Updated: Nashville apparel store draws charges of racism from former employees

Project 615 CEO Derek Evans responds

Screenshot of April Kirby's Instagram post about Project 615. (Instagram)
Screenshot of April Kirby's Instagram post about Project 615. (Instagram)

After Nashville apparel company Project 615 released a t-shirt design supporting the Black Lives Matter movement,  ex-employees weighed in on social media alleging the company fired them for supporting the black community.

April Kirby, who worked for Project 615 for 11 months in 2017-2018, spoke out against the company in a heated Instagram post. 

“I will not sit quiet while Project 615 sells a T-shirt promoting racial equality when the man behind the company, Derek, told me that my “love of the African American community made me not the best fit for the brand” and then proceeded to fire me in the next breath,” Kirby said on the post.

Black Lives Matter-inspired t-shirt from Project 615 (project615.org)
Black Lives Matter-inspired t-shirt from Project 615 (project615.org)

Kirby, who now works for an email marketing company, says that when CEO Derek Evans fired her, he called a meeting to explain her absence but did not include a black employee working that day. Later that day, the same black employee was fired,  allegedly for eating the last Chick-fil-A Chicken Biscuit purchased by the company for the employees.  The man “was accused of stealing,” Kirby wrote on Instagram. Kirby said she got information about the incident from another employee.

The recently-designed t-shirt was part of Project 615’s “United in Love” campaign in collaboration with Corner to Corner, an organization According to Project 615, all proceeds from the shirt sales will go to the organization and to encourage African American entrepreneurs. 

Kirby’s thread has gotten traction on social media, with other ex-employees supporting her statements. Project 615 disabled the comment thread on several Instagram posts and has reportedly banned individuals who echoed Kirby’s statements, as well as blocking Kirby.

While working there anytime something tragic would happen such as Tim Shaw getting ALS, the Waffle House shooting, the Las Vegas shooting, etc. he would call it “News Jacking” and make us work as fast as possible to create a tshirt/ campaign to “support the cause,” but in all reality it’s evident now that he just wanted to ride the coattails to promote his business,” said Kirby.

Late Friday afternoon, Project 615 Derek Evans issued a lengthy statement (Project 615 Statement from Derek Evans (1)apologizing for the company’s early handling of the matter and saying he and company leaders do not tolerate hate in any form. That followed a Thursday statement in response to the controversy, claiming their employee had lied about the events surrounding her termination and denied all allegations.

 “We are shocked and saddened by these lies. Please understand that this social media rumor is 100% false as are the comments about Project 615 and our team.”

Kirby says her and her co-workers’ experiences and Evans’ statements to her show that the CEO did not support people of color. and responded to Project 615. 

What is done in the dark always comes to light. This has been a long time coming and I believe that (Evans’) actions speak much, much louder than that statement does. Sadly, I am not alone in my experiences with Project 615 and Derek Evans so I stand firm in what I said and I also stand firmly behind all of the other accounts and testimonies from people who came forward.”

  We are shocked and saddened by these lies. Please understand that his social media rumor is 100% fast as are comments about Project 615 and our team.   – Statement from Project 615

Project 615 was founded in 2010 by Derek Evans and Matt Blinco in an effort to increase awareness of Nashville’s homeless population. Proceeds from their “Nashville Strong” t-shirt sales were recently donated to disaster relief benefiting those affected by tornadoes that devastated portions of Middle Tennessee in March. 

The apparel company currently has a 1.7 out of 5 rating on Glass Door, a site to help job seekers connect with potential employers, with numerous negative reviews.