Rickey Smiley and Others Send Message to Frat Brother Arrested for Trespassing In Racist Starbucks Incident

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Following official word from Starbucks that CEO Kevin Johnson had a private meeting with the Black men who were arrested at a Philadelphia location, one of the men has been named. The Grio reported Rashon Nelson, a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., has earned the support of his frat after being accused of trespassing at the coffee shop Thursday.

Nelson and another Black man had arrived to meet with a white colleague who the Philadelphia Inquirer identified as real estate investor Andrew Yaffe. By the time he had shown up, however, officers were arresting the men. The incident was caught on tape and quickly went viral.

With calls for a boycott of Starbucks ringing loud and clear, Grand Basileus Tony Knox issued a statement backing Nelson on Monday, April 16.

“The times that we are living in continue to unveil the bold and dark side of racism through the lens of ready cameras of witnesses that record the injustices that are reported daily,” Knox said. “The latest incident on the news around the world touched our Omega family as one of the young men arrested at the Starbucks in Philadelphia, Pa., is an Omega Man and remarkable example of resilient courage in the face of undeserved fire. I thank God for his sense of presence and calm because the encounter with police officers could have been very different.”

Adding that the organiation wouln’t confirm a name as yet, he quoted the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech: “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”

“Brothers, I say to you fifty-five years later that now is the time!” Knox wrote. “This was very clearly racial injustice but maybe this case will be the catalyst to create the positive change that we seek. When people of all diversities, ethnicities and cultures stand to speak out, the world takes notice.”

Knox commended Johnson for apologizing about the incident before calling on Starbucks to provide racial sensitivity training, which the Seattle-based chain announced today it would close 8,000 locations to perform.

“This will determine if Starbucks gets this right,” Knox said before concluding, “My Brothers, let’s continue to lift as we climb to show this world how good it will be when we all turn to the solid rock of brotherhood and mankind! WE ARE ONE!”

Members of Omega Psi Phi and other Divine Nine organizations have posted their support for Nelson online, too.

“Justice for Rashon,” a Philadelphia-based Omega brother posted on Facebook where he shared Knox’s letter.

“One never knows who may be revealed on the other side of the track of life when foolishness is caused by another. Thank you, Brother Rashon Nelson, for representing Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and the members of the Divine Nine,” wrote a Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., member on her Facebook page. “You upheld in high esteem the fraternity’s rites of passage and perseverance, especially when many throw stones due to lack of knowledge and understanding of us all especially outside of this uncivilized situation.”

Famous Omega brother and radio host Rickey Smiley also praised Nelson telling The Grio in part, “If I could speak to him right now, I would congratulate him on using discretion. He did it the right way. He was calm and reminded me of when people like Dr. King were arrested back in the Civil Rights movement.”


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