TRu Powell’s two sons, David and Israel, should have been at school Tuesday morning but, shortly before the couple woke up, he decided they would have a half-day off.
Instead, he drove the couple, aged 10 and eight, an hour and a half from the family home in Birmingham to visit the Marcus Rashford mural in Manchester.
“I said: ‘Well boys, I’m erasing my diary, I call the school and we are going to show our solidarity'”, says the 36-year-old entrepreneur. The independent. “They have both been victims of racism and I think it’s really important for them to see that even after this kind of treatment, they can still come out on top. I felt that the education they would get by coming here was equal to everything they would learn in school today.
On a cloudy morning, Powell and his boys were just three of the hundreds of people on a pilgrimage to this now famous piece of street art. The crowds have grown so dense here in Withington that Manchester City Council has arrived to close the road. Someone brought a loudspeaker and started blowing up M-People. The hand gel has been turned off. The mood at noon was a street party. Later, a manifestation of taking knees is expected.
“It’s heartwarming to see so many people here, so many allies,” said Powell. “And I know [the abuse] There are only a few people, but it just takes some people to make you feel like dirt and trigger trauma, so… yes, seeing that you realize that you are not alone.
The story so far you will probably know.
On Sunday night, footballer Marcus Rashford, 23, missed a penalty for England in the Euro 2020 final. In a few hours, this mural – created last October to mark the place where he had lived his childhood – had been vandalized with graffiti described by Greater Manchester Police as “racial aggravated”. This devastated not only Rashford but also fellow internationals Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka who also missed shots on goal. It seemed, many have said, almost inevitable.
“If a white player misses a penalty,” said Powell, “[people say] they make a bad match. If a black player misses one, [they say] they have no place in this country.
Then Monday morning arrived.
At one point, reports started popping up on social media that a single woman took a bunch of hearts out of the mural and stuck them over the graffiti. She had laminated post-it notes with a message of support for Rashford. Inspired by his actions, others have arrived, doing the same. More hearts and more messages were stuck; English flags were draped; flowers on the left, a kit from England itself. Tuesday morning was sort of a sanctuary here on Copson Street; not just to a local boy in an hour of need, but maybe an idea. This – love not hate; inclusion, not division – was Withington. It was Manchester.
“My interpretation is that it has been a cathartic experience for the people here, that it has been a way of expressing empathy and showing the minority that they are just that, a minority,” says Ed. Wellard who, as a founding volunteer of the Withington Walls street art project, helped commission the work in the first place. “We are a very diverse community and that community meant that this graffiti is not who we are.”
That Rashford himself is hugely loved here – both after and before the sentence – there is no doubt.
Partly because of his footballing abilities, of course: he scored over 20 goals for Man Utd last season. But it’s also because of what he did off the pitch. That is, in a region with high levels of deprivation, its campaign against food poverty – including forcing the government to do an about-face to provide free school meals last year – saw its star transcend sport. People love Rashford because in him they see a young man by their side.
“He’s just a decent guy, isn’t he?” says Wellard, himself a 43-year-old civil engineer. “He is humble, honest, pragmatic. He remained non-partisan, did not align himself with or against any politician; he just tries to solve the problems that interest him. the [England] the whole team is a great group of young men. They donate their match day bonuses to NHS charities. You can’t argue with it.
Inside the cafe the mural is painted on – Coffee House Café, all-day breakfasts at £ 3.70 – owner Pete Doherty agrees with Wellard, though he puts it slightly differently.
“When I was young our football role models were Gazza who got run over every night or Wayne Rooney got into sex scandals with women old enough to be his chick,” he says, between serving bacon butt. . “In relation to that, you have Marcus feeding the children. He’s a hero, isn’t he?
But he, Doherty, is a Man City fan. Should he really have a United player who monster his outside wall?
“Football is football,” he says. “Whatever your tribe, Rashford is Manchester. He has class.
For Younus Alam, this is precisely the point.
The 29-year-old online teacher apprentice lives just five minutes from the mural and went to school with Rashford’s older brother Dane. So when he saw people paying homage to the mural, he felt it was important to add his voice.
“For a year, he [Rashford] has helped people in this community, as well as across the country, with food banks and stuff like that, ”he says. “And I think now is the time to support him. He is a boy from Withington, born and raised in Manc like me; and I wanted to… tell him that I’m proud of him. Everyone here is. The people who did this [the graffiti] they don’t speak for anyone.
Alam quoted a quote from Kobe Bryant that he summed up Rashford: “The most important thing is to try to inspire people so that they can be great at whatever they do,” it read.
“He’s got his whole career ahead of him,” says Alam. “The world is his oyster. But whatever he does now, he has accomplished so much already. I think this [mural] will always be remembered now for this moment.
It may well be true. There are already discussions that the sheer volume of tributes could be saved and displayed at the National Football Museum, also in Manchester. Rashford himself has indicated how important they have been to him over the past 24 hours. “The communities who always surrounded me with their arms continue to support me,” he wrote in a statement Monday evening.
A permanent display would be appropriate, believes Linsey Eyre. The 37-year-old had brought his 10-year-old daughter, Martha, from their home in Didsbury to deliver a message on Tuesday morning. “I just wanted to tell him to stay strong,” said the youngster. “Don’t let negativity get to her because there are so many people out there who love her.”
Which brings us back to Powell and his two boys. As they prepared to return to Birmingham, they did not regret coming. The show of support had been moving. But he was careful about what that might mean.
“I hope it’s not performative, that he’s not here today gone tomorrow and that no action is taken,” he said. “What do I mean by action?” I mean allies maybe talking to their racist grandparents who have odious opinions that don’t belong to the company or, in the workplace, shouting that there are no members of the top direction that are black; or do they speak out against racism in schools or the health care system? It’s not just about visiting a mural. You have to want to change. “