This is a two-sided story, we pray your patience is golden. Afterall, it would be unfair to you for us to tell you why and who we are without explaining how we came about. So, let’s dive in.
The name “Sleepless in Monrovia” came about in a very unorthodox way. I decided that I wanted to start a blog and use it as a platform for my many many many ideas and opinions. I had gotten a taste of the writing bug after so many years of not writing anything, but research papers and project reports and I was insatiable. So, I was on the phone with a friend, and we were throwing names around; suggestions on the table were “African Girl’s Musings”, “Day Break Mouth Open”, “The Exquisite Villager”, “Luna’s Diaries (I have a dog named Luna, and yes, I’m THAT dog mom)” and “Sleepless in Monrovia”. As soon as the name “Sleepless in Monrovia” was thrown in the ring, I fell in love with it. First and foremost, I LOVE the movie Sleepless in Seattle and also I could immediately find a deeper meaning in the name. When I heard it, the wanna-be philosopher in me automatically thought it could represent all the thoughts that keep me awake at night, and since I would be penning these thoughts down for the blog, the name seemed extremely fitting.
So, I went on WordPress and got a domain name set up, and I had a google drive filled with ideas, and I was ready to go! Then a month passed by, and I had published nothing. I was fired up about the idea, but I published nothing. Here’s why: I was scared! Writing is a passion of mine, and it is where I find solace most of the time. I was thinking “what if this blog bombs?”. I knew that I had so many obligations on my plate and thus, I feared I wouldn’t be able to properly give the attention and dedication this blog would require to succeed. So, my desire to blog was put on the backburner.
Fast-forward to a few months later, Suma texts me and goes “I want to start a blog where we can publish our writings; you, I and other Liberians who have an interest in writing. The blog would have an emphasis on social justice issues highlighting the experiences of Liberian women. What do you think?” I swear, at that moment, I felt like it was a cosmic intervention from the universe! What are the odds that I would think I didn’t have enough time to run a blog and then Suma would say she wants us to start a blog too and we’d co-manage it? It was a match made in writer’s heaven. I then told her all about my blog idea, shared the WordPress account info and the google drive with her and we set to work on getting the blog up and running.
My motivation for blogging stemmed from the sad refrain I’ve always heard “Liberians na like reading,” and while there are no statistics to support or oppose that, there is the fact that Liberians are famous for having a lot of opinions. One would usually find Liberians rambling extensively on Facebook/Twitter about a plethora of justice issues or posting poetry. Even I, for one, am often involved in these social media ramblings. At the time, there was not an easily accessible professional platform where Liberians could share their creativity and have their literary pieces or poetry published online. I noticed that Liberians who have always had a passion for writing were yet to discover and explore their talents because there was no platform or initiative to help them thrive outside of posting on Facebook, Instagram and sometimes, Twitter.
Shari and I faced the same challenges too. It became a routine to blog our thoughts in Google Docs or our notepads and screenshot them to post on social media with hopes that someone would notice our passion and reach out to finally fulfill our yearning desires of becoming published writers. We grew tired of this and decided to create the platform we so desired. We thought, instead of waiting for a savior, we’d create a unifying platform dedicated explicitly to Liberian writers from around the world to purposely showcase that usually unnoticed intellectual side of Liberians. Like Shari says: “if there’s no seat at the table, we as individuals need to either pull up our own chair and find space at the table or build our own damn table.”
Hence, we set out to create a blog that would not only showcase the literary talents of Liberians, but also inspire many other Liberians to pursue literature and poetry. Moreover, we aim to inspire our generation of young Liberian writers to utilize ‘blogging’ as a medium to convey their opinions on controversial issues.
About the blog:
We launched Liberia’s first social justice blog, Sleepless in Monrovia (SiM) on March 12, 2018. With SiM, Liberians would no longer have to worry about where they can explore their thoughts and advance their creativity; no longer will poems and burning ideas rot in google docs or will Facebook be the only platform to discuss controversial issues.
With a fervent passion for exploring our Liberian culture, we believe that one way to promote the positive aspects of the culture, highlight the negative issues that need improvements, and break self-consciousness is through writing. Therefore, SiM serves as a platform where cultural norms will be challenged, and horrifying stories will be told as a means of positively changing the narrative. Liberians are a resilient group of people who have endured so many horrific events ranging from the civil war to Ebola and SiM encourages writers to tell those stories whether in the form of poetry or creative writing. Cognizant of Liberia’s prevailing patriarchal culture and a means to give Liberian women a prominent voice in society, SiM seeks to tackle controversial issues that are affecting women and are considered ‘taboo topics’ in our communities. Liberian women have lived through years of patriarchal oppression and for the most part, are fed up with the governing system of abuse and sexual and gender-based violence that is prevalent in the Liberian society.
For those who wonder about the meaning of the blog’s name, ‘Sleepless in Monrovia,’ to us represents ‘the thoughts and issues that keep Liberians awake at night.’ The blog launched a few months back with an inaugural Taboo-series. It was a three-part series that talked about the typical controversial topics in the African/Liberian culture that are deemed “off-limits.” SiM’s three-part series explored the lack of talks surrounding puberty, sex-education, awareness of rape and sexual assault, and gender-based violence in Liberia. The series was authored by the co-founders, Suma Massaley and Shari Raji, with commentary by Joshua S. Kulah (SiM’s Administrator).
Since the launching of SiM, many Liberians have expressed sentiments of relief because they now have a platform that is dedicated to creativity and discussions of social issues in Liberia. Readers also applauded and commented on the need for tackling controversial issues in our Liberian culture. We are optimistic that the blog will create a widespread positive impact on the Liberian community by continually posting contents that shake up the comfortable but unprogressive mindset that exists among us and foster discussions in our various circles on how we can be the solutions to the problems we see in our societies.
SiM’s contributing writers are a diverse group of young adults who believe a massive percentage of the world’s problems could be solved by open dialogues in safe spaces that inspire action. As the first community for Liberian story tellers, artists are encouraged to use the platform to tell their stories, explore, create, thrive and discover their best selves. SiM welcomes any and everyone who is passionate about creativity, be it literary -like Op-Eds, poems or short stories- or visual arts -like photographs, drawings or paintings-, and wants to shine light on topics ranging from social justice to love & heartbreak. You can join the team of contributing writers or just submit your works to SiM’s email for publishing post review. Additional information on the processes to join the writers’ team or to submit your pieces are on the website.
Originally published on the Bush Chicken