Our communities are defined by the people in them. Recognizing and celebrating the cultures within those communities helps us foster more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments. So, to celebrate Black History Month, we sat down with members of BEACON — our community for Black Employees and Allies at Carvana — and chatted about their lives, careers, perspectives and insights into Black History Month, and hopes for the future. These are excerpts from those interviews.

What’s Your Perspective on Black History Month? 

Sam T., Senior Product Manager, Ownership Platform

“I think there’s a lot of confusion around why we celebrate Black History Month. You know, the ‘why do we need to call out this specific group during this month?’ question. So I think first and foremost, black history is American history and it’s part of our country. With that notion, when we’re talking about Black History Month, it’s a recognition of black people’s contributions to this country in the past — continuously moving forward, celebrating and recognizing that.

I think in American history we’ve made the mistake of marginalizing that history. So we have to go above and beyond to say, ‘Hey, throughout history, this has been something that we didn’t recognize and acknowledge.’ So how do we educate ourselves? How do we all educate ourselves about the contributions of our ancestors and those prior to us and moving forward, how do we not make the same mistake?

That’s what black history means to me. Acknowledgment of the contributions of black people in America and understanding those contributions were not always recognized to the degree they could have been. And that recognizing it now allows us to acknowledge it and not make the same mistakes going forward.”

Allison A., Brand Manager, Activation and Community

“I feel like my thoughts on Black History Month have really evolved, and what’s happened in society has helped that evolution. But growing up, I feel like my parents did a great job of exposing us to our history and our culture. Growing up, every field trip was a learning experience that was always previously rooted in the historical context of ‘this is what people did before.’ This isn’t everyone’s experience, but I learned a lot about the same names each year, you know what I mean? It’s Black History Month.

We’re going to do Martin Luther King, we’re going to do Rosa Parks. We’re going to talk about the Underground Railroad. And it was always the same. I feel like it’s really evolved, and maybe it is some impact from George Floyd and just people recognizing a lot of the traumas that people had been through. And it’s not just about learning the history, but it’s also very feelings-oriented now — being like, ‘I want to make sure people have a voice.’ There’s still a huge impact that black people are making and there are still injustices that they’re experiencing. I feel like it’s turned into something that’s really helped open people’s eyes more, which shouldn’t and hopefully is not just limited to one month, you know what I mean? But I do feel like it brings that opportunity to just have more open conversations and be more real about it.

That’s been refreshing because I think as a black person, a lot of times you do suppress your experiences in society if you don’t feel like you’ve had a safe space to open up about them or to share with people. And I think a bigger thing is opening up about traumas and being like, ‘the whole month is to talk about all this bad stuff that’s happened.’ So I also feel like there’s also an aspect of that still exists, and I think it always will because there is a really rich history where bad things happened and it wasn’t equal — and it still isn’t always to this day — but I think there’s been a lot more room for celebration as well and embracing that, ‘hey, this is a minority, a group that experiences things differently and we want to listen to these people. We want to celebrate their accomplishments, we want to make them feel valued.’”

A black history month image.

Cherish B., Document Administration Lead, Market Operations

“Black History for me is celebrating the old and the new. I love history so I enjoy learning about the past and we overcame and moved forward. I also love celebrating the new. My oldest daughter loves music and art so I get to learn about new amazing black artists through her.”

Jackie H., Director, Market Operations

“I think about the contribution that Black Americans have been a part of across American history. I’m going to say that in quotes a little bit. When we think about the stories that are told about the black experience in history in America, there are a lot of movies about slavery and things like that. And those are important stories, don’t get me wrong — but I also think that there are a ton of contributions that we’ve made hundreds of years ago that don’t get celebrated. Those efforts, and the contributions that we continue to make, are an opportunity to continue to educate people about our history.

Black History Month is an opportunity to continue celebrating those contributions as well. I’ve got two young kids, and now they see themselves represented in science, they see themselves represented in politics, they see themselves represented in art and entertainment, and not just in ways people typically represent black Americans.

We need to continue to be seen. And I think Black History Month is a way to do that in a more concerted effort. I also think that we just need to continue to embed the history of Black Americans in American history as well. It doesn’t need to be condensed into 28 days. So I think we have to continue to find those opportunities to speak to that, but I think it’s a way for us to just celebrate and to educate and to represent for those that maybe need some of those pieces.”

Tori G., Coordinator, Talent Acquisition

“So I think for me, Black History Month is just simply a time for us to celebrate, honor, and remember, the history and accomplishments of African Americans. In that sense, it’s a time to reflect on how far we have come as a nation and also how far we have to go to achieve the true meaning of equality. A lot of people’s definition of ‘equality’ may be different from others, but there’s still work to be done.”

Marcus C., Program Specialist, Leadership Development

“Obviously it’s an important month to me, right? Because it’s my history. It’s a sense of pride and inspiration from my ancestors and the people who went through the struggle. And I think it should be a reminder for America. It’s a reminder of the strength and resilience of my people — you know, we’re strong, we’re intelligent. And just to shine a light on all the accomplishments and the inventions and the processes and the backbone of America that we are. 

It’s very important to me to honor and celebrate those contributions from people in our past to help catapult our future forward.

My trauma’s not my future, my people’s trauma’s not my future. It helped us. It is good to know how it started and what my people went through, but it’s like, you look beyond that because some people overcame that. It’s adversity and how you overcome it. That’s empowering to me. ‘Cause dang, I have hard days, days I don’t want to get out of bed. Days I’m tired. Some days are just mentally and physically exhausting. But it’s like, ‘if my people, the people that created all these processes and all these inventions were able to do this during their time, then I should be able to get up and go.’ And that’s just my mentality. I know everybody has their own things that they deal with and it’s not just that easy for some people to turn it on, but for those of us that it is, I want to be a representation for them, you can do it.”

picture of hands around a trumpet.

What Are Your Hopes for the Future?

Sam T., Senior Product Manager, Ownership Platform

“I hope we can learn to recognize that at the end of the day, we’re not all different. We all want the same things – good health, peace of mind, growth and prosperity, and the love of our friends and family. So I hope that as we celebrate Black History Month, we also take the time to understand that the people we talk about — and that have come before us in history — all wanted the same thing. 

The fight for civil rights or equality is based on the foundation of wanting these same things. I hope that we just get to a point where no matter race, gender, identity, or whatever category you want to split, man, we all just really want the same thing. So I hope we get to that place. I don’t know when that will be, but that’s my dream.”

Allison A., Brand Manager, Activation and Community

“I think one of the biggest things is recognizing not all black people are not the same. I grew up in a predominantly white area and some of the things that happened, I didn’t even realize at the time were kind of what people would say is traumatic or negatively perceived. And looking back I’m, ‘that was kind of messed up’ , like why’d my teacher ask if I want to leave the room when we read this certain book? You know what I mean?  

But I think it’s just hearing more of those different perspectives, which I feel like is beginning to happen, but just the recognition of, ‘one person’s story doesn’t mean everyone’s story,’ and that’s generally true of everyone. Just because one person is of a certain religion or of a certain background, you don’t know all of them. And so my biggest hope is that we can recognize all black people are just people, and all people deserve to be known and treated with respect. So get to know the people and don’t immediately accept the story surrounding them based on perception.”

Cherish B., Document Administration Lead, Market Operations

“One hope I have is that we continue to be unapologetically black. Owning our black girl magic and black boy joy. For generations our self-love was taken away and it’s refreshing to see us loving ourselves out loud.”

Jackie H., Director, Market Operations

“That’s a great question. Honestly, I guess my hope is not perfection in and of itself. It’s progress — the celebration of the progress that’s been made and the journey that we continue to all be on together. I remember talking a few years ago at an event about the I Have a Dream Speech and it’s like, well, it hasn’t happened yet. And there was no timeframe given on that. This was the dream that he [Martin Luther King Jr.] had. And I think that’s kind of how I continue to think about my hope as well is that we continue to progress towards that. That we don’t get so frustrated and caught up and angry that we haven’t made it to perfection, but that we enjoy the progress that we have made and we continue to strive towards that. And people don’t give up because we’re not at perfection. If we’re going to make progress, people need to continue in that journey and it needs to happen together.

We’ve seen some challenges, frustrations, these things bubble up because we’re not where we think we should be. But I don’t know where we should be. I know we need to continue to progress and get better every day, but I don’t benchmark where we should be. I don’t know who can, but I do think we’ve made progress and we got to continue that progress along the way. And so I don’t know if it needs to be faster or slower. I think we just need to do it together. So that would be my hope is that we just continue to progress together.”

Tori G., Coordinator, Talent Acquisition

“I think just generally I would just say putting in the work to continually recommit ourselves towards diversity, equality, inclusion, and belonging. I would say too, just with being with Carvana, we do a really good job culturally with our people here to make sure they do feel included, and when you do that, the diversity is just there.”

Marcus C., Program Specialist, Leadership Development

“So this is the question that I was getting back to. I definitely love and appreciate Black History Month. I think it has been way overdue because everything was just kind of pushed under the rug. But this is calling it to light. I think this is society’s contribution to holding America accountable. But what I would love to see in the future is black history not be a part of just this one month. ‘Cause I’m black 365 days a year. My history, I’m an American, I’m a black African American. So this is American history, not just black history. Our history should be shared just across the board. And if it’s highlighted and broken down, that’s perfectly fine.

I definitely want that. I don’t want to take anything from anybody, but I don’t want to be just confined to one month. Like I said, I’m black 365 days out of the year. I can’t take my skin off like a change of clothes. In the future, I would just love to be celebrated and celebrate my people, our people, all days of the year from all walks of life.”

Picture of guitarist BB King

On Their Histories and Careers

Sam T., Senior Product Manager, Ownership Platform

Sam was born in Ethiopia, before moving to Canada and later the Washington, D.C., area, as his family distanced themselves from a war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. “That experience in itself was very interesting. Going from South Africa to Canada, where it was snowing. Anyone that’s migrated to a new place, knows what challenges come with that — the culture shift,” he says. Sam graduated with a degree in finance in 2009 and quickly found himself transitioning to a career in operations and tech — “it wasn’t exactly a great time to be in finance and I realized a career in banking wasn’t very likely,” he laughs. Today, Sam works on our ownership platform. “We figure out how to give customers useful information about the vehicle they’re interested in throughout the buying and/or selling process… figuring out how we can make the purchasing and selling journey better for our customers.”

Allison A., Brand Manager, Activation and Community

Born in Mount Vernon, Illinois, Allison and her family eventually settled in Georgia, where they would put down roots. “I remember when we moved here, anytime someone would come visit, well, my mom’s a teacher. So every family vacation had to be very historical and going to museums and learning. And so when we first moved here, the first thing we did was go to Martin Luther King Jr’s house. When people would come visit, it’s what we would take them to go see because of my mom wanting to share in that.” After working as a social worker and then at Redbull, Allison eventually found her way here to Carvana, starting as a customer advocate. Now she’s a brand manager on our activation and community team, helping drive customers happy with unique interactive experiences and highlighting the stories of Carvana employees. 

Cherish B., Document Administration Lead, Market Operations

Born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Cherish and her family have always been embedded in the city’s community. “My grandmother was one of the first six black students to graduate from my high school in 1966 — she went on to attend North Carolina Central University and become a chemist. She has always inspired me to take a leap of faith and not be afraid to do big things,” she notes. In 2018, Cherish joined Carvana looking for a new career that would challenge her, and now works as a lead in our market operations department. 

Jackie H., Director, Market Operations

Jackie was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, where she went to college. Shortly after graduating, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, starting up a career in marketing and advertising. After moving to Minneapolis for a short stint, Jackie headed back to Atlanta when she started working with Carvana, “getting back to a city that we love with the opportunity to make another home.”

Currently, Jackie works as the Director of Market Operations here at Carvana, leading field teams across the U.S.  “I love this team. I love what I do,” she says. For Jackie, taking care of people has always been a priority. “I spend a lot of time with our talent development and our recruiting partners as well. Operations is people doing things. And I like to be more focused on the people part than the things part. What are the things that we’re doing from a people perspective to make the team’s experience 1% better than it was yesterday? Because I think that’s what makes the customer experience better too,” she explains.

Tori G., Coordinator, Talent Acquisition

Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, Tori went to college at Columbus State University where she obtained her B.S. and became an Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. member of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. The NPHC is a collaborative umbrella council composed of historically African American fraternities and sororities also referred to as Black Greek Letter Organizations. Tori first joined Carvana as an advocate and currently works in people operations as a Recruiter Coordinator. “Being with Carvana has allowed me to flourish, which has led to connecting with some amazing humans,” she says.

Marcus C., Program Specialist, Leadership Development

Marcus was born in Fort Stewart, Georgia. A father in the army saw him move around, spending time in Germany and France as a kid, before eventually settling in Talladega, Alabama. After graduating in the wake of the 2008 recession, Marcus moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he started a successful cleaning business with a friend. “Being raised with the father in the military, I got to see all kinds of people from all different walks of life. So it’s like, I want to know it all. I want to eat all the food, I want to see all the places. I think that yearning to travel just stuck with me,” he says.

Despite the success of that venture, Marcus knew he wanted something else — “I knew I had a dream of being in corporate America because my dad used to have a briefcase and when I was a little kid, I used to love trying to carry it with me. So I was like, I’m going to work in corporate America with a briefcase, even if briefcases are a thing of the past,” he laughs. After spending time at Wells Fargo, Enterprise, and 23rd Group, Marcus started working at Carvana. Eventually, he had the opportunity to join our leadership development team — one he took full advantage of. “They said, Hey, you know what? You’ve done so much work in Carvana, would you be interested in joining the leadership development team? I was like, sure, I’ll give it a whirl. Why not? Because I believe in representation. Yeah. When I looked at our executive team, our recruiters, our corporate team, I didn’t see a lot of people that look like me. So I was like, you know what? I’ll do this,” he recalls. 

To everyone from BEACON who took the time to speak with us for this article, thank you. 


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