Mass Appeal, the company founded by legendary Queens rapper Nas, is the target of a lawsuit from a former white executive alleging racial discrimination among other issues. Melissa Cooper filed suit against Mass Appeal on Tuesday and added that a fellow white executive was also responsible for creating a hostile work environment.
The Daily Beast reports that Melissa Cooper, a longtime documentary producer whose credits include the upcoming Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told, says that she faced racial discrimination and other hostilities while working at Mass Appeal as its head of development.
According to Cooper’s lawsuit, Peter Bittenbender, Mass Appeal’s chief executive and is a white man, and Jenya Meggs, the company’s senior VP for partnerships & content acquisition and a Black woman, “discriminated against her by removing her from several high value projects, creating a hostile work environment, and terminating her employment.”
As the outlet adds, terms like “White folks” and “crackers” rankled Cooper and there was evidence of tension between Cooper and Meggs in relation to the aforementioned Freaknik documentary.
From The Daily Beast:
In a series of these back-and-forth messages between Meggs and Terry Ross, a Freaknik executive producer who is Black and does not work for Mass Appeal, they discuss Meggs’ frustration at Cooper being brought on the project instead of her. Meggs texts, “I blame Alex for Freaknik,” referring to Alex Avant, an executive producer on Freaknik, who is Black and with whom Cooper had a long professional relationship. “Meggs was upset that Avant had decided to pitch the Freaknik project to Cooper and not Meggs, since Avant knew that Meggs was at Mass Appeal as well,” the complaint says. “Ross responded with surprise and said that this was ‘terrible.’ Meggs then texted that there were no hard feelings before qualifying Cooper’s selection for the Freaknik project as ‘Usual white folk behavior.’” In later messages, Meggs complains about Bittenbender’s decision not to hire a candidate she referred to Mass Appeal. Ross responded: “These white folk something else.”
Nas is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit despite his ownership.
Photo: Johnny Nunez / Getty
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