Using Your Voice
By: Sleepless in Monrovia
“If there isn’t a seat at the table, pull up your own chair, and if there’s no space to place your chair, build your own damn table.” – Shari Raji
There is no combination of words that describes the inception of Sleepless in Monrovia (SiM) more aptly. Liberia’s first social justice blog was birthed out of a need to create something that would fill the void of literary expression that exists within our Liberian society, especially when it comes to discussing “taboo topics.” This is why we felt the urge to launch SiM with our inaugural series that covered a wide range of taboo topics that exist in the Liberian context.
As Liberians, we are often accustomed to seeing, but not addressing prohibited topics and this could be because we tend to not want to blow the whistle on corruption, speak up on oppressive aspects of our traditions and customary practices, or create discomfort in our particular areas. Hence, we allow abuse, bigotry, and other negative practices, fester in the dark. We at SiM realized that another key factor as to why Liberians aren’t discussing taboo topics are because most people, especially the youth, have not been afforded safe spaces to confront our realities and have discussions around these issues. We understand the fear that comes with discussing these sensitive issues though; the fear of judgment, stigmatization, name calling, etc. We have also wondered, when faced with telling stories that are “easier” left untold, whether or not to pull back those curtains, but then we ask ourselves, if not us, then who? If not now, then when?
We do not presume to speak on behalf of our writers or readers, but we will tell you that since the launch of SiM, a growing number of Liberians continue to shed light on social justice issues and affect changes through our blog. SiM has had numerous submissions where the authors write to break stereotypes and gender biases; people have also used this platform to get messages out to our government, the general public and the powers that be. The article Sex For Job shed light on the prevailing horror of sexual harassment in the workplace, sexual assault survivors have written pieces like My Encounter with a Pedophile to tell their stories, Racism and Sexism at Sajj House challenged the racist and sexist regulations that existed at a bar in Monrovia, People be Gay, Get over It covered the lives and experiences of the alienated and ill-treated LGBTQ+ community in Liberia, and The Noxious Medical Situation at the Monrovia Central Prison highlighted to the public our abysmal prison system and pleaded with the government to do better. However, not all our pieces are so serious, we have had humorous submissions like Who Yor Really Lovin? written in koloqua and our first short story, The Middle Passage was so well written and fabulously intoxicating, we had readers contacting us and asking for the second and third parts of the series to be posted ASAP.
However, our aim at SiM is not to affect change overnight, because that is impossible, but we want to create discussions around issues because when you talk about problems, you come up with solutions to these problems. The writers that submit to us tend to write about things that have impacted or is impacting them or somebody around them, and finding the courage to write about things like that is never easy. That’s why we appreciate our writers so much because they use SiM to fight their demons and provide catharsis for so many people who have been through or are going through similar things. We like to think that this site is serving as therapy for some people, both writers and readers; we believe that reading or writing about the unspeakable things that happen to you helps to unburden yourself and the outpouring of “me too” that we get in our comment sections help us all to realize that we’re not alone in our darkness, and this in turn gives hope.
We are eternally happy that we have created a platform where writers can use writing to change the narrative on social justice and controversial issues in the Liberian societies around the world. In addition to all the good we’re fighting to do for the general public, we also are enthusiastic that we have created a platform where young writers can thrive and get help to flourish in their passion for writing. We work along with our writers on all submissions, to edit and structure their message in a way that ensures clarity and understanding.
We want to help us all to use our voices and change the narrative; we want to create a world where a victim of assault isn’t blamed and the perpetrator of the violence isn’t excused, but made to pay for his/her actions, where the government fights for the actual good of the people, and where stereotypes and dangerous norms don’t thrive among the majority. We want to use our proverbial mouths and pens to create a world of fairness and equality, or something as close to that as possible.
To read all our amazing submissions and discover a gift that keeps on giving, head over to our site www.sleeplessinmonrovia.com, subscribe first, then gorge yourself on that good stuff.