To celebrate Black History Month, we asked members of our Black at Uber ERG to share what Black Excellence means to them. Below, Justine Casselle, Senior Counsel for Uber Health, and Anthony Hill, Head of Regional Partnerships, South for Uber Eats, share their perspectives.
Black Excellence is being your best authentic self and celebrating your wins
In the United States, the legacy of enslavement and the lasting impact it has had on the Black community is heavy. Our community has historically been denied a level of humanity and Black Americans have worked continuously to overcome unimaginable burdens to simply exist.
With this backdrop in mind, for me, the concept of Black Excellence often means being the best at what you do and being able to objectively lay claim to that title, regardless of your race. It also means “lifting as you climb” and helping others follow in your footsteps. While these remain core themes when I reflect on Black Excellence, my perspective has evolved over time.
Now, I also think it includes staying true to your authentic self as you pursue whatever it is you’ve chosen to do. Resiliency also comes to mind when I think about Black Excellence. Too often we think Black Excellence means being perfect all the time. But failure and rejection are a normal part of life and are required for growth. Recognizing this and having the courage to keep moving forward despite challenges is key.
I recognize that an important part of Black Excellence includes an unspoken, but very real understanding within the Black community that we will uplift each other and collectively celebrate our wins – no matter how big or small they may be. Looking back on our history, the impact the Black community has had and continues to have on the world is incredible. In the face of so many challenges, we succeed anyway. And that success is worth sharing and it’s definitely worth celebrating.
Who models Black Excellence for me? My family and friends, first of all. I am grateful to have always been surrounded by a phenomenal community of individuals who have made and continue to make great strides in their varied professional and personal lives. And they’ve done so while fully embracing life in all of its abundance. Add to that the sponsors and mentors that I’ve been fortunate to learn from along my professional journey. My life is not short of examples of everyday Black Excellence – from awesome customer service agents and educators to rockstar lawyers and producers – my squad is amazing!
Uber is a company that puts action behind its DEI and racial equity commitments and leadership recognizes that representation matters. Seeing people who look like me in senior leadership roles at Uber is validating and signals that my perspective will be respected and supported. Being a part of the robust Black at Uber ERG also gives me an opportunity to connect with other Black professionals in a safe space to learn from each other and support one another’s career success.
– Justine Casselle
Black Excellence is knowingly and intentionally taking on the unhealthy burden of striving for perfection
I have re-written this blog five times already, as I think about what Black excellence means to me. Mind you, I am already a few hours past my deadline. Yet here I am, with this insatiable desire to write the perfect piece as if I am solving all the problems of this world.
To anyone that I’ve asked to proofread a completely different version of this, I’m sorry. But I write this with a heavy heart. Today, we lost my third teammate from my high school basketball team. Yes, that is three young black men with so much life left to give gone – I’m only 31.
When I think of Black excellence, I think of one of my teammates in particular who was the most talented basketball player I have ever played with. He was a physical specimen with every college showing up at our gym for him. I spent my freshman year riding the bench behind him in awe. I thought he had it all. But what I didn’t know was that the toll of defeating the odds, living up to the perfect standard aka Black excellence would later cost him his life.
When I think of Black excellence, I cannot separate the weight that comes with it. Just look at this week’s news. At 30 years old, a former Miss USA, all american lawyer tragically took her own life. Does that not seem like the definition of Black excellence to you? As a culture, we obsess over Black excellence, and while that needs to change, there are some positive things that it means to me.
Black excellence is also about impact. I recall being 26 years old, working in professional hockey and it was “bring your little to work day” for Big Brothers Big Sisters. I was the head of our corporate partnerships team, making me the youngest executive across the NHL at the time. I was excited to show my little brother he was rolling with the self-proclaimed ‘big dawg’. I’ll never forget 15 minutes into the morning and he asks me “how come I was the only Black person” and with a puzzled look on his face “how come you got an office and they don’t?”
One of my regrets is that I wasn’t prepared to give the answers that those questions deserved. But from that day forward, I have been intentional about every place I have taken him and every lesson I have shared with him. Because to him, I embody Black excellence and the responsibility that comes with it.
It’s never been lost on me that I rarely interact with other people of color in the corporate partnerships realm, but hearing it said so bluntly and innocently from an 11-year-old really put it in perspective. So anytime that I receive a sales quota, a special project, or am the recipient of a micro-aggression at work (ask any Black person how many times they’ve been told they are so articulate), I think of my little brother and everyone else that I am working for to continue advancing the cause forward. I know that striving for Black excellence is far greater than my personal success but it’s opening doors for others just as doors were opened for me.
There’s a great ESPN interview with Hall of Fame coach John Thompson in which he says, “There are a whole lot of white coaches who aren’t successful. Blacks don’t have to win the championship to get an opportunity. I’m sick of us having to be perfect to get the job.” For me, Black excellence is knowingly and intentionally taking on the unhealthy burden of striving for perfection because far too often one of us represents all of us, and we are not given the freedom or luxury of failure.
One of the things I appreciate about working at Uber is that I can bring my authentic self to work each day and I can make a difference.
In my role, I’ve had the opportunity to be on interview panels for roles across 5 different departments. While interviewing a candidate, they told me I was the first Black person to ever interview them and how refreshing that was.
Our ERG has created “pro-networks” that connect members who do similar job functions or are interested in that org. I lead our business development group and it’s been great to see how fellowship and mentorship has fostered deep relationships, and how supporting one another has led to us developing skills resulting in promotions.
At Uber, we reimagine the way the world moves for the better. As a Black man striving to make an impact, I know we have a long way to go but that’s an “excellent” mission to stand behind.
– Anthony ‘Big Dawg’ Hill