Liberia has 16 indigenous tribes that occupied the region until 1817, when freed Blacks from the United States begun returning back to Africa. These Americo Liberians returned by way of an organization known as ACS, the American Colonization Society, which was in charge of organizing the groups’ migration back to Africa. Due to the fact that these freed Blacks were more educated than the indigenous Liberians, they were able to mobilize the political apparatus and formulate the constitution, which led to Liberia becoming the first independent African country in 1847.
The first 8 Liberian presidents, who are represented on the mural of the restaurant, were all freed Blacks born in the United States. My favorite and I believe the most inspirational, was Dr. James Skirving Smith, who was the only one of the eight born in the South. The other seven Liberian presidents were all Northerners, most from the Virginia area. Dr. Smith moved to Liberia at the age of 8 in 1833, but returned to the United States after both of his parents died from Malaria. Motivated by this tragedy, he studied medicine and became the first African American to earn a medical degree. He later returned to Liberia and served as Vice President under President Edward James Roye. Following Roye’s untimely death, Smith became President of Liberia for the last 3 months of Roye’s term. He’s the most inspirational president because not only was he born in the South, but he made it to Liberia, came back to become the first Black man to earn a medical degree to then becoming President of Liberia. I find his story very amazing, which is why I chose to share it.
Liberia is very similar to the United States in many ways, from the flag, to culture, to names and most importantly, the food. I may be bias, but I believe that Liberia has the best food in West Africa because of the unique blend of traditional and fusion dishes, which makes our dining experience very exotic! On the traditional side, we have dishes like Cassava Leaf, Pak Butter, Palava Sauce and Beans Torborgee. Whereas, our fusion dishes includes Potato Greens/Spinach, Collard Greens, Eggplant, Fried Okra and Oxtails, all of which are served here at Kendejah Restaurant.
Kendeja, used to be the number one culture center in Liberia, where artists went to learn their crafts which included drumming, dancing, carving, painting amongst many other things. Unfortunately, Bob Johnson, the former owner of BET purchased it for $30 Million and turned it into a resort. Things didn’t work out and he recently sold it for $10 Million to a group from Ghana. Even though the culture may have been taken away, Kendeja will always be remembered as THE culture center of Liberia. It is for this very reason that I chose to name the restaurant Kendejah adding the (H) on the end for branding purposes.