It was a no-brainer for 21-year-old Jentri Casaberry when he recently took time off from work at a McDonald's on Chicago's South Side to tend to the bedside of his prematurely born son, Nyeem.
He was glad he did. The child died at 9:15 p.m. CDT on July 13 at the University of Chicago Hospital, he told The Root. Just short of a week old, Nyeem struggled with kidney, heart and lung problems, the father said.
But the decision touched off a firestorm of controversy and ignited a chain of events fit only for a television drama. First, Casaberry was fired as a night manager at McDonald's for not showing up for work, he said.
"I watched my son die in my hands," he told The Root. "I was told it didn't matter who died and that I was supposed to come to work anyway."
Then Casaberry's mentor, Lenny McAllister, a conservative talk-show host on WVON-1690-AM, was fired for calling on listeners to take a holiday from McDonald's franchises owned by the operator who fired Casaberry, McAllister told The Root. (McAllister has been a contributor to The Root.)
Now the Chicago Far South Suburban branch of the NAACP is planning to protest the station to help McAllister win his job back, said branch's president, David L. Lowery Jr. And in a strange turn of events, the Tea Party — of which McAllister is a member — is offering its assistance, Lowery said. No date has been set for the protest.
Both Lowery and McAllister alleged that McAllister's firing was based on pressure from McDonald's, a longtime advertiser with WVON. Melody Spann Cooper, chairman of Midway Broadcasting Corp. and president of WVON, declined to comment.
"We're not trying to hurt anybody financially," Lowery told The Root. "We just want to get some resolve to this matter and hopefully Lenny can get back on the air. The fact that he shed light on this situation allowed us to begin to help the young man find employment. He lost his child and his job. We think that was harsh and station was harsh."
Meanwhile, McAllister said his phone has been ringing off the hook from callers, supporters and friends.
"I am surprised this happened," McAllister told The Root. "I just wanted some resolution to the situation. I never intended to take this on air. I wanted to help a young man who lost a son, who wasn't even a week old."
Full disclosure: Melody Spann Cooper is married to a first cousin of the writer of this report, Lynette Holloway.
In other news: Making a Difference With Deeds, Not Talk.