In their own words: Starbucks partners on what defining and recognizing everyday Black excellence means to them


This February, Starbuck Canada is proud to honour Black History Month and celebrate the many ways its partners (employees) and communities demonstrate Black excellence.

Kwankah, data scientist

What is Black Excellence? I have reflected on this question for the last decade. Ten years ago, I migrated from Cameroon in West Africa to Canada on a student visa. As an aspiring Engineer, that was the best decision I could ever make to reach my full potential. While making this decision, I didn’t account for the cultural shock/difference, cold winters, and limited Black communities or networks in Canada. Why did I believe I had to move to Canada to achieve Black Excellence? These are questions that I continue to reflect on to this day. I have moved from international student to permanent resident in the last decade and am now a Canadian citizen.

Upon further reflection, I believe Black Excellence is the mindset, backed by continuous action, to look within ourselves and act in ways that progress our Black communities without discrediting the effect of forces outside of our communities.

In a workplace, the organization must create an inclusive, positive, expressive environment that makes Black people comfortable to work to their fullest potential. We should be free to have honest conversations about our culture and views without fear of prejudice or judgement. Working for Starbucks gives me so much hope and confidence that companies are now beginning to listen to us and are willing to help us reach the Black Excellence we need.

Antonia, store manager

For me the first step in any area of allyship is to take responsibility for your own personal education surrounding the experiences of the community you are standing alongside. I think part of the role of an ally in recognizing Black Excellence is to make every effort to intentionally support Black-owned businesses, artists, and restaurants. When I think about the theme of recognizing Black Excellence, I believe it’s critical to provide allyship to the Black community to support and celebrate not only small businesses and entrepreneurs, but also the development of partners in their career path here at Starbucks.

Jordan, senior marketing coordinator

“For me, Black Excellence is about owning your story and journey, both where you’re at and where you’re going. It’s about a grounded, warranted belief in self both as a person of colour and as a person, period. My journey as a bi-racial person started not at all understanding what it meant to be Black or White for that matter. It was much later in my life that I began to process the reality of my visible colour and my undeniable heritage. Not quickly and not simply, I began to accept and celebrate my Blackness and seek to understand what it meant for me or those closest to me. It has called for me to be reflective and gentle with myself as I explore, at my own pace, what a bi-racial existence feels like while also being a queer person. I’ve learned to not shy away from the complexity that comes with intersectionality. It drives me to show compassion and give grace to others who are also taking their time to live in their own Black Excellence.

Just know, because you’re alive, you deserve to take up space, to be heard, seen and to succeed on your own terms. That’s excellence – it belongs to you.

Deshaun, barista

“The term ‘excellence’ is defined as “extremely good; outstanding.” In other words, success. But success is such a broad and biased term in society and when most people think of success they think of going to school, getting a degree and working a high paying job. But that is not how I view Black Excellence & success.

In my opinion, everyday Black Excellence means having to go through struggles, fighting for what you believe in, overcoming obstacles.

As humans, we make mistakes along the way, but that’s how we learn. The term ‘excellence’ should not be portrayed as perfect as described in the definition, but portrayed as a journey towards success. Success is looking back at your mistakes and realizing your accomplishments and achievements. In conclusion, Black Excellence should not be viewed in a stereotypical way but viewed as Black people working towards the achievement for the future. That’s Black excellence. 

Brooklyn, shift supervisor

I’ve been a partner for almost three years now. For me, Black Excellence is a way of honouring my people. There are enough external forces telling Black people that they are not good enough. Black people are magic, and I make a point to remember that. I think it’s part of my duty as a Black womxn to be a positive force in the lives of those around me. I believe that power comes from even the smallest of things; a simple compliment goes a long way in brightening someone’s day. Lifting others up by supporting their small businesses, offering a helping hand and advocating for those who are silenced are ways that I look to support my community.  Being an ally is truly important. The first step is to listen and learn, seek out resources and humble yourself to learn.”

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