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A café owner in England has gone to drastic measures to “warn” racist customers that her business is run by a black woman.

The sign, typed in all caps, tells customers:

“Attention! Everyone be aware I am a black woman, and always will be. If you are allergic to black people, don’t come in.

But, if you prefer quality wholesome meals in a pleasant and clean environment, come in. I don’t bite.”

Martha-Renee Kolleh, who owns Yeanon Café in Ossett, West Yorshire says she put up the sign up because she was tired of customers walking out once they realized her Afro-Caribbean café, which also serves traditional British fare, was run by a black woman.

“I was so cross that people kept walking into the café and then walking out so I made the sign,” Kolleh explained. “I wanted to vent my frustration and have people take notice.”

Kolleh has been in business for two years, but says she may have to close if customers in her  town (which is 97.5% white) continue to sidestep her shop.

To boost her bottom line, the mother of three even hired a white woman to man the shop, and hopefully pull in customers, but noticed that when her employee wasn’t there, customers do not stop in.

“I thought I was being paranoid so I hired a lady, who is white. I let her stand and serve people while I waited out the back. She did very well and we had a lot of customers, but as soon as I was back behind the counter, nobody comes in.”

According to The Independent, Kolleh’s sign has elicited mixed reviews. Some find it amusing, while others see it as offensive.

“Some people find the sign amusing and they say ‘oh yes it’s about time you put that up’, so I think they all realise what’s going on here.

“Some others just read it and walk away. I’ve heard one or two swearwords as well regarding the notice,” she told the paper.

Officials in the town of Ossett said they are working to support Kolleh and do not condone racism.

Since Kolleh’s story made news, her café’s Facebook page has been flooded with support. One resident commented: “Beautiful talented lady, please go on providing some of the most delicious food in the world! God bless you and may you and your business flourish.”

Kolleh hopes all of the attention will help her struggling business.

“This is my livelihood, which I need to support myself and my children”, she told a local news affiliate. “If my business does not improve I will have to pack up in just a number of months. I am a qualified chef, and if I worked anywhere else I would be lost. I am here to cook and I am good at it so it’s such a shame people won’t come in here.”

16 Comments

  1. SayWhat

    I’ll admit, I’m surprised……not because this took place in the UK, but because most white people love for us to cook and serve them. The only thing I can think of is that the café is a ritzy neighborhood, because traveling to see us in ‘our natural habitat’ also adds to the ‘allure’ for them.

    • Anthony

      Being served by someone is different from patronizing a proprietor. Many whites resent the idea of aiding a black person with the ambition to rise and own a business.

    • Starla

      @Anthony..If that is the case, then Black businesses are getting it from both sides because many Blacks are not supporting Black businesses either. How are Black businesses to survive?

    • SayWhat

      Point taken, which is why I said it may be because she is in their neighborhood. Trust, having lived in NY, they just love to go to Harlem, the Bronx and other black neighborhoods because they applaud themselves as having stepped outside their lily white boxes and visited a black neighborhood (hence the natural habitat tongue in cheek reference). But this woman is in their back yard, so they may resent that.

  2. Lynne

    I do hope business picks up for this woman. I can’t believe how ignorant certain people can be.

    Oh, wait. Yes, I can.

  3. As a black person in England, I’m continually surprised at how Americans think England is some sort of racial utopia. It’s not – it’s probably worse than the U.S.A.. At least you guys can have an Obama, we don’t have a hope in hell of a black Prime Minister any time soon.

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