Racism & Sexism at Sajj House

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

33 Comments Add yours

  1. Cyrene says:

    I say we launch a protest to get the restaurant and bar them shut down. Just letting Sajj go on with business while we boycott is not enough.
    If anything, the strangers (Sajj management and owner) should be respectful of our freedom and fundamental human liberties in our country.

    So damn outrageous!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omar says:

      Oh hell no you need to go back. This can not be allowed to happen to other black women. Sajj needs to change his rules or GTFO of Liberia.

      My name is Omar T. Fahnbulleh and my email is Omar.fahnbulleh@gmail.com

      It needs to be shut down.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Eunice says:

    Boycotting Saaj starting now!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Louvette says:

    Omg! They tired my babies. This is really messed up! I over heard this mess but never really believed that they implemented it this way. We should definitely protest. In our heels,makeup and purses too! We cannot be outcast in our own dayumm country. We don’t care how outrageous prostitution may have gotten around their bar, this is not the way to solve it! Thanks sleepless in Monrovia for giving voice to this! This has to stop!

    On Mon, May 7, 2018 at 5:36 AM Sleepless in Monrovia wrote:

    > sleeplessinmonrovia posted: “My dear people, let me tell y’all about my a > Friday night in Monrovia, Liberia. It had been a long and stressful week > and 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 wer” >

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jaylee says:

    Ooh Lawd, someone had to say something. I experienced this when I visited Liberia and it was unbelievable. I didn’t know it was this serious cuz I talked my way into the restaurant. No one can take away my right at this stage of my life so I couldn’t leave without my favorite pizza😋😋. This is messed up and a complete boycott alongside a peaceful demonstration should set things straight. Thanks for this write up Shari, it’s about time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jaylee says:

    Ooh Lawd, someone had to say something. I experienced this when I visited Liberia and it was unbelievable. I didn’t know it was this serious cuz I talked my way into the restaurant. No one can take away my right at this stage of my life so I couldn’t leave without my favorite pizza😋😋. This is messed up and a complete boycott alongside a peaceful demonstration should set things straight. Thanks for this write up Shari, it’s about time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Siehdi says:

    Been a female in Liberia at the hands of these so called Lebanese businesses is a like walking naked in a church service! I had that experience twice at Red Lion 4 years back, and at that same old Sajj.
    Should we start writing our titles or displaying our BANK STATEMENTS on our faces? SHIT! And who told these fools that women don’t pay their own bill? Talking about bill, I had a situation at my famous dry rice spot (Evelyn’s); I had ordered the waitress to bring the bill after having lunch with a Male colleague and then she comes, hands the bill to him directly. In my Liberian tone, the Kru in my voice raised “You woman, da lay man ask you for the bill?” She was perplexed and just dropped it in front of me and left.
    Just so ya’ll know, we women have the capacity to feed, clothe, and even shelter men; we are already doing those!
    But the part of allowing a WHITE single female in while WE black, nappy hair, coca cola bottle shape women are standing and told “NO ENTRY” is a serious affront!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nimne says:

    wow this is crazy. we need to boycott saj until they grow some pairs and do the right thing. Who actually owns Liberia “nah ?”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Anonymous says:

    My friend experienced this same sort of thing here on Sierra Leone.
    He went into the club with his very expensive designer slippers, and was refused entrance, but a white man wore his cheap-looking slippers, and entered with no problem.
    He took the nightclub to court, he won, and the nightclub was ordered to reverse the policy.

    Maybe you guys should do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. BSG says:

    As if the UNMIL ban on Sajj wasn’t enough. Now this, apparently their genius remedy to avoiding another UN ban. And these are the same foreigners our genius President is willing to bend over backwards by changing the Constitution to allow them to become citizens.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Samuel T Nimley says:

    PI visit the Sajj regularly on the weekend because of the live band playing. There have been some serious issues with customers losing their valuable etc. And I believe the security was trying to screen at the entrance. That doesn’t represent Sajj view of us their customers.

    I believe it was an error on the part of the security and measures are taken to improve their customer interactions.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mark says:

    I will agree bad rule… Not a good idea to generalize by race or gender, maybe they could have said no prostitution allowed? Would that have been better? JK

    Liked by 1 person

  12. John C L Mayson II says:

    This is wrong on so many levels. Claims of prostitution can never be an excuse for such disgustingly sexist and racist policy. How can a whole management based their decision on a small sample size. It’s ridiculous to say the least. I’m in support of the movement. They need to change that terrible policy. They can implement it in Lebanon if they want. Nonsense!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is incredibly disheartening. I’ve had a few sexist and racist encounters at various institutions in Liberia. It boils my blood to know that we’re treated like second class citizens by foreigners (& sometimes our own people) in our country. I am officially boycotting Sajj and I’m encouraging all my friends to do the same. This policy needs to be changed ASAP! Making calls now. Ridiculous 😡!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Miyesha says:

    Even if Sajj ends this policy; no Liberian women and man, should patronize this business again!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ellen says:

    I get it, this policy sucks, especially since by relying on the shortcuts of sex/race, they accidentally capture elite Liberians such as yourselves, when I’m sure they’d love to take your money.

    But let me ask you a few questions I sincerely want the answer to. If Liberian prostitutes harassing men for sex or stealing things or whatever the reason for this policy is was not an issue, do you think they would implement this policy? Do you think they’re just racist/sexist? Why aren’t you angry at other Liberian women for giving “your race” and “your gender” a bad name? If Liberian women, generally speaking, can afford their own drinks, why would they purposefully damage their own business by banning single Liberian women and losing business and risking controversies like this one?

    I don’t know the whole story, but surely business owners aren’t trying to figure out ways to sabotage themselves in their free time. You would think they would want all the business they could get. If white men were coming into a bar and harassing black women constantly, would you be as offended when the business made a rule saying white men need a plus one? Or would you cheer for it?

    Finally, if you dislike Sajj so much, why do you go there? There must be some nice Liberian-owned places that cater to you, right? Why try to force Sajj to do something they, apparently wrongly, believe will harm their business when you can just take your business elsewhere? I know I wouldn’t go somewhere that discriminated against me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Didi says:

      This is utterly disturbing, racial profiling, stereotype, discrimination should not be allow at any level , am surprise at you (Ellen ) making lame excuses for a senseless act ; Infringing on someone choices to suit your polluted mindset . If indeed it’s because of prostitution and theft then as a business put measures in place that would not hand pick patrons . What if it was a gay- lesbian couple , how silly it would be to refuse two women, the reality is life has a changing face and if you have a services for the public , you must manage the shortcomings with that business… when there is too much shooting at a nightclub, you find a mental detector at the door , so Sajj must put adequate measures in place i.e , have minimum spending per table , more security/ cameras … I get harassed by men when I go out with my girls but no business owner seems to band single guys from coming in , B.S!
      there is a saying …. don’t act stupid just to be different, be different even if you seems stupid, all those questions asked by you (Ellen) in defence of Sajj were very prematurely unnecessary(Ellen) . Hats-off for these ladies for raising awareness of this nonsense in our country and we shall boycott and should organise a protest involvement of prominent women in our society, change must come and a revolution starts with a first step forward . #sistersagainstequility

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Eunice says:

      So that’s your solution to the problem? Institute a racist policy and if the locals don’t like it, they should go somewhere else? Apartheid much? Now Liberians should be limited to Liberian owned businesses when they are being discriminated against in their own country by foreigners? And who said anything about disliking Saaj? People like you are what is wrong with the world. You and your white privilege . Saaj management had a real problem and by choosing to deny entry to single women did not solve the problem. You are in principle agreeing that all single black women are prostitutes. Since you are incapable of any useful suggestions that Saaj could/ should employ to address this problem except to further exclude and marginalize black people let me propose one solution. Saaj should have charged everyone an entrance fee ,say $10 or $15 dollars that would go towards your food or drinks. Customers would in essence not be paying for entry but would be making a deposit to ensure that only people who can afford to pay would be allowed to enter. And for your information, Liberian prostitutes don’t give Liberian women a bad name. They give your expat men a bad name. As we say in liberia, your expats dressed this devil. Your expats created this problem . Nothing exists in a vacuum. And now when it’s gotten out of hand they want to close their eyes and hope it goes away?
      This is our country and we will go wherever the heck we want. If you don’t like it then maybe YOU should leave. Remember, foreigners are guests here.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. James Kiawu says:

      Ellen, I am a bit shocked at your comment.However, since I am not knowledgeable about your race, I would assume that you’re racist as well. Or, should I ignore racism about you? Of course, I will. Then it leaves me with the impression that you’re not fully grabbing the concept of this piece of literature! Two things I wish to address in your respond to this narrative:
      1. They do not dislike Sajj! However, they were using Sajj as a place for an entertaintment. And of course, Sajj is a public place and anyone should go there and enjoy themself once they have money and will not post a physical threat to the business. But being selective about who go in and out of Sajj based on color or gender, is racism. Or even if they were to say footballers shouldn’t enter Sajj, it’s another form of racism.
      2.You shouldn’t be here telling people, who are adults where they should or shouldn’t go to enjoy themselves. So, referring them to other Liberian businesses, because they are Liberians, is another form of segregation.

      On another side note just so you know I am a regular goer of Sajj every Friday. I have personally facing that embarrassment. I have also watched lot of female Liberians been denied entry because the short guy at the gate has been given an instruction to discriminate against black females. It’s wrong today, and it wrong tomorrow. I personally have encountered racism in Pennsylvania and I know how I felt that day!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Omar says:

    Oh hell no you need to go back. This can not be allowed to happen to other black women. Sajj needs to change his rules or GTFO of Liberia.

    My name is Omar T. Fahnbulleh and my email is Omar.fahnbulleh@gmail.com

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Miyesha says:

    If you intend to curtail/eliminate harassment of customers then have the security make rounds and monitor the interactions. Sajj is not the first business in Liberia or abroad to have experienced similar issues. However, to enacted -officially or otherwise – a policy that unfairly targets a sect of a population who are natural born citizens in their own country, is disrespectful at best.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Vicky says:

    I haven’t been to sajj and how I thank God that I haven’t gone through such humiliation. What the hell do those crazy smelling ass Lebanese take us for? If u wanna operate a business that denies black women that can afford their own food, makeups, clothes,heels, pay their F rent only because they are not accompanied by a man,but allow a white woman with the same situation, then u might as well GTF out of this county.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. McDonald says:

    This is so much disheartening 😠😠

    Being abused in your very homeland as if a foreigner. Simply because there’s no voice of justice and guidelines governing foreign businesses. So they have the audicity to implement any rules of their own.

    A lot of this. Many have experienced this, but all kept silent. Thanks for being a voice 👏👏

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Christiana says:

    Security regulation? Tha’s ridiculous!
    A very lame excuse.
    If so be it, let it cross cut to everyone despite gender and race.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. This is terrible, you know there are so many reasons why a female may want to go out alone and may decide to visit any entertainment center as she sees fit. Worst of all, they apply the color thing to it in a color country. This is outrageous and totally disrespectful. Perhaps there should be an all women boycott and lets see where that takes them…

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Tanue says:

    I live in America, Chicago to be exact. As a Liberian, this is disheartening but not shocking and it’s unrealistic that these businesses will change.

    Economically, I will never support those establishments change of policy or not because the ownership has revealed its philosophy about us.

    I’d rather see them put out of business through supporting its nearest competitors and increasing social/political awareness to create pressure for these businesses to be closed and given a substantial fine for each violation. Point is to never go to these places and create a list of them. “Fuck em”.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Lee Fumbah says:

    I think we often want to be allowed in so many spaces, we don’t think about how much of a compliment it is that we want them to change the policy so black women can be allowed. There’s no need. They are a Lebanese owned business in Liberia, discriminating against Liberian women. We need to start creating spaces made for us, by us. And patronizing those businesses. Let them take Sajj to Lebanon.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Wilson says:

    Damn, I went through the whole thing and to be frank I am piss just by hearing that such thing is taking place in our country. first of all before I goes into what I gotta say, is that I won’t blamed those fools, I blamed those that in power, especially the department of commerce that have no control over foreign people that opening businesses in our country without rules because of corruption. they turned their eyes to everything and allows foreigners to abused and looked down on our people. now, i come to what I want to say. these is no country in the world where I see that foreigners can do what they wanna except Liberia. I been outside for years I’ve not seen it. and one thing too” we have to teach our people standards. people may laugh at what am about to say, we’re the most beautiful people on this planet earth but until we can get that we need to open our minds and believe that are.and we can do anything. so for me everything that have said in this report is just it. it is a textbook racism and that need to stop. so sister keep fighting for change. thanks, may peace be with you🙏🙏🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Wilson says:

    Excuse me, I meant unti we can get that we can get that we need to open our minds and believe that we are.and we can do anything that we set up to do.so for me everything that have been said in this report is just it. and that need to stop.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Teresa says:

    This is a serious issue. Sajj did the same thing to my bff(Kula) and I. Someone needs to speak with the manager concerning this and it has to stop.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Kebeh says:

    All this righteous indignation for I am a mechanical engineer so this restriction is okay for everyone else but not for me. I hold MA International Affairs. If the security had let these three go in that night, then it would be okay to treat the other “nobodies” Liberians like that because they do not own natural hair saloons and can not post a blog, whatever. If you all have a voice use it for the general good. I don’t advice anyone should get involved in your personal vandatta with this restaurant. If it is an action for the millions of Liberian girls who are sexually abused and molested because they want a job, I will sign. If sajj does not want some one’s patronage let her go somewhere else. Leave us out of this because it is not a battle for Liberian women or for blacks. These three were not treated special and they think they are so they start a nothing campaign.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Anonymous says:

    Wow, this is crazy as f**k….after all Liberians have gone through, and you allowed people to treat your women like that in your own country and do nothing about it…… and consider it as socialization of privacy…….Is crazy as fuck….pardon my french.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Anonymous says:

    Wow, this is crazy as f**k….after all Liberians have been through, and you allowed outsiders to treat your women like that in your own home and consider it as socialization of privacy……this is crazy as fuck… you are bold, you are beautiful, you are smart, intelligent, you are strong and brave, you are not define by who hold your hands and walk you down the aisle,….you are a Liberian Woman…stand for your right and show your strength…if Sajj house can not see that, they should get out….don’t allow anyone to abuse you in your own home, is call self respect…#Peaceout

    Liked by 1 person

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