After Starbucks arrest, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson speak out: “We want to see true change”

Starbucks Rashon Nelson Donte Robinson
Starbucks GMA interview with Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson (Screengrab)

Starbucks came under fire this week after video surfaced on social media showing Philadelphia police officers arresting two Black men for sitting in the coffee house waiting for a business colleague.

The fiery backlash on social media was swift with people calling for the popular coffee chain to address this incident using the hashtag #boycottstarbucks and demands that the Starbucks manager who called the police be fired immediately.

According to, the manager who has been identified in media reports at Holly Hylton, has left the company in what a company spokeswoman called a “mutual” decision.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson met with the two men to apologize personally.

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And today, the two men at the center of the controversy, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson spoke with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America to share their side of the story.

Nelson and Robinson told Robin Roberts they were at Starbucks for a real estate meeting that they had been working on for months. Their lawyer said they approached Starbucks to enter mediation with a retired federal judge in Philadelphia to address the matter. He said the terms are confidential.

When asked what they wanted to see come out of the situation the two men responded:

Donte Robinson: “I want to make sure that this situation doesn’t happen again so what I want [is] for a young man to not be traumatized by this, and instead motivated and inspired.”

Rashon Nelson: “Take this opportunity as a stepping stone to really stand up and show your greatness and that you are not judged by the color of your skin as our ancestors were or anyone else. This has been something that has been going on for years. Everyone is blind to it but they know what is going on, if you get what I mean. You know, just really taking those actions and putting them in place and helping people understand that this is a people thing and that’s exactly what we want to see out of this. True change.”


Going forward

It has now been announced that, “Starbucks says it will close more than 8,000 company-owned stores in the United States on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores.”

Kevin Johnson has called for “unconscious bias” training for Starbucks store managers, and says he is deeply sorry for the  “reprehensible” circumstances that led to the arrest of the two men at a store in Philadelphia.

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“I will fix this,” Johnson said in a video message.

Yesterday, the Grand Basileus of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Antonio F. Knox, Sr. released the following statement:

Giving Honor to God and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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. The latest incident on the news around the world touched our Omega family as one of the young en arrested at the Starbucks in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 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. While we won’t yet releases names, please know that this Basileus and Chapter Brothers have been in touch. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “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! 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. There were others in Starbucks that boldly stood up to speak against the actions taken by police and management. The CEO of Starbucks has made a public apology and I applaud his sincerity but the change within his company must include the training of management and employees on the correct procedures to embrace and understand diversity and continuously act accordingly. This will determine if Starbucks gets this right.

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!