Posted on 24 July 2023
Dr Sara de Jong presented Magid Magid with an honorary doctorate at the Department of Politics graduation ceremony on Wednesday 19th July 2023.
Born in Burao, Somaliland and arriving in Sheffield as a refugee with his family, Magid's story is one of courage and defiance against the odds.
Today, Magid is a Somali-British activist championing racial and climate justice, a former politician, and an author.
Magid is a living testament to the fact that the personal is political. His commitment to changing the world isn't simply idealistic but born from experience with, and deep understanding of, the global struggles for equality and justice.
Magid made his earliest forays into politics as a student at the University of Hull, where he became President of the University’s Student Union. From the very beginning, Magid was driven by a passion for justice, rather than an interest in party politics.
After obtaining his degree in Aquatic Zoology, Magid returned to Sheffield, where he was confronted with the scars left by austerity. Wanting to do something tangible, Magid joined the Green Party, became an elected councillor and quickly progressed to the position of Lord Mayor of Sheffield.
Magid's appointment as Lord Mayor of Sheffield in 2018 signified a seismic shift in the British political landscape. He became the city’s first Muslim, and the youngest-ever, Lord Mayor at only 28. With his infectious charisma, Magid revitalised the role and challenged people’s expectations of what representative politicians look and act like.
In 2019, amidst the shifting European political landscape, Magid was elected as a Member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire and the Humber. A region that had previously elected the far-right British National Party (BNP) as its representative, now elected Magid on a platform centred on social, climate and migrant justice.
Since leaving the European Parliament, Magid has continued to be an active voice for change. He founded and leads the pan-European ‘Union of Justice’. Union of Justice is an independent organisation dedicated to racial justice and climate justice, that empowers those most affected to bring about change in their communities. Union of Justice is also conducting ground-breaking research, which explores the historical and current climate injustices faced by communities of colour.
Magid’s awakening to the profound links between climate change and marginalised communities came after learning – from his own family - about the droughts in Somalia, which fuelled a humanitarian crisis. His work is inspired by the conviction that the fight for climate justice is a fundamental expression of racial justice, based on the recognition that communities of colour in the Global South and the Global North are disproportionally impacted.
Magid is currently the chair of two refugee charities; Safe Passage International and City of Sanctuary Sheffield. As the University of York is a University of Sanctuary, we especially applaud Magid’s unwavering commitment to refugee rights and look forward to him encouraging us to continue our work on refugee student inclusion, and, where necessary, hold us to account on our promises.
What is remarkable is that Magid is able to combine his deep commitment to social justice with humour. His political tenure has been marked by a unique use of style and creativity, to engage a new demographic of citizens in the political process.
His recent book ‘The Art of Disruption - A Manifesto For Real Change’ is a guide to being courageous and disrupting power structures. The chapter titles of the book are a testament to Magid’s style: Chapter 1 is entitled ‘Be Kind’, chapter 2 ‘Don’t be a Prick’, and the final concluding chapter ‘You’ve Got This!’.
"Everything worthwhile I’ve ever achieved has started with an element of fear and discomfort – I’ve even started to use it as a barometer. The more scared and nervous something makes me feel (within reason, of course!), the more I push myself to do it – it’s become a familiar feeling that I acknowledge and welcome."
Magid has received numerous awards: he was named one of TIME’s 100 rising stars shaping the Future of the World, won Young World Politician of the Year 2019 and European Young Leader 2019.
Last year, we invited Magid to the University of York as the after-dinner speaker for the Political Studies Association Conference. We asked him to speak to our chosen conference theme ‘Politics from the Margins’. While Covid prevented him from joining us in person, we were immensely grateful that he delivered an incredibly inspiring speech remotely.