On Thursday (Jun 26), Abiola Oke took to social media to respond to allegations that he subjected Black women employees to a hostile working environment. As previously reported, the news of the ill-treatment was exposed after former staff writer Antionette Isama took to social media to air out grievances for the Black women who worked for the organization and were subjected to lower pay, inappropriate behavior, gaslighting, and sabotage among other grievances.
Oke responded to the allegations via Twitter with a seven-page letter, apologizing for the unfair practices before noting that he has always strived to be an “advocate for Black women.”
“As a first time CEO of a minority-led media company with a great vision, I made business decisions for the company with the intentional consideration of how it would affect different members of my team and so in the process unknowingly hurt Black women,” Oke wrote. “I completely missed the mark. I am working to remedy that. In the deepest sense, I value Black women and their brilliance. I have listened, digested, and reflected on the feedback Oyinkan Olojede, Hanan Osman, Winny Kassa, Ivie Ani, Antoinette Isama, and Olabisi Famakinwa gave regarding their experiences working under my leadership.”
Journalist and former OkayAfrica writer Ivie Ani responded to Oke’s apology with a response from the women who were subjected to the unfair treatment, calling out Oke for his lack of accepting responsibility before calling two majority owners of the publication, Stephen and Sam Hendel for failing to remove Oke when they were alerted about the misconduct earlier this month.
“We would like to reiterate that the enabling environment which allowed the widespread wrongful behavior of Abiola, was facilitated by current leadership at the company,” the women wrote. “Multiple current and former employees have detailed and addressed such behaviors and mistreatment by said leadership. As per the company statement, we look forward to the company engaging and sharing the findings of the mentioned third party consultant to transform the toxic environment.
In addition, the group of women detailed their list of demands to attempt to rectify his wrongdoings, including compensation for unpaid PTO, severance pay for those wrongfully terminated or coerced into resigning, and rectification of denied unemployment claims.
“Given the time and effort we have given to OkayAfrica and OkayPlayer during our employment, we request to take part in all aspects of rebuilding the brands, including identifying and hiring key personnel, an interim CEO/publisher, and HR team. We also seek to receive public apologies from members of the board, founders, and leadership for failing to provide a safe work environment for Black women employed by the company. ”
Current Editor-in-Chief of OkayPlayer and OkayAfrica, Rachel Hislop, stood in solidarity with the women since the initial claim went public writing:
“I fully support all of the women who have come forward to detail their experiences while working at OkayAfrica and Okayplayer. @seenahgee @AntoinetteIsama @ivieani @kokothenut @ABisi123 @ThatgirlXanan. Reading your accounts of your time with the company was a gut check of all of the ways I may have been complicit in adhering to an archaic media structure that simply is not built to prioritize Black women. I am truly sorry that these are experiences you have to carry as a result. This is an industry-wide problem that we are sadly not exempt from as a company and I believed at the time that the best way that I could enact change was by inserting myself and fighting like hell to advocate for my employees behind closed doors. But you needed more.”
Hislop also took time to acknowledge her own failure to respond, adding that due to one of the victims being a direct report to her she felt partially responsible for not speaking up.
“Your tweets let me know that my approach was not one that fully served you, particularly Ivie and Antoinette who were my direct reports, and I fully eat that. And I am open to listening + removing the burden you carry as it may directly relate to any involvement of mine. As for the delay in response, I had to make sure our home base was feeling heard before I jumped on here. I have had a number of internal meetings with the current team to compile a list of their demands that were presented to our board. This is not a statement on behalf of the company. This is one from me, Rachel Hislop, a flawed person, a Black Woman, accepting any fault I may have had in making any of these women feel as if they weren’t heard during their tenure.”
Although Hislop publicly stated she fully supports the women, former writer Ivie Ani responded to Hislop’s claim stating that while they appreciate the public effort, her lack of accepting full responsibility in her role in not only sequestering the women’s complaint but also failing to report the misconduct that she witnessed before adding that Hislop has yet to contact them directly.
“We appreciate you for voicing public solidarity with us but it would be irresponsible not to address the issues with your statement,” the ladies wrote. “You were fully aware of what was happening for every account for which you were present. For many others, you were directly informed. To say that you ‘may have been complicit’ falls short of taking full responsibility. While we respect your need to voice this publicly you are yet tp make an attempt to reach out to any of us as individuals–you have our numbers. You also failed to address the specific problem of Abiola Oke and his direct treatment of Black women both previously and currently employed by OkayAfrica/OkayPlayer. It’s not enough to say you hear us and validate us.”
After the allegations surfaced, Abiola Oke resigned from his post at OkayPlayer/OkayAfrica earlier this week; in addition, his ties with MoCADA in Brooklyn, New York were also severed.
“After learning about the allegations against Abiola Oke, former CEO of OkayAfrica/Okayplayer, the MoCADA board and I have decided to terminate Oke’s service to MoCADA as a board member, effective immediately,” MoCADA Executive Director Amy Andrieux wrote. “The behavior, as described by the brave women and men who spoke up in recent days, is untenable and unacceptable. We expect more of those who work with us in service of our community, period –full stop.”
When the allegations surfaced on Wednesday (Jun 24) , legendary Roots member Questlove, who co-founded Okayplayer in 1987 before it became an indie music news site, addressed the resignation of Okayplayer and sister site OkayAfrica’s CEO and publisher Abiola Oke writing that the departure was “long overdue.”
“More announcements coming up. This was long overdue,” Questlove wrote.