Cafe Owner Posts Warning to Racist Customers: ‘I Am a Black Woman’

A black mother-of-three who owns a cafe in a heavily white town is taking a stand against the racism she says she's had to endure for the past two years by posting a sign on the door informing potential customers of her race in advance.

"Attention!," the all-caps sign exclaims, "everyone be aware I am a black woman, and always will be[.] If you are allergic to black people, don't come in."

Martha-Renee Kolleh, who runs Yeanon Café in the West Yorkshire (England) market town of Ossett, says customers regularly walk in "take a look at me and walk out."

Ossett's latest census figures show that out of 16,116 people, some 97.5% are white.

"I put [the sign] there because of the way people treat me in Ossett," said Kolleh, who noted that some have received the "warning" with an understanding laugh, while others responded with swear words.

In fact, things have gotten so bad that the cafe, which has been serving "quality wholesome" Afro-Caribbean barbecue meals for over two years, is on the verge of closing, and Kolleh says she will have to shut down if things don't improve by autumn.

"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," she tells BBC News. "But if Tracey is not working and I'm working nobody comes in."

A local Councillor told the Beeb he was "utterly appalled" by the sign and "shocked" at the allegations of racism. Still, he offered Kolleh his "full support" and said if racism did exist, "we have to crush it with everything we have got."

Meanwhile, the Yeanon Café Facebook page has been overrun with messages of support from people who have seen or heard of Kolleh's sign. "I just read the news report about your sign," wrote one user. "My reaction is unprintable."

[screengrabs via BBC News]