The incidence rate of hate crimes occurring in the United Kingdom is on the rise — much like it is in the United States — with the total number of hate crime-related activity doubling in the past five years alone.
Over the course of the past two years of data, the number of hate crime incidents has gone up by 17 percent, reporting from the Guardian suggested. Experts say, according to the Guardian, that anti-immigration fervor — fueled by calls to support Brexit — have led to these increases in hate crimes.
So when an artist in a north London neighborhood saw a racist piece of graffiti, he took matters into his own hands — transforming the work of hate into one of inclusion.
Walthamstow artist Chris Walker (no relation to the author of this article) saw that someone had scribbled the words “SPEAK ENGLISH” on a large wall near his residence. In fact, the words were plastered all over the neighborhood, which frustrated Walker to his core.
“I was born in Walthamstow and have lived here on and off for 40 years, it has always been a vastly multicultural community and that’s what makes it so great,” Walker said, according to reporting from the Independent.
Seeing the image on social media, he realized that he could work with what was scribbled on the wall.
“I saw they’d left me quite a bit of space around their ‘artwork,’ so I thought I’d fill in the blanks,” Walker said. So that’s what he did, adding numerous additional languages surrounding the word “English,” and putting a “We” before the start of the sentence.
Walker added various languages — including Punjabi, Urdu, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Turkish, Cockney, French, Bengali, and several others to the wall.
In his Twitter post, Walker said he “finished” the art piece for whoever the “artist” was that started it. His post went viral pretty quickly, with many opining that Walker’s work was an improvement from the original.
Walker expressed optimism for his artwork, explaining that he was hopeful that it could inspire greater change.
“I’m not sure my little protest can stop things like this happening, but the response to it has, I hoped, brought the community together in speaking out, and served to reassure that this is a minority view and that everyone is welcome in E17 and always will be,” he wrote.
Walker is a digital designer and digital art-worker living in London. He’s authored two children’s books about the Walthamstow area, including one about his E17 neighborhood titled ABCDE17.