Manchester United superstar. England international. And now an MBE at the age of 23.
At the beginning of 2020, earning such an accolade seemed unthinkable. Yet, as the months passed by, it became increasingly evident that Rashford fully deserved his MBE and every single accolade awarded to him off the pitch. This is the story of how Marcus Rashford became the voice of the voiceless in 2020.
There can be no better way to define this year than with one single word: struggle.
The Coronavirus pandemic left its mark on 2020 viciously, with over one million casualties and millions of people testing positive worldwide. Countries were forced to take action rapidly in order to contain the spread of the deadly virus, including the UK who implemented strict measures as the situation exacerbated. The announcement by PM Boris Johnson of a national lockdown in March sparked a number of fears. In particular, the fears of already struggling families who had children to feed.
Someone had to take a stand to fight for what was right. To fight for the people’s rights. To fight to ensure that today’s youth and tomorrow’s future were taken care of. Enter Marcus Rashford.
A Foundation-laying Childhood:
Raised in Wythenshawe, South Manchester, Rashford endured a lot of challenges throughout his childhood. His mother worked three jobs trying to take care of the family, to the point where there wasn’t enough food on the table for herself as she would provide for her children first. At the age of 7, Rashford joined Manchester United and four years later, he would move into club accommodation.
When you come from a place of struggle and pain, a lot of the time it switches, and it becomes your drive and motivation. (BBC)
Rashford’s childhood experiences bear resemblance to that which many children in poverty today face. The emotional connection between Rashford and his childhood journey help to explain why tackling child poverty in the UK is such an important matter to the England international. He is relentlessly working to make the situation brighter for today’s youth so that they don’t have to go through the pain that he once endured.
I would have failed everyone that had helped me get to where I am today if I didn’t put myself out there and say: ‘This is not ok – and it needs to change.’ In fact, I would have failed my 10 year old self. (Vogue)
The First Campaign:
Following the commencement of the March lockdown, Rashford paired with charity FareShare to raise money for the vulnerable, raising around £20m to supply three millions meals for those in need. Fast forward to June and this is when the England forward put his foot down and said enough is enough. In an open letter addressed to MPs, Rashford called for the government to overturn its initial decision to withdraw free school meals during summer holidays. Rashford noted that 1.3m children in England had registered for free school meals yet one quarter of these children were given no support since the ordering of school closures.
An Open Letter to all MPs in Parliament…#maketheUturn
Please retweet and tag your local MPs pic.twitter.com/GXuUxFJdcv
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) June 14, 2020
The open letter went viral within hours of Rashford posting it on social media. Just a day later, the government would reverse its decision, ensuring that free school meals would be extended over the summer. An overwhelming success for Rashford’s campaign. But he was determined to continue tackling social justice in the form of child poverty. A determination which has its roots in Rashford’s own childhood experiences. A mentality which drove his second campaign.
Rashford and The People United Together:
In September, the England forward built a taskforce combining with a number of the UK’s biggest food brands in an attempt to reduce child poverty. In another letter to MPs, three changes to policy were recommended by the National Food Strategy. The expansion of free school meals to reach more children, the expansion of existing school holiday food and activities programmes and an increase in Healthy Start Vouchers which give aid to pregnant women and parents with children below the age of four. Frustration over the government’s apathy towards helping the vulnerable grew and by October, a petition set up by Rashford calling for the provision of free school meals during holidays had reached one million signatures. In the House of Commons, the Labour motion over free school meals in holidays had been voted down. The aftermath was extraordinary. Rashford united over 2,000 businesses, restaurants and cafes to show support to vulnerable families.
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) October 23, 2020
Posting an image with the names of some of these organisations involved, Rashford successfully utilised his social media platform to not only spread awareness of the matters at hand but more importantly, to elevate the support given to the vulnerable. Rashford once again used his voice to help those who needed it the most.
An overwhelming amount of pressure from the public resulted in the government deciding to offer extra support to the struggling families over winter. £220m extra was included in plans to provide extra food and activities for children in school holidays. The success of Rashford’s second campaign symbolised more than just the notion that he is a humble being. Rashford’s constant drive towards shaping bright futures for today’s youth is a clear reminder of how a positive, never-say-die attitude can be key to making a vision come true. In Rashford’s case, a vision of a world with social equality and justice.
BLM and Marcus Rashford:
Marcus Rashford’s exploits have made him an influential role model, especially in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, one of the major subjects of 2020. Appearing on the front cover of British Vogue, Rashford stated that “I want my children to grow up in a world where regardless of the colour of your skin you have the same opportunities to succeed in life. The beauty of the government U-turn was that we all came together as one – regardless of race, sex, religion, background.’
"It was a no-brainer that British Vogue was going to be about social change"
British Vogue editor Edward Enninful calls this year's September issue, which features footballer Marcus Rashford and activist Adwoa Aboah, a "rallying cry for the future"https://t.co/xxUgKKI6XD pic.twitter.com/kOCLJim1In
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) August 5, 2020
For some young black children worldwide, Marcus Rashford’s childhood experiences are something which can be identified with. They represent a struggle which is commonly shared, unfortunately. Seeing Rashford’s meteoric rise not only as a footballer but now as a game changer in social justice is the type of story that can inspire the next generation to fight for what they believe in. Rashford is not just a human rights advocate. He is now a symbol of hope, a marvel, for young black children to look up to with their dreams intact.
Rashford’s Efforts Noticed:
Rashford deservedly has been awarded with a number of accolades for his heroics in 2020:
15 July – becomes youngest recipient of an honorary doctorate at the University of Manchester, awarded in recognition of his efforts to end child poverty in the UK;
3 August – announced to be on the front cover of September’s British Vogue Magazine, with the theme of global social activism and justice;
10 October – becomes an MBE in 2020 Queen’s birthday honours;
20 December – wins Expert Panel Special Award at BBC Sports Personality 2020 for his heroics off the pitch.
What cannot be denied is that Marcus Rashford has utilised his position in a positive manner as a platform to bring joy to millions of families in the UK. In 2020, he has become an inspiration to the people, providing the vulnerable with a much-needed voice of reason. A warrior that humanity desperately needed, especially during such a harrowing year. Rashford has vowed that his fight for social justice will continue in 2021.