The Crusader Newspaper Group

Starbucks called out after arrests

Leaders say racial diversity training not enough to address plight of Blacks in

Corporate America

Crusader Staff Report

Some of Chicago’s Black leaders are calling for changes at Starbucks after two Black men were arrested at the coffee chain in Philadelphia, igniting accusations of racial profiling and renewing concerns about the longstanding inequity of prominent businesses in underserved Black neighborhoods.

“Corporate America owes Black America,” said Phillip Jackson, founder of the Black Star Project in Bronzeville. “America’s wealth and success today can be directly or indirectly connected to the enslavement and destruction of Black Americans in the past. And in so many ways, much of it is still happening today.”

Jackson held a press conference at the organization’s headquarters in Bronzeville on Tuesday, April 17, where he used Starbucks to call attention to the lack of respect towards Blacks by Corporate America. His criticism came despite an announcement by Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson who said that 8,000 Starbucks stores will close May 29 for diversity training.

Jackson said diversity training is not enough to address Starbuck’s problem.

“This is not about coffee, this is not about tea” Jackson said. “This about whether young Black men and families have a place in America. We are trying to send a message that we will be respected.”

Jackson urged activists to boycott 10 Starbucks in Chicago for two hours on Wednesday, April 18.

One of those Starbucks is located in South Shore on Stony Island and 71st Street. It’s the only Starbucks located in a predominately Black Chicago neighborhood. After years of planning, it opened in 2004 and was co-owned by business mogul and former NBA star, Magic Johnson. Today Johnson no longer owns the store, but owns several Starbucks across the country as part of an effort of civic initiatives to boost the number of prominent stores in Black neighborhoods in America. Johnson has remained silent on Starbuck’s problem since the arrests of the men in Philadelphia began.

Despite Jackson’s calls for a boycott, the Starbucks in South Shore was busy with patrons during a visit by a Chicago Crusader reporter. A handful of protestors held signs outside the establishment as a security guard stood by.

Starbucks cafes are usually located in relatively affluent, disproportionately white areas, according to data analyzed by Bloomberg, a business news service. According to Bloom-berg’s analysis of information from AggData and the U.S. Census Bureau, Starbucks neighborhoods skew less Black than the surrounding population. Bloomberg said across the U.S., ZIP codes including at least one Starbucks location are 9.9 percent Black and 59.1 percent white. That compares with an overall population that’s 12.1 percent Black.

The report comes as public outcry continues to grow after a store manager made a call to the police that led to the arrest of two Black men who were handcuffed and escorted out of a shop in Philadelphia on April 12.

Reports say the men were waiting for a friend for a business meeting when one of them asked to use the bathroom; a Starbucks manager told him the facility was only for paying patrons. The manager then called the police who asked the men to leave, but they refused. A video that went viral on Twitter showed the men being arrested despite the objections of the white friend who arrived as seven police officers surrounded the two men. Several white patrons could be heard on the video saying the men did nothing wrong. One white person said she didn’t buy anything and wasn’t asked to leave.

In 911 tapes released Tuesday, April 17, a police dispatcher said that a “group of males was causing a disturbance at Starbucks.”

The men, whose names have not been released, were held in police custody for more than six hours and released at 2 a.m. the following morning. A spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors decided not to press charges based on a lack of evidence. A report said one of the two men has retained Stewart Cohen of Cohen, Placitella & Roth, a well-known mass-tort civil litigation firm, as protesters on Monday staged sit-ins.

Starbucks on Tuesday said the manager who called the police is no longer with the company. That same day Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said he met with the two men to personally apologize. But the move has failed to stop the string of protests and sit-ins by various organizations in the city at the Philadelphia Starbucks.

“The arrest of two Black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks represents another ominous signal on the increasingly dangerous environment for African Americans. Less than two weeks after we honor the life and work of Dr. King and 50 years after the Kerner Commission found racism and police brutality at the root of public unrest in our communities, we still have a long way to go towards becoming a nation where a person is judged by the content of their character not the color of their skin.”

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