NewsNews

Belfast mum forced to close business after racist graffiti campaign

NewsBy Jamie McDowell
Blessing Phakathi says she had to close her salon because of racist abuse and threats
Blessing Phakathi says she had to close her salon because of racist abuse and threats

This is the Belfast beauty salon owner who says she was forced to close her business after she suffered an onslaught of racist abuse.

Blessing Phakathi, 40, from Antrim, is originally from Johannesburg, South Africa.

She moved to Northern Ireland back in 1999 and has two young sons. But she says that vile racist abuse forced her to close her hair salon business, Babes and Braids, on North Street in Belfast city centre.

And she’s even shown the Sunday World photos of racist graffiti which has appeared near her home.

The shocking graffiti, which reads ‘BLACKY BLESS GO HOME’ was scrawled on a wall on a farm near Blessing’s home.

Her abuser clearly names her in the graffiti.

The sick graffiti appeared near Blessing's home 

The sick racist graffiti appeared near Blessing's home 

“I opened my shop in 2012 on North Street in Belfast, and I worked very hard to build my business up,” said Blessing.

“Now I fear for my life and for the lives of my two boys.

“I had to contact the police two or three times because it was getting so bad, but it was hard to prosecute anyone.

“I would receive text messages threatening me with the IRA and Óglaigh na hÉireann, saying they will kill me and my sons.

“They said they would put a bomb under my car at my home.

“Whoever was sending the messages called me a ‘n****r’ and other horrible things, like telling me to ‘go home’ and accusing me of being a prostitute.

“It was too much for me in the end, so I had to close the business.”

Blessing claimed that on two occasions a person had come into her salon, and racially abused her.

 “They came in off the street and threatened me and were shouting racist things at me,” she said.

Now Blessing, who has found another job, says she has been put off from opening another store, as she fears that the alleged abuse will return.

 “I lost everything because of the racist abuse and I was afraid. Now I don’t think I will be able to fulfil my dream of having my own hair salon. I have been put off for good.”

Blessing’s story comes as racist attacks and race hate crimes continue to rise in Northern Ireland. Currently race hate attacks and abuse are reported at a rate of two per day.

The PSNI confirmed to the Sunday World that they had investigated reports of alleged abuse directed towards Blessing last year.