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This Exec Got Her Start In Baggage Claim. Now She’s The VP Of The Largest Privately-Owned Airline

Meet Rexy Rolle.

BOSS UP

Sherrexcia "Rexy" Rolle is the 29-year-old woman taking Western Air to new heights, and it's all thanks to her badass business savvy.


For those of you who might not know, Western Air Limited is the largest black privately-owned airline in the Bahamas and Rexy runs it. Rexy, who is also a business attorney, currently serves as the Vice President of Operations and General Counsel for the thriving airline. Having accomplished VP status, as well as oversee the growth and expansion of the $90 million company all before 30, there's no wonder Rexy is going viral for her accomplishments!

In an industry dominated by men, Rexy is both entrepreneur goals and the definition of black excellence. The aviation czar is redefining what an executive looks like while encouraging other women to be themselves while breaking the mold in their respective field.

I was so motivated when I saw Rexy Rolle's story that I knew that I had to connect with her and learn more about how she has achieved a dream that some would think is impossible. I had the opportunity to speak to Rexy and she shared her story and phenomenal tips for women trying to making it in this entrepreneur game. Check out our Q and A with the top exec below.

Is it challenging being an executive in an industry where women are not as represented as men?

The lack of diversity in aviation is what makes me work harder and it gave me the adrenaline rush to compete on a higher level. Executive positions in the airline industry (e.g. pilots, mechanics, dispatchers) are overwhelmingly dominated by males, so for women searching for those high positions, they are often automatically looked down on as not being technologically informed.

You do have to be ten times more informed. You do have to be prepared for people to purposefully challenge you because they feel that you may not be aware of what you're doing. I always take my time to prepare in advance to know what we're going to be discussing because there is always someone around to try and challenge your qualifications. I'm okay with having to be three times as good as the next person because I'm not going to let anyone keep me from living my dream. I've wanted this since I was a little girl.

"I'm okay with having to be three times as good as the next person because I'm not going to let anyone keep me from living my dream."

When did you fall in love with entrepreneurship?

I was an inquisitive first grader and I remember going to school and the kids would always talk about what their mother did for a living. After hearing classmates boast about their parent's jobs at school, I went home and asked my mother what she did for a living. At the time, my mother, who gave birth to me at only 16 years old, said, "Well, I take care of you." In response, and this was me being a naive first grader, I said, "That's nothing!"

It was at that moment that I vowed to be a successful independent business woman. In hindsight, I owed my mother an apology for not understanding how difficult and honorable it is to be a full-time mom and wife. It was also a deeply personal wake up moment for my mother who took in my words and decided to push herself beyond her own limitations. Not too long after that conversation, my mother motivated herself to go back to school and receive a life-changing college education. She also encouraged me to dream beyond my wildest imagination, traditions, and gender.

There is an assumption that because your company is a family-based airline, that you may have just been given your position. What do you say to that?

That's not true. I started from the bottom and worked my way up. When I was a young girl, I worked as a baggage handler after school. Back then, the airline had its ups and downs. There were constant delays and management issues, but we learned from all of this and remained resilient. I went to school. I studied my field. I put in a lot of work. Believe me, there's nothing easy about my journey.

We all know entrepreneurship can be a little difficult. What is a tip you can offer budding female entrepreneurs?

My number one tip is you definitely have to have passion for what you do. You must love your work. You're going to hit so many roadblocks and encounter people who are 100% not going to believe in the vision you have. Or, just in the day to day business dealings, whether it's government agencies or other private businesses, you're constantly going to be challenged. So, if you do not have that passion for the specific niche that you're in, you will fade.

Number two, find allies. That doesn't necessarily mean somebody who is going to finance your dream, but finding someone who believes in it just as much as you do. Find a group of women who can support you and push you to be great. The circle you keep is a profound reflection of how successful you will be.

"If you do not have that passion for the specific niche that you're in, you will fade."

Do you think the diversity challenges in aviation are based on race, gender, or both?

Although it is definitely rare to see black women in the aviation industry, me living on the Islands, I believe the disconnect is more so based on gender. The aviation community is booming with so many underrated careers. I've noticed an increase of female dispatchers and ground support agents, but I have been pushing for administrative and executive positions as well. I also encourage people to forget any qualms about being underqualified for a technologically-driven field and pursue aviation just like any other industry that may interest you. There is always training, there is always educational support. If you want to get in aviation, please just do it!

What are some accomplishments that you are proud of?

I helped open the Bahamas' first private passenger terminal. I suggested adding even more routes and planes, and I'm now working towards obtaining my own pilot's license. Most importantly, for someone like me who started off as a baggage handler, it was crucial for me to take advantage of all opportunities that were presented to me.

I could have gone in two directions with watching this airline grow up as I grew up: either assuming it's there at my fingertips, or really taking a stance of wanting to improve upon what's already there. I wish for everyone to do the same in their lives. Take time to grow and learn every day. That's how you become great!

For more Rexy Rolle, keep up with her social media by following her on Instagram.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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