This Black History Month, we sat down with three 7Roomies to learn more about their heritage as well as some of their favorite Black-owned restaurants.
We spoke to Aja Baxter (General Counsel), Charlene Gay (Learning and Development Specialist), and Kysha Laguerre (Client Onboarding Manager).
How do you celebrate and connect with your heritage?
Aja Baxter: One of the ways I celebrate my heritage is through my college. I went to Morehouse College which is an HBCU (historically black college and university). I commonly participate in alumni activities and mentor current students and young alums.
Charlene Gay: I’m able to celebrate my heritage by connecting with different communities. I’m a member of Zeta Phi Beta, the historically black sorority, and whenever I meet another Zeta, it’s like bumping into a family member! I also participate in cultural events. There’s a local black-owned bookstore in my neighborhood that holds book clubs and workshops centered around women and people of color. These communities are part of the reason I started the Black Voices Employee Resource Group (ERG) at SevenRooms. Connecting with these communities has helped me heal my internalized racism and create an inner sense of pride. I’ve stopped being afraid of being “too black” and I’m proud of who I am.
Kysha Laguerre: I celebrate my heritage through food! I cook and eat the dishes and meals from my culture with my friends and family. It’s a great way to stay connected and share stories with each other. A lot of the food we eat has a story connected to it. So by enjoying these dishes I’m able to honor, celebrate and continue the legacy of these meals.
This past year SevenRooms sponsored you to attend AfroTech. What was that experience like and did you have any takeaways?
Charlene: As a technology company, it’s important for us to stay at the forefront of innovation and to continuously educate ourselves on the latest developments and trends in the industry. Attending AfroTech provided a unique opportunity for me to connect with other professionals and be inspired by the success of other Black tech leaders. It was also a chance to network and build relationships with other individuals who share a similar passion for technology. For Black employees, including myself, attending AfroTech was a source of empowerment and inspiration. Seeing successful Black professionals in the tech industry can help to break down barriers and encourage more Black individuals to pursue careers in tech.
Kysha: I truly enjoyed every moment of Afro Tech and I’m thankful to SevenRooms for giving me the opportunity to attend. My biggest takeaway from the conference was that Black people are present in the tech space even though we make up just 7.4% of the workforce. It also showed me the beauty in allyship. Even though it was a conference for Black tech professionals, people of other races showed a lot of support and interest.
What is your favorite Black-owned restaurant? Tell us why!
Aja: My favorite Black-owned restaurant is & Sons in Brooklyn. Their owner André Hueston Mack is an industry vet and a really nice guy. It’s a small space with great music, and you always run into a friend from the neighborhood. And of course, the food & wine are amazing.
Charlene: It changes frequently but right now – Lakou Cafe. It’s a local, Haitian-inspired restaurant. I’ve watched them grow from being a small neighborhood coffee spot to now an expanding restaurant. While their food is great, their story is even better!
Kysha: At the moment, it would have to be Tatiana by Kwame Onwuachi. I love how the chef takes food from different cultures and refines them into delicious dishes. Being a native New Yorker and Caribbean, it’s beautiful to see food that was once only sold at your local corner store to now being showcased to the world. I just love when food tells a story and Tatiana’s entire menu does that.
Do you have any suggestions on how we can empower and amplify Black voices year-round?
Aja: I think we have a huge opportunity to amplify Black operators and leaders in hospitality. We’re really well-positioned to identify Black voices in our industry (chefs, execs, staff, etc.), and connect them with the resources they need to succeed. I know that our Black Voices ERG has a lot of great ideas on how we can develop our outreach to this community.
Charlene: I’d love to see SevenRooms create a tradition of sending some of our Black employees to AfroTech every year. Maybe one day we can become a sponsor or vendor. By participating, we would get valuable insights while also supporting and uplifting our Black 7Roomies.
Kysha: I think showing interest in Black Voices ERG and the various events they create is a good start. If there’s more support, then there will be more attention and engagement which will help the group thrive and succeed!
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity. Interested in a career at SevenRooms? Learn more about our open roles.