Friday, 28 September 2007

A Nightclub Forbidden to Africans

By Hakeem Babalola

On that summer night, Dan P and Prince had gone to Café de Rio at Petofi Híd in Budapest to enjoy themselves. At the gate, two muscular men - apparently bouncers - stopped them. The two gentlemen were refused entry while other party goers got a warm welcome. Dan P and Prince demanded to know the reason for being fenced. The bouncers’ explanation deeply shocked these two Africans.

"It's an instruction from the owner not to let you in," said one of the bouncers. "Two days ago, police came here looking for three black men in connection with drugs, so we have been instructed not to let blacks in. Now go away."

On the same night, Krizta, my Hungarian friend and I went to the same Café de Rio. I was also refused entry while Krizta was greeted with a smile. She could go inside but not with me. Being terribly shocked, she declined and insisted on going in with me. I guess she had never seen such unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice - in her life. She was so much disturbed that Daniel, Prince and I had to calm her down. "But they can’t do something like this," she kept saying.

Unlike Daniel, Prince and Krizta, I was not struck with fear of any kind. Why should I? After all, I had previously exposed a similar club named Hully Gully (now closed down) for refusing entry to Africans under the pretense of a private club. In those days Africans had to pretend to be American or British before they were allowed entry into Hully Gully. So I was not even angry with the bouncers; they were simply doing their job. Besides, I was in no mood for their brainless gabble.

But I made desperate attempt to speak with the owner. The issue at stake was so sensitive and thus required more than mere muscle power, hence my desperation to speak with someone with less muscle. Our attempt to reach the owner proved abortive. Meanwhile we passed the night at Zöld Pardon - the Club at the other side. As much as I tried, I couldn't get it from my mind, especially when I had been allowed entry into the same Café de Rio a week before.

Still overwhelmed by the intensity of such discrimination, Krizta took it upon herself to make sure something was being done. She sent a protest letter to the media; contacted National Ethnic Minority Ombudsman and other Human Rights Organisations. She seemed to be offended more than three of us put together. "Her reaction and that of people like her," said Prince, "is what keeps us going in this country."

In order to re-test the entry policy, I went to Café de Rio again. Alas, the situation was the same. Although as intimidating as they look, at no time did the bouncers result to physical abuse. They were just not in the mood to see dark faces. They were even generous enough to give me their boss telephone number. It was genuine but each time I called the boss, he "banged" his mobile phone. He was such a difficult man, and even threatened to deal with me should I persist in my "stupid" story. So I had no choice than to believe the bouncers.

Now let us examine the reason stated by the security guards for refusing entry to "blacks". The excuse sounds so implausible at first that I wondered if the security guards could be telling the truth. Just because law enforcement agents were looking for three black men, then they must be looking for all black men in Hungary! We need to tell this man that his irrational decision is offensive to "blacks" all over the world. Or does he think insulting "blacks" is so mundane that no one would raise an eye brow?

I am not sure whether the owner of Café de Rio would likewise instruct the bouncers to fend off all white people, had the police were looking for three white men in connection with drugs. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I wouldn’t mind if anyone had been refused entry on the suspicious of causing trouble. I sense the owner of Café de Rio must have been waiting for an opportunity like this in order to carry out such bigotry message. Thank God people like him are not at the helm of affairs, otherwise all of us blessed with dark skin would be languishing in jail by now.

But we should enlighten him that racial prejudice is always a delicate issue; it calls for sound judgement rather than hypothetical reasoning. He must also be told in plain language that his presumption was not only wrong but un-called for. In case of ignorance, we should as well educate this man about the fact that, same race does not necessarily connote one people. Therefore, his supposition that all "blacks" are criminal is unjustified.

"The thing worries me, and I am disappointed," groaned Prince who has lived in Hungary for twenty years. "It’s simply discrimination. Enough is enough."

Eriksson, a Swede who spoke to me after witnessing the situation, puts it succinctly: "You mean they refused you entry because of your colour? They can’t do that in Sweden. The place will close down if you can prove it."

A Nigerian living in Sweden agrees with Eriksson's statement. "Yes o! It will be closed down," screamed Adeola Aderounmu. "Or you guys will be smiling to the bank by now. But sometimes sha, Swedish bouncers can be ridiculous. Where they have dress codes, you just also need to know how to make them not to have excuses. And sometimes, there's something called Legitimation - valid ID."

Well, the Hungarian constitution specifically outlaws any form of discrimination in private enterprises open to the public. Yet discrimination against minorities at some nightclubs is not a new complain heard at City Hall. "But I can’t imagine a situation like this," said Balasz Endrenyi, an officer at the Mayor Office. "It’s unbelievable that such thing is happening."

The founder of Mahatman Gandi Human Right’s Movement, Jibril Deen, was not surprised to hear such discrimination. "Of course that’s their usual song," he said. "Our disco is a private club."

Katalin Korda, a secretary at the National Ethnics Minority Ombudsman was taken aback when she heard the story. "It’s astonishing, she said, "to refuse someone because of his or her skin colour. It’s an insult." Unfortunately, the National Ethnics Minority Ombudsman has no official power to open investigation against private persons, according to its lawyer, Katalin Haraszti.

To some people such discrimination is both hypocrisy and immaturity. "The whole thing is a child’s play," groaned Dan, who is a naturalised Hungarian. "Imagine they don’t want blacks in their Café but they play black music. Isn’t it hypocrisy?"

copyright 2007

Author’s note: The first incident happened in the summer of 2002 and nothing has changed since then. Every time I pass through Café do Rio, the experience lingers in my memory. Budapest Sun, the only English newspaper at the time refused to publish this article. It is the reason I parted with them.


Jojo said...

i beg come back home, why forcing urself on people who dont love u ..friendship dem na by choice no be by force.i dont even know wetin this man dey do for sweeden self..for how long are will going to cry about discrimination/racist in a foreign land? as if we are not been discriminate in our own country...
God help us

Shoko Loko Bangoshe said...

Unlike Daniel, Prince and Krizta, I was not struck with fear of any kind. Why should I? After all, I had previously exposed a similar club named Hully Gully (now closed down) for refusing entry to Africans under the pretense of a private club. In those days Africans had to pretend to be American or British before they were allowed entry into Hully Gully. So I was not even angry with the bouncers; they were simply doing their jobs. Besides, I was in no mood for their brainless gabble.

I'm puzzled about the bolded bits, Hakeem. Are private clubs in Hungary allowed to choose who they do and don't want to let in? Or are they forced to let anyone in without any say in who is admitted? Must a club be specially registered to be regarded as a private club?

wale Adeniyi said...

The golden advice for you is to please keep off such places like Cafe de Rio.
Although I am sure the authorities will want to do something about it, such move could best be described as cosmetics as I am not sure they will not climb down when it gets to the nitty gritty of the matter, God forbids, should the worst happens inside that club. Oyinbo people have a way supporting themselves.
Ignore this club and go to where you are welcomed for your raving.

Exxcuzme said...

It beats me why black people are the ones you will see selling drugs at corners like in holland.....back in the early 90s when I was there....these people having nutty hair-do....someone tolde me they are carribean blacks. Then you can see some other Africans selling drugs in lilly-white countries too. I wonder what the hell is wrong with black people everywhere. Though, I do not condone discrimination, but i was appalled that i did not see whites selling drugs openly like those fellows.

Unfortunately you see this type of discrimation everywhere, that does not mean your own people will treat you any better if you go to say, Nigeria Embassies anywhere. I went to Nigeria Embassy in Atlanta last year, i was not being attended to but people that spoke, not Hausa or Yoruba got better deal. I could not tell what tribe those working at the embassy were but I know they were not speaking Yoruba or Hausa. So whenever I see and experience discrimination from my countrymen, then I just shrugg when I am treated different abroad. How i for do?

ocnus said...

Years ago, when I was graduate student in London my friends used to invite me to the Zambezi Club in Earls' Court (the only place where you could get cold beer). The members were all South Africans and Rhodesians; very nice people. One day they said I should join myself. I said OK how do I do it? They then returned to me and said that, unfortunately I couldn't join because I was an American. It sounded a bit mad so I asked what they had against Americans. They said they had nothing against Americans but there were Black Americans and they might want to join as well. They couldn't allow this so all Americans were barred from membership. I pointed out their own countries were majority black people so how did that work? They said that their black people would never visit the cluib or join because they knew better than to try. So I politely refused honourary Zambezi Rhodesian citizenship and didn't become a member. You see, you can be discrimninated against on the basis of colour, as an oyinbo, even at a distance. The world of discrimination is a mad world.

Frisky Larr said...

=Shoko Loko Bangoshe;2091812471>I'm puzzled about the bolded bits, Hakeem. Are private clubs in Hungary allowed to choose who they do and don't want to let in? Or are they forced to let anyone in without any say in who is admitted? Must a club be specially registered to be regarded as a private club?

SLB Sir,

It is a strange practice that also obtains here in Germany. The law (precisely the constitution) guards against racism and does not want anyone discriminated against on the basis of the color of his skin. At the same time however, "the sanctity of the home" or "domestic peace" is given a stronger priority over racial safeguard. In other words, it is the absolute prerogative of the owner of a property to choose who to or not to let into his own property. This right is always invoked. Issues like this are commonplace in Germany. Last time I was in Sheffield and told a Nigerian friend about it, he exclaimed in bewilderment. In any major city in England, the numerical strength of the black population will be brought in and any such club that dare gives "the color of the skin" as a reason for declining entry, may be run down viciously. Unfortunately not in such European countries as have an insignificant number of blacks.

Celticologist said...

Of course not a nice experience to be turned back at the door of a nightclub, but sorry if Nigerians think that everywhere is for the taking just cos the law says it. Business owners know it would be hard to prove a variety of discrimination. Plus the expelled guy is not likely to report anything for the fact that there are immigration hurdles to deal with....That's one of the many assumptions. If Nigerians own the clubs in question, I can bet that the first "customers" to be expelled would be Nigerians...the same nationality as the owner. Europeans are more likely to be welcome.

I have only once witnessed such incidences in Irish Pub, Berlin. A drinking club inside of Europa Center, Berlin Germany. It did not take long for the Polizei to expell West Africans (99% nigerians who often claim to be americans despite a terribly obvious lagos english) from that area due to continous complaints by business owners (mainly Irish Pub, KFC) and a number of women. A lot of German Police action depends on intelligence reports by non-uniformed officers, mostly women, so most of these complaints were legitimate. In the case of Irish Pub, it was a choice between being closed down for drug related activities or enforcing an unpopular action...which seem to please their regular customers.

Talking about conduct, It was not uncommon back then that a few Nigerians did have small businesses like an "african shop". But in terms of discipline, they differ heavily from Ghanaians and Ethiopians who run similar shops. If you find an african shop with several males standing around, talking loud, shouting, arguing bout politics and behaving in such a way that genuine (female) customers don't feel comfortable; THAT shop is owned by a Nigerian, whose mentality is just about the same or lower than the crowd making nuisance in his shop everyday. Many of them slowly died out of business after gaining very bad reputations. A few intelligent guys did let their wives run these shops and you would only find customers there, not loud mouthed friends. One night club also operated for a while along Kufurtstendamm...owned by a Nigerian. It took two police raids to finally kill that club his brothers turned it into a drug depot.

If anyone has previously been to a club and got turned back at a point, you need to investigate a li'll bit. You would find out that "bruvers" have effectively rendered other "bruvers" good records to the mud. You could be a professor and it wouldn't matter to the club bouncer. Dublin, Holland, Belgium, Houston, Johanesburg....same thing everywhere.

Like I said, if a Nigerian operate these clubs, the first to expell would be anyone who look like him. Or any black african who doesn't come with his woman.

depirate said...

I live in a predominantly white country (Ireland) but what is described will still be unacceptable, this is not an issue of the reputation of Nigerian or how loud they are but about right and wrong and discrimination based on colour, tribe or sexual orientation is just plain wrong and the fact that it happens in Nigeria or to the immigrant community is irrelevant and those advocating its acceptance because it is not our 'home' simply encourage its perpetuation, and one question should our children accept this same treatment afterall they ARE black and nigerian. Please continue with the fight and save future generations of black PEOPLE such humiliation. Thank you.
P/s hi to the village square (my first post this)

mulan said...

Unfortunately, worse discrimination happens in continental Europe than the UK. I have experienced such myself but lke Celticologist pointed out and also from the experiences of friends living in Germany and Switzerland, a lot of black africans including Nigerians give the rest a bad reputation through some negative activities...


What reason did the newspaper give for refusing to publish your article, though I should think they are under no obligation to publish any article sha...

Kay Soyemi (Esq.) said...


I live in London and would probably stick out my neck and claim it is not as bad as that ever here.

But having said that, London has had a longer time to learn to live with us, black people, albeit grudgingly.

In the late 50s and early 60s, it used to be "no dogs, no Irish, no blacks" until the Carribeans, specifically, Jamaicans came along on the Windrush.

They were not docile and willing to placidly accept such derogation and took to beating up white folks who tried to make them second class citizens on the basis of their colour. Of course, this caused a lot of tensions and killings on both sides. Europe's largest street party today, the Notting Hill Carnival came out of the defiance of the Carribean race to accept the tag of inferiority.

Today, blacks - without tribal marks - are still feared on the streets of London by ignorant white people who would relate to people on the basis of their colour for fear that they could be Jamaicans.

Whilst I do not condone violence, I have to give the utmost respect to the Jamaican attitudes that made life easier for other blacks to hold their own proudly in London, probably England, today.

Having said all these, I have had ocassions when I have been asked to leave pubs in London by other white guests who felt I was invading their territory in the company of other black guys who had the same mindset as I do. We always refused and insisted that the police is called to remove us in those instances. Think about it, what better way to draw attention to the matter immediately?

From experience, I have come to realise that the white people who throw the race card are simply the ignorant and impoverished ones with low education and would back away from a challenge.

If you believe in your rights in this case, then stand up and fight for it. Other black people would later benefit from your actions, if not immediately.

Remember Rosa Parks?

Otunba said...

One word. Tolerance. Many people in many societies still dont get it. All the posturing and gerrymandering is because some people somewhere are prejudiced and have decided not to tolerate others. Simple.
If someone has committed a crime, arrest him, prove it and punish him according to the laws of the land. There is no need to put a blanket on his family, or in this case, anyone with a dark daft, how gross

ABRAXAS said...

Hi, folks!

I wonder whether it is worth anyone's wile to question why they are "forbidden" from a particular night club.

The likelihood that the night club in question would not meet the expectations of the "forbidden" person is predictably high, EVEN if there was no hindrance to their admission in to the night club. So, why bother to force yourself into what is very likely not going to give you satisfaction?

Muchas gracias.

Don Juan-Carlos ABRAXAS (III)

Rose said...

Hakeem, imagine if clubs in your own homeland refused to serve Blacks but allowed whites exclusively. A friend from India says it happens there all the time.

Aderemi said...

I lived in Budapest for 20years, sad enough there were pockets of racial insults/attacks like that during my time too, I took it as a "fear" in those idiots, and i simply walked away, I spent my money somewhere else.
Those illitrates have totally lost their minds, they are surely disrespecting another man's ethnicity. I know they are afraid of us because they know that we have influenced nearly every facet of their "white" world, from our music to our style of dressing, love making, etc ;-)) These idiots play our music as you said, not to mention their immitation of our sense of cool, walk, mannerism. We enrich their basic existence, all the while contributing to the gross national product of their developed world through our achievements and we left our continent to rotten. Recently the silly Dr. Watson (DNA Co-discoverer) said clearly that whites are intelligent than blacks. Another idiot UK politician stated he has never came across anything being discovered by african. Those people have forgotten that their forefathers ruined the black continent. -I am sick of all these "shit", these are what influence those bastards to be fencing black people from a night club not to talk of giving a job to a simple blackman. in every case it's hard for a blackman expecially in that dark world of eastern europe....very sad!. It's their conceits that discomfort me, when I am faced with those ignorant cowardly bitter bigots, who have no talents, no guts. People like them who desecrate things they don't understand when the truth is they should be saying "thank you the black people"
--Dr Remi Ogunjimi