Durham baristas fired over explicit music, citing Duke VP as factor

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Britni Brown and Kevin Simmons were let go from their positions at the Duke University's Joe Van Gogh coffee house Monday, after Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Moneta lodged a complaint about the song, "Get Paid" by Young Dolph, that was playing at Joe Van Gogh, the publication said.

It's safe to say Young Dolph's music isn't the best setting of a coffee shop, and now two baristas are having to find out the hard way. When Moneta walked up to the register he told Brown that "The words, 'I'll F*** you upside down, ' are inappropriate". She grabbed him a vegan muffin and offered it free of charge.

She thanked the protesters for showing support on Wednesday, adding, "you don't know what this means to me, as a lowly African American barista working on a white supremacist campus". I was shocked to hear lyrics playing quite loudly I found quite inappropriate for a working environment that serves children among others ("I f**cked her up real good").

A few days later, Brown says she and Simmons were asked to resign.

Moneta paid for his order and promptly left the store. "This was like an honest mistake that just happened to pop up on a playlist", she said.


Despite this, Brown and Simmons were both fired the next week. "Duke University has instructed us to terminate the employees that were working that day", she said, a point she reiterated a couple of times. And they can shut us down at any point.

"Duke University has instructed us to terminate the employees that were working that day", she continued. That day, Brown was in charge of the music that unfortunately led to their termination. "Of course!' So I cut off the music immediately and apologized". So I didn't understand what was going on, and why the customer was being verbally aggressive.

It remains unclear whether Brown and Simmons will return to their jobs.

"For [Kevin] to be fired because of this, it is not fair", Britni said in the recorded interview with the HR rep. "I feel like you guys were trying to cover it up as to make it not look discriminatory for firing a person of color", she said. She also defended her coworker who did not have control over the music. While suffering the indignity of waiting in line, Moneta heard the musical stylings of one Young Dolph.

"To those who feel that I've flipped on my positions on free expression, I say this".


In an email to the Duke Chronicle, Moneta, clearly still shaken up by the curses-but not almost as distraught about hate speech, per Indy Week-states that he was shocked to hear such language in his coffee shop, and that after expressing his displeasure with the staff he their boss Coffey to continue to express more displeasure, but "that was the end of [his] involvement". "The employees who chose to play the song in a business establishment on the Duke campus made a poor decision which was conveyed to [Joe Van Gogh] management", he wrote.

Joe Van Gogh employees are contracted workers. Wiley replies, "This is coming from the university".

Robbie Roberts, the coffee shop owner, posted an apology on Twitter on Wednesday after the employee firings had made national news.

Brown also said that when she was hired at Joe Van Gogh's, where she worked for a year-and-a-half, she was never informed that there was an expectation that the music played be appropriate. "We are taking steps to remedy this matter, but all company personnel issues are private and will remain private".

Speaking with the Indy Star on Monday, Brown and Simmons, who both accepted the severance package and are now looking for other work, said they wished the situation had been resolved differently.


Brown says that Wiley repeatedly mentioned that it was Duke's decision, not Joe Van Gogh's. "We could have just been moved to another shop".

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