Prices aren't the only thing that's low at Wal-Mart. Some of the company's own employees have been accused of racism, most notably in the case of David Thomas, a former worker at Wal-Mart's Elyria store whose tale was chronicled in a Scene column last fall [Kotz, October 15, 2003]. According to Thomas, an African American father of two, several of his co-workers repeatedly referred to him as "Nigger Dave" and hit him with various other racial slurs. When Thomas complained to management, he was given the runaround. He eventually stopped going to work in protest and was fired for unexcused absences.
But if the Wal-Mart brass refused to take action in Thomas's name, a handful of local musicians have heeded the call.
"You've got a gentleman who's just your average blue-collar guy, a father, trying to make ends meet, and he's taken a lot of verbal abuse from some of his fellow employees," says promoter Mark Fletcher. "When Wal-Mart wouldn't do anything about it, when they wouldn't step up and at least try and discuss things with the people who were making it difficult for him, it just showed that they could care less about the people that work for them. After reading the article, it just left a really bad taste in my mouth."
And so Fletcher joined forces with J.J. Flux drummer Dave Cambarare to put together The Abolitionists vs. Racism: A Benefit for Dave Thomas. Among those taking the stage this Saturday at Ghoulardi's in Lorain are fast-rising riff rockers Abdullah, rugged Cleveland MC Saj Supreme, Akron trip-hop troupe Low in the Sky, aggressive metallers Amentia, and the heady instrumental trio J.J. Flux, which touches on everything from blues and jazz to funk and death metal. "I tried to focus on putting together a really eclectic night's worth of music, just to kind of reflect our culture, because we've got so many different varieties of people and ideals," Fletcher says.
"We're kind of tackling the whole issue of racism here in Lorain County. Dave Thomas is willing to take a stand. He's kind of a crusader of sorts, because he stepped up and said, 'I'm not going to take that. I'm not going to deal with fellow employees being racial. I'm not going to tolerate the fact that management won't do anything about the situation.' He's become a poster boy for this whole movement."
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