The year was 2012 and my former, party loving self had just completed a night of debauchery in Coppers. As I wobbled down Harcourt Street on the pilgrimage towards Zaytoons a taxi pulled over beside me.
Taxi – “Hey my friend! You need a lift home?”
This was the first time I met Happy. Happy Agamah and like his name, he truly was one of the happiest people I’ve come across. He spoke of how he earned the name after emerging from the womb smiling and that he doesn’t plan on stopping till the day he dies.
It was a taxi ride that stuck with me. Mainly because of Happy’s character. It was like he had a virtue. He emitted an energy. Constantly laughing, smiling and joking. It was a memorable experience.
The next morning as I regaled my tales of Happy to our whatsapp group I was met with some stark resistance.
“You were the drunkest man on earth last night! You probably walked home talking to yourself ya fool”
“I think the fact that you are saying you went home from a night out and DIDN’T get food just shows how drunk you really were!”
Maybe they were right! I was pretty drunk! And skipping drunken food was something I never did. A taxi man with a virtue! What was I thinking? I’m not even religious.
Eventually months pass and a cold, crisp November evening rolls around. As my friends attempt to hail down a taxi on Dame Street, I battle through a plague of drunkards in search of a jambon and a two euro chicken fillet roll.
Returning successful, I heard the cackle of my friends from a nearby taxi. Not knowing what was happening, I brushed aside the last few crumbs from my jambon and hopped into the back seat.
“Heffo you gotta meet this bloke, he’s an absolute hero! And get this, his name is Happy”
I look up & there he is in all his glory. Smile beaming from ear to ear and the rumbling of his deep belly laugh groaning louder than ever. It was Happy! He recognizes me instantly and we embrace like long lost brothers. My friends, now lost as to how I know this man sit back and listen while I fill them in.
“Happy, the taxi driver from the whatsapp group! This is him lads!”
“Jaysus, we thought you were just talking bollix”
“I still don’t believe you left town without a Zaytoons that night!”
He drops us home and the journey was as magical as before. We are laughing, joking, singing, dancing, the entire journey home. That energy he exhibits, infects us all and we leave his taxi in better form than before we went out that night. We were invigorated.
On leaving his taxi I snap a quick picture of his taxi plate. This was going on facebook. This was an experience I needed to remember.
Three years roll by and not much has changed. I’m still experiencing what I feel is a quarter life crisis, binge drinking on weekends and consuming large volumes of food afterwards to make up for all the salads and gym sessions I endure during the week.
The only real difference is that I know consistently read the papers. It was a new year’s resolution I made a few years back in an attempt to further myself, you know, gain some culture and shit. As I scan through the pages, a headline catches my eye.
Rathfarnham is only a stone’s throw away from where I live. I remember thinking how it’s disgraceful that in 2015 anyone has to endure this type of abuse, especially in Ireland, my backyard, my home.
I read on;
“Happy Agamah, a German citizen who has lived in Ireland since 2008 and works as a taxi driver, claims he has been the victim of violence, intimidation and racist abuse at his flat in Ballyboden, Rathfarnham, Dublin. The most serious incident was an attempted arson attack on June 9th last.”
Happy? It couldn’t of been our Happy. He’s was far too nice for something like this to happen too.
I continue on.
The report outlines a number of cases of racist abuse suffered by Happy including alleged arson, physical and verbal attacks, all complete with pictures of the attacks.
I remember the feeling that consumed me. It was two fold. I was angry because I had personally met this man and so the attacks felt a little close to home and I was scared because of how close to my actual home these attacks had occurred and to make it worse, it seemed like little was being done to support him.
There was a protest arranged to show support in the coming days. I attended along with about 30 others and while there were members of An Gardai present, there was no representatives from the council or government in attendance. Apparently racially motivated arson isn’t important enough.
I scanned the papers in the days following the protest for an update but there was nothing to read. It had seemed all had been forgotten and life went back to normality. Soon afterwards I had forgotten it too, along with all the others and went back to living my privileged little life.
Two weeks ago, in the midst of the Charlottesville protest and tragedy I was scrolling through my Facebook. I was reading status after status of people who were appalled, disgusted, sickened, distraught and any number of emotive verbs used to describe the atrocities that occurred.
In the midst of all the social commentary coming from the ‘Facebook Status For Human Rights Society’ popped up a little forgotten memory. It was the picture I had posted from the time we meet Happy.
How fitting I thought. Surrounded by hundreds, possibly thousands of comments condemning the ongoing racism in the United States, Happy case rears its ugly head. A forgotten memory of the deep, dark and oftentimes denied racism that exists on our own doorstep.
One in which no charges were pressed against people who terrorized this man in his own home. One in which our local council supports the person who committed the attacks of violence instead of caring for the victim. One in which a man feels he has to leave our country because he is traumatized by the events he experienced while residing here.
And while I am angry at society for allowing this to occur, I think I am really more angry at myself. At the time, I probably sent a couple of tweets, attended the protest and then sat back eagerly awaiting my Noble Peace Prize for Human Rights. I had done my bit, I showed up, I was a number, what more do you want from me?
Now I realize what I should have done. What needed to be done. What I have been given the right and responsibility to do,when there are so many others who can’t afford that freedom or those who came before us and were denied the right to access those freedoms.
The fight for human rights and equality is like one big jigsaw puzzle. People like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Colin Kaepernick and even Panti Bliss and Christine Buckley have all added pieces to the jigsaw in their respective fights. So I ask, what piece of the jigsaw are you going to fill?
Because if you do not place your piece, the next piece can’t follow.