My dear people, let me tell y’all about my Friday night in Monrovia, Liberia.
It had been a long and stressful week so my girls, Satta Wahab, Letitia Gibson and I decided to go out and let loose. So we got our hair did, nails did, er’thing did. We were ready!! The night was young and we needed somewhere to pre-party before the actual hang so we drove out to Sajj House. Sajj House is a Lebanese owned restaurant in Sinkor, Monrovia that turns into a bar of sorts when the sun goes down. Anyway, we get to Sajj, walk to the entrance and the female security guard goes “we need to search your bags.” Okay, reasonable request; so I opened my bag but then she called the male guard. He walks over and says “single ladies!” in a sing-song voice; Letitia looks at me and goes “what did he say?” and I shrugged because I had no idea what his remark was supposed to mean. Then the man reaches us and says in the most matter-of-fact voice ever “Y’all can’t go in without a man”. Satta, Letitia and I looked at each other with blank expressions and turned back to shockingly stare at him. We were waiting for him to say “I joking oh, y’all go in” but that didn’t happen.
It’s not that we didn’t know the rule existed, but a part of us couldn’t accept the fact that a person would look us right in the face and say that absolute bullshit with such vigor and lack of remorse. Like somehow, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Now, there are two rumors behind the inception of this rule. The first one is that a lot of prostitutes used to go to Sajj at night and harass the men and the second one is women can’t afford to buy their own drinks in the establishment. So, to solve their problems, the very wise and sage management of this noble institution decided to mandate women to have a male escort in order to enter Sajj.
Oh no, I’m leaving the juicy part out. They said ‘no single ladies’ but what they actually meant was no single BLACK female(s). Oh, y’all thought this was just a sexist and misogynistic thing? Well, not sorry to break the news, it’s a racist thing too!
In Liberia, a country in Sub-Saharan Africa, there is a place that allows WHITE WOMEN to walk in un-harassed but doesn’t allow BLACK WOMEN. The only logical takeaway from that is “black women are almost always prostitutes or poor so they shouldn’t be allowed into what is deemed an upstanding institution, unchaperoned.”
After being fully shocked into muteness for about a full minute, my friends and I said “fuck this place” and walked back to our car. See, we were actually going in to meet some guy friends and we could have easily called them to the entrance and walked in with them but why the hell should that be necessary? The very insult of the whole rule would make walking in there and having any sort of fun be an affront to my gender, my race and any member of the decent human race as a whole.
So, I called one of our guy friends, Heounohu Hessou and told him these exact words: “the guards wouldn’t let us in because you know, it’s Sajj and they have that stupid rule.” I am very proud to relate to you all that HE WENT OFF. He said to me on the phone “Sajj is so racist” and I didn’t get that until I saw a single white woman walk out of her car and straight through the entrance unbothered while I, a black woman, had to either find a man or bounce. QWHITE an eye-opener that was.
Anyway, our other friend, Khadar Ahmed, calls us and says they’re coming but they just have to say a few things to the guards first. Now picture this y’all, these friends of ours walked out, guns a-blazing, to defend our honor. Khadar was doing his best to convince the guard that the rule is stupid and their vetting criteria is sexist and racist but the guard just kept saying “it’s our policy”. The most ironic and best part ever? Hessou was wearing a t-shirt that said “FEMINIST AF’ and challenging a very un-feminist rule; the gods of irony were in heaven that night, pun intended. Anyway, we drove up to the entrance and our friends were going off on the guards so we told them that they should just forget about it and leave. Hessou then said “Fuck your policy”, dropped his glass in true Obama-esque drop the mic fashion and walked away.
IT. WAS. EPIC.
So, we were in the car all royally pissed off and just shocked. I am a mechanical engineer, Satta owns a natural hair care product company called Naz Naturals and Letitia is about to launch a natural hair salon called Dele’s Hair Clinic. Do we seem like women who can’t afford to buy their own drinks? No, but the people at Sajj wouldn’t know that because they’ve decided that black women can’t be anything but broke or whores.
Satta then posted about the experience on Facebook and these were the comments she got:
These comments show that women in this country are outraged by this rule and have tried to get it changed to no avail. But, there were some men in the comments that were making light of the situation writing comments like “you can rent me to go there next time” and “I’m available oh”.
I understand that some were not being malicious but the fact that they were being dismissive is a part of the issue. This is a very messed up rule that is designed by these white men to demean black women on their own continent and it should be regarded as such. I don’t even blame the security guards because this is obviously way above their pay grade. It was the owner(s) of Sajj who decided that, in our own damn country, we should be treated like second-class citizens.
My friends and I have all decided that we are not going back to Sajj House until the management changes that rule. It’s insulting, disrespectful, and matter of fact should be damn well illegal.
But what is even more appalling is that this one rule is simply reminiscent of the continuous and outraging fact that white people are treated better than the average Liberian citizen in our own damn country! But that is another blog post of its own.
Authored by Shari Raji
Featured picture by Melinda Reist