A striking scene can been witnessed in the heart of Melbourne over the Christmas period. As one man, defiant to change public attitudes towards racism, promotes his own campaign for acceptance of all people.
With no political agenda behind him, 28-year-old Jafri Katagar has spent the best part of 2015 placarding to have his voice heard. After experiencing racial abuse and violent attacks, Jafri decided enough was enough. Standing in the middle of one of Melbourne’s busiest and most iconic intersections on Friday, he spoke with TheVine.com.au and shared the inspiring story behind his actions.
Jafri arrived Down Under in 2005 as a refugee from Uganda, where he settled down in the Melbourne suburbs of Clayton to create a new life for himself.
Now a permanent Australian citizen, he’s endured racial vilification and violent attacks since moving here. Following similar abuse on some of his friends, he decided that he needed to do something to make his new home safer, peaceful and greater for everyone.
— Rory Mckenna (@Rorymckenna93) August 7, 2015
Not knowing where to start, he explains that creating the signs and holding them up in public places felt like the most peaceful and effective way to spread the word.
Over the past few months, he’s spent his free days commuting from Clayton in to the CBD where he walks in to the busy intersection around midday. Flanked by cars, trams and crossing pedestrians he then stands holding his signs for several hours before packing up and heading back home.
He says that he wants to remind people that you don’t have to be white to be an Australian, people come from all places and love this place enough to want to make it better. It’s also on Twitter where he is now starting to echo his views, recently expressing:
“Nobody is born racist; people only learn to hate. If they can learn to hate they can also be taught to love.”
– Jafri Katagar
As we chat to Jafri, passersby who are crossing the road show their support with a ‘yeah buddy’ or a ‘good on ya mate’.
Some even approach for a photo, a high-five, a handshake and even a hug to show their support for what he’s doing.
Jafri is quietly spoken, a true gentleman who stresses that this is not a protest. He doesn’t want to hassle anyone or cause any disruptions.
Stop Racism Now, peaceful street protestor. Melbourne crowds stop to embrace him and each other. pic.twitter.com/Im0BLDE0OQ
— Mama Alto (@MamaAlto) November 27, 2015
Those who stop to talk with him will hear the passion in his voice as he rattles off staggering statistics associated with violent racial assaults in Australia. He himself makes up for one of the estimated 4.6 million people who have suffered from racial abuse (1 in 5 people) in Australia this past year alone.
Despite the positive reactions that we witnessed, his speaking out has made him a prime target for more abuse from racists.
In a recent interview with Fairfax he was quoted saying:
“I get more hugs than any other person in this country.. some days I get hugged 20 or 30 times.”
“But I’m also the person who’s most racially abused.”
Jafri now wears a GoPro camera around his waist as his defence, enabling him to report attacks and abuse. He mentions that it comes in handy when he needs to go to police. Despite this he believes those that are racist are a minority and that the majority of Australian’s are nice, lovely, generous people.
— Charlie Hindhaugh (@Lapsang_) July 28, 2015
The visual impact is clearly getting through to people in a really positive and inoffensive way and it’s a truly an uplifting spectacle to witness.
If you see Jafri in the city, make sure to say g’day and congratulate him on the work he’s doing. There is a genuine passion behind his drive to improve Australia and make his home a better place for everyone. Our hats off to you sir.