By Angela Birdsong
CULVER CITY — About 200 protesters gathered Nov. 24 outside wholesale cash and carry food service supplier Restaurant Depot/Jetro to demand justice for Passion Schoolfield, a single Black mother who was fired for expressing an opinion about Ye, the rapper also known as Kanye West.
According to Schoolfield, she was speaking with a customer in her cashier’s line about celebrities they like and was overheard by another customer when she said, “I like Ye. He keeps it real.”
Then, she says, a customer, a white male, got out of the check-out line, got in her face, and questioned her. “You like Ye?” he asked.
After repeating that several times, he walked off and spoke with a manager. Moments later, Schoolfield was suspended and the next day she was fired.
“This protest was a community effort to get justice for Passion, and what this focuses on is what we believe was anti-Black aggression against her for a basically ridiculous firing because she said she liked Kanye West,” said Ludlow Cleary II, Schoolfield’s attorney. “We really wanted to get that message out that there’s a line that was crossed.”
Schoolfield did not speak during the press conference. However, she told California Black Media that retail has been her career since she was 18, and while working at Restaurant Depot, she loved the customers and the people.
The protest was called by the newly formed, faith-based Grassroots Community Coalition Against Anti-Blackness. For now, the group is demanding compensation for stress caused to Schoolfield and her children, particularly her two autistic sons, “Blackness sensitivity” training — not diversity training, they emphasized — and revising the company’s employment policy.
“Black Jobs Matter and no one will be able to get in here to buy (nothing) from Jetro Restaurant Depot until my sister gets justice, until Passion gets her job back,” said Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad, Nation of Islam western region representative. “She has the right to her job to take care of her family.
Muhammad, formerly known as Tony Muhammad, is also the student minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 27. He issued the coalition’s demand for a response during the press conference and protest.
“This is a Rosa Parks moment,” he added. “We’re living in a cancel culture, but it looks like that cancel culture is directed at Black people with consciousness. And any of us who desire to stand up and be conscious and support one another, there seems to be a system in place that’s telling us we can’t do that.”
Ralph Vasquez, manager of the Restaurant Depot Store, gave no comment when asked about Schoolfield’s termination and the protest. No response has been received yet from Restaurant Depot’s corporate and West Coast regional offices.
“There are people in our world that have done worse things than Kanye, that get voted into office and people never lose their job for supporting them,” said Ryan Sims, pastor of Revelation Church of God in Christ.
As a father, Sims said, no one would want their child, wife, aunt, mother or even their cousin, to go through what Schoolfield has endured. As a community, big brothers and sisters, they are standing with her, he said.
“If someone in our community likes someone in our community, it’s not a violation,” he added. “It’s not against humanity. It’s not against the law. It’s simply self-love and if that’s a crime, then lock us all up.”
Schoolfield is that kind and engaging worker behind the counter that’s attentive to their customers, said Anthony “Shep” Crawford, senior pastor of the Experience Christian Ministries Church. “And in that conversation, someone overhears it, gets offended, tries to bully her … and once she answers the questions, he asks her again. I do not like that. We do not like that, but she stood her ground.”
Her mistreatment is about a corrupt system, not a rogue manager, he said, pointing to the store’s entrance. “We will not have it. We will not stand for it. You have here, present today, Muslims, Christians, Baptists, Church of God in Christ, community mothers … even law enforcement, here to stand,” Crawford said.
Many who turned out to support Schoolfield felt she was unjustly fired. Some offered donations for the young mother of three who is now unemployed and may be unable to apply for unemployment benefits.
“We’re standing here for Passion because what took place here at Restaurant Depot is unjust,” said Rev. K.W. Tulloss, president of the Baptist Minister’s Conference of Los Angeles and member of the National Action Network. “What Jetro did was wrong. And we want to make this wrong a right.”
The coalition has set up a GoFundMe page, which so far has raised $2,000 to help Schoolfield pay rent and feed her children.
The group intends to interrupt the economy of Restaurant Depot/Jetro, said Bishop Craig Worsham, founder and senior pastor of the Agape Church of Los Angeles.
He challenged all present at the protest to stand united in that cause until Restaurant Depot comes to the table with a reasonable resolution.
“There are African American-owned restaurants, catering companies, churches that dump hundreds of thousands up to millions of dollars into this establishment, so if you are anti-Black Passion, then you are anti-Black our dollars,” Worsham said.
Other organizations present were Asians with Attitude and Second Call Gang Intervention and Prevention.
Angela Birdsong is a contributing writer for California Black Media.