Former activists Michelle Saahene and Melissa DePino recently ended their partnership over disagreement about how each should be compensated according to the Los Angeles Times.
The L.A. Times reported on Saahene and DePino’s professional relationship which originally began after capturing on video of two Black men being arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks after asking to use the restroom in 2018. The video went viral which lead the two women to form the company Privilege to Progress (P2P) to promote sensitivity training for corporations.
However, over the past few years, their professional and personal relationship following the Starbucks video crumbled over Saahene accusing DePino of being insensitive to her role as a Black woman.
"This is what happens when white women insert themselves into what should be Black-led organizations," Saahene told the L.A. Times. "White supremacy and emotional abuse get masked under kindness."
Kaleem said their partnership beginning to falter after George Floyd’s death in 2020. Though P2P originally took off after the controversial video emerged, the company slowly faltered as interest dried up in the following years. During this time, Saahene began to reexamine her perspective as a Black woman.
"Saahene grew introspective. Living in Ghana for long stretches had made her feel empowered in her Black skin. She began to question her role as a Black woman who spoke to white audiences about racism," the L.A. Times wrote. "She began to think back to disagreements she’d had with DePino — differences that had seemed minor at the time but in a new light felt more troubling."
For example, in 2019, Saahene requested a greater share of the profits due to the "emotional labor" she suffered as a Black woman in P2P. DePino allegedly disagreed, claiming that she took part in more background work. Instances like this, Saahene suggested, amounted to "microaggressions" and even examples of racism.
"As she befriended African activists, Saahene heard stories of Black women who felt the sting of racism while working with white women. One was a group called No White Saviors, led by a Ugandan and a white American, that challenged the tradition of white-led charities in Africa but crumbled amid a bitter fight among its founders," the L.A. Times reported, "Saahene saw parallels."
Saahene eventually accused DePino of "defensiveness and other manifestations of whiteness" after displaying no "commitment to ending colonialism" after DePino struggled with a family emergency and job issues.
Eventually, Saahene publicly accused DePino of not listening to Black women on P2P's Instagram. DePino deleted the post, emailing Saahene, "You cannot legally slander me... I will send a cease-and-desist ASAP."
"My life experiences and statements are truth," Saahene replied.
P2P formally dissolved after the exchange. Despite this, both Saahene and DePino have continued work to learn and discuss racial equality.
Following the release of the Starbucks video, the chain announced that more than 8,000 of its U.S. stores would close for several hours on May 29 to promote racial-bias training. The company’s CEO also sent out a personal apology and reported that the employee who originally called the police no longer worked at the location.
Shortly after the video’s release, the Philadelphia Police Department released audio recordings of the original call. The employee on the phone described "two gentlemen in my café that are refusing to make a purchase or leave."
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross also noted that the men were asked three times to peacefully leave but refused to do so against company policy. Ross maintained that the police "did absolutely nothing wrong."