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From Somali refugee to Lord Mayor: Magic Magid comes to Kentish Town

My simple existence as first citizen of Sheffield is some sort of resistance, says ‘Magic Magid’

21 March, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Magid Magid with Sian Berry at the Crossroads Women’s Centre

A SOMALI-born man whose family came to the UK as refugees told an audience in Kentish Town on Tuesday night how he became Lord Mayor of Sheffield.

Magid Magid has been hailed as a role model for young black men and women looking to break­ through in politics after viral videos captured the imagination of voters beyond the Yorkshire city.

Appearing at Cross­roads Women’s Centre, in Wolsey Mews, the 29-year-old described how he stood as a Green council candid­ate after realising that “if you don’t do politics, it will do you”. The New Journal last month reported concerns of the Somali community in Camden that it was disconnected from council politics and faced hurdles when it came to standing for election.

Mr Magid, known as Magic Magid, is famous for squatting on a staircase in his mayoral chain after being selected as Sheffield’s first citizen. He recalled how he had run for student union president while studying aquatic zoology at Hull.

“When friends were encouraging me to run, I’m like: ‘Well, how can I?’,” said Mr Magid. “Looking at the 10 other people that had that role, they were politics students, they were really clued up. “Of course, I had impostor syndrome and I was like: ‘I’m going to get caught out. People are going to realise I’m a complete fraud’, but of course they had a lot of belief in me.”

As Lord Mayor, he has enlivened council meet­ings with performances by poets, magicians and comedians, and reaches out to young residents through social media and in person.

He came to the UK when he was five with his family, who had fled as refugees from Somalia and settled in Sheffield.

Mr Magid, in a question-and-answer session with party co-leader Sian Berry, said: “Regardless of what you hear, nobody really chooses to leave their family, their home, their friends, everything, unless they really, really had to. And I think that’s the decision my mum made at the time, because she felt it was a lot safer for us to leave.”

He added: “I guess we had a sense of hope, optimism and adventure. Language was a massive barrier, but when you’re five years old you pick up the language a lot quicker than adults. When you’re five years old, English isn’t a barr­ier for playing ‘kerby’ and other childhood games.”

Mr Magid feels Britain is having a “massive identity crisis”.

“Brexit is at the epicentre of that, like: ‘What are we?’,” he said. “People now more than ever are looking for some sort of hope. People are really tired of the status quo and are wanting new ideas. I guess my simple existence is some sort of resistance, like: ‘Oh my God what? This person is actually the Lord Mayor?’”

He added: “When I became Lord Mayor I was actually quite embarrassed as people wouldn’t believe me. But when the picture [squatting in the Town Hall] went viral I really took ownership of that.”

He had forced himself to learn about politics by watching YouTube videos and Daily Politics on television. He chose the Green Party partly because members drive party policy.

“One of the reasons I’ve gathered a lot of attention during my role is due to failed democracy, in the sense of whether that be local or national,” he said. “The people we choose to elect who make decisions for us, they don’t reflect the people that they are there to represent.”

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