After experiencing a number of patrons walking out of her store once they realized she is the Black owner of Yeanon Cafe, Martha-Renee Kolleh (pictured) decided to warn the bigots of Ossett, West Yorkshire, with the following sign: “I am a black woman… If you are allergic to Black people, don’t come in (pictured below),” reports the BBC.
Kolleh, who lives in an area of about 16,000 residents with nearly 98 percent of them White, says she conjured up the idea for the sign because of the way she has been treated. The single Mother of three said,”They just open the door of my cafe, and once they take a look at me, they walk out. I hired a White woman called Tracey. When Tracey is in the cafe, she does well and people will come in and it will be full — once I stay in the background. But if Tracey is not working and I’m working, nobody comes in.”
After two years of running her cafe, which serves a mixture of British, African, and Caribbean food, Kolleh is now calling out her entire town as being racist and said that she does have supporters. “There are some very nice people in Ossett and they’ve been very, very nice to me.”
Reactions from the folks in town about the in-your-face sign have been mixed. According to Kolleh, “Some people find it amusing, they were laughing and said, ‘Oh yes, it’s about time you put that up,’ so I think they all realize what’s going on here,” she said. “And some others just read it and walk away. I’ve heard one or two swear words as well regarding the notice.”
Labor councilor Tony Richardson, who represents the town in the city of Wakefield Metropolitan District Council, says he was taken aback and was “appalled” by Kolleh’s sign. The politico told the BBC that if there is a problem with racism in the town, then he will spearhead efforts to destroy it. Richardson, who claims he has fought against racist attitudes as a trade unionist for 20 years, wants to meet with Kolleh and offer her his support, “I am absolutely certain there is not a problem in Ossett. I have met thousands of people in Ossett, and they are wonderful people, very diverse,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kolleh laments that if business does not pick up, she will have to throw in the towel this fall and close the doors of her business.