for a greater good.
Contemporary Raheem Sterling, the Manchester City and England forward, has been particularly outspoken about racism in football. And he would feel his persistent advocacy has been justified by the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has swept the Western world in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer.
Bermuda could use a Marcus Rashford or Raheem Sterling right now.
Our children are in trouble, they are hurting and they are angry.
The events of antisocial behaviour and violence of the past month are a painful foretelling of where Bermuda could be in ten years’ time if we allow this to go unchecked.
The scenes at Clearwater Beach and John Smith’s Bay were disgraceful for anyone to look at, in particular the parents of those involved.
Then we had a shooting in St George’s, the stabbing murder of Joshua Rowse — the first white Bermudian victim of suspected gangland retribution — and an horrific machete attack on a woman that has left her in a serious critical condition.
Since violent crime in Bermuda took on a new identity in the mid-2000s with the affirmation of “gangs”, the cycle of reaction has been set on “rinse and repeat”: murder, community despair or indifference depending which community you represent (see Black Lives Matter), talking heads, little change.
Rinse and repeat.
Some seriously good people have tried to make a difference, but those who have gone astray in successive generations are not listening; they refuse to listen.
The likes of Lou Matthews and Gina Spence took up the charge in the early days and, to some extent, continue to do so. But now the “talking heads” baton has been passed on to officialdom, prominently so with Waynes Caines, the Minister of National Security, and Stephen Corbishley, the Commissioner of Police — both earnest men seeking to make positive change.
The Caines brothers are known for their showmanship and predisposition as publicity hounds, but the minister’s outpouring of grief when he addressed a group of young artists the day after the traumatic defacing of National Heroes Weekend that culminated in the murder of Joshua Rowse was palpable and real.
But it is not they whom he needs to reach.
Similarly, the commissioner.
With no disrespect to those who have come before in the top job, Mr Corbishley — “Corbs” to his growing vlog following — has taken community policing to a new level.
You have to feel for him, though, because it appears as if with each big stride forward he takes, there is a force dragging him two strides back.
The weekend past would have been particularly exasperating, not least because it revealed that ethical impropriety remains an Achilles’ heel of the Bermuda Police Service.
The commissioner has won many friends with his approach, converting a few hardliners among them. But, like Wayne Caines in the struggle to take a bite out of gang warfare and turn around wayward youth, it is not they whom he needs to reach.
We need a different kind of hero — a Marcus Rashford type.
They do exist in Bermuda, the sort who are lionised on every street corner, in every hood, from east to west.
If only they could find a voice of social activism.
Dynera Bean and Jasmine Brangman are virtual unknowns, yet they managed inside a week to rally a march that attracted 7,000 people in the middle of a pandemic!
Imagine if those with permanent stardust attached to their CVs became socially engaged in the cause of saving the lives of predominantly young black men.
To gain the ears of those who are out of normal range — “I’m not trying to hear that” goes the pushback — of the valiant but unfulfilled pleadings of the police commissioner, national security minister and well-remunerated gang violence reduction co-ordinator.
We’re talking about our top professional footballer, Nahki Wells, Bermuda football captain Danté Leverock, Cup Match legend Janeiro Tucker, first-class cricketer Delray Rawlins, professional boxer Nikki Bascome, and the glorified Cup Match captains of the present and recent past, and those who aspire towards such a distinction in the future.
There are more, but these are just some of the people who are placed on a pedestal in the heartlands and badlands, if not in the boardrooms (again, see Black Lives Matter) and who we believe would be listened to.
If only they found their voice.
A case in point.
Janeiro Tucker, who also deservedly goes by the sobriquet “Mr Cup Match”, was appointed last year as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. It is probably time he puts that MBE to good use because Southampton Rangers Sports Club, his pride and joy, has become a byword for antisocialism over the past decade.
The number of murders and other criminal activity that have occurred on its premises or very close by are too many to recount, but they have each transpired without a public attempt by Mr Cup Match to take back the good club and good community that raised him from those who attract trouble and give the area a bad name.
Obviously, the Janeiro Tuckers and others aforementioned cannot do this on their own. But it would be a start because our troubled youths are not trying to hear those they normally “hear” from.
So back to Britain, for evidence that it takes only one to reach many.
Since his success with the meals programme, Marcus Rashford has authored a powerful social-media statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Days later, he stood up for an autistic black boy shown in a video being bullied by two white youths in a park.
Who is willing to be our Marcus Rashford?
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