Published on 09.15.2021

Jamila Hubbard

We turned the lens on one of our own, Jamila Hubbard, for our next chapter of Recognize. As the Senior Manager on our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team at Levi Strauss & Co. and Dockers®, Jamila seeks to build a supportive, understanding community at work—and outside of work through surfing and gardening. She inspires us all to pursue what we love and find others who will join us.

Amplifying Black Stories All Year Long

Shaping The Future

What first drew you to Levi Strauss and Dockers?

I didn't try to find a job just to have a job; I was very particular in what type of company I would work for. And the type of company that I'm willing to work for is one that has strong values, has lived those values and will continue to evolve.

Over the history of the company, I feel like we've been on the right side of history the vast majority of times. And not just by saying, but by doing the right thing. Standing up, being the leader, and other companies have followed. I felt that if I'm going to spend all day working, especially for a corporate company, it needs to be one that truly is committed to that — and I feel like Levi’s and Dockers has been.

What else you inspired?

The opportunity to really connect with people is really something that motivates me, especially at work—and then with gardening and surfing, seeing things growing, and seeing things changing, and seeing these beautiful things being created out of nothing. With surfing, seeing the people out there, and the community and the connections. Catching that wave, or paddling out and pushing your boundaries just a little bit at each time, it's really motivating to me. Sometimes it's hard to get there, but once you're there, it's always, always so worth it.“Don't look at the obstacles. Look at your goal. Look at where you're going. Otherwise you're going to run into things.”

How did I get started surfing?

I've been actively surfing for almost seven years now. But growing up, it never even occurred to me that I could surf, partly because I'd never seen anybody like me surfing. I just started in my late thirties after watching a good friend fall in love with the sport. Realizing that there were few other women of color in the water, I googled, “Black women surfing organizations?” I was looking for other people of color who were surfing that I could connect with. I got involved with Brown Girl Surf pretty early on. Their focus is about creating that space for women of color to know and feel like they belong in the water, to change the lineup, to change the default of what we think a surfer is and to teach environmental stewardship. Ever since then, I've been a volunteer surf instructor. I still consider myself a beginner. I think the beauty of surfing is you just have to succumb to being really bad at it for a while. The ocean is not to be trifled with. Even in the very shallow whitewater you can feel the power of the waves. When you're surfing, you can't be distracted.

“This Is Me, And I Don't Want To Be Hidden.”

What else has surfing taught you?

One time, I was paddling for a wave and caught it and remembered, “What you have to do when you're surfing is don't look at other people or the obstacles, look at where you’re going.”I was like, 'Oh My God, that's a life epiphany right there.' Don't look at the obstacles. Look at your goal. Look at where you're going. Otherwise you're going to run into things. Little things like that, repeated lessons that you get from being in the water, have been one of the reasons why I've continued it and why I love it so much.

How did your passion for gardening begin?

Gardening got started by a surplus of houseplants. Even when I was in my one-bedroom apartment, there were already forty house plants. I have one spider plant that a friend gave me eight or ten years ago. And now from that, not only have I given away many plants, but I think I have twelve—from just that one plant. Gardening becomes a part of you, and a part of your life, and a part of your expression. Learning about different kinds of plants and how they grow, how best to take care of them. There’s a very meditative and nurturing aspect. It's just been really fun to grow it, to kind of dream about what's possible, and then to sort of step into that.

Is sharing what you grow a major aspect of gardening for you?

One of the first things my husband and I did in the garden, actually, was plant trees because the amount of food that you can get from a tree is so huge. We can see a future where we can provide so much. Over the course of COVID, we’ve been able to share the bounties of the garden with our community. Growing your own food, but then also sharing that food with other people, teaching people how to grow food—it's just a really extraordinary feeling to make that connection. My husband’s knowledge and passion for gardening has inspired me to learn more, and think more broadly about how gardening can be a catalyst for positive change.

“Success Really Means That I Didn't Let Other People's Expectations Hold Me Back From Doing What I Love.”

Can you talk more about how finding community is important?

When people think about gardeners or surfers, they default think about white people, right? I've been told in the past I'm not Black enough because of some of the things that I like or don’t like. So, finding community in other people—especially women of color doing these things—creates a place where you feel safe and open to be your true self and to love something. That seems really critical, I think, to just feeling brave enough to do things. I think a lot about people who fought and died for me to be able to do all of the things I do so freely, and part of why I am so focused on community and activism is to continue their legacy and not let their work and struggle be in vain.

Has having the courage to own what you’re into affected your style at all?

Especially as I've gotten older there's been—not only less desire to hide—but actually absolutely not hiding. This is me, and I don't want to be hidden. That expresses itself through my clothes. For me, style and using clothing as a creative outlet has always been a part of my personality. In thinking about the earth, surfing and gardening, it's actually gotten me to be more casual. So there's always that balance between, “How can I be casual, but still look stylish?” That's why there's always big earrings or a scarf or bright colors bringing in some of that flavor. Getting comfortable with being a little more casual has actually been a part of my evolution.

What advice do you have for women who are starting their careers or trying something new?

he most powerful thing that I've learned in my life is not to let other people's expectations hold you back. It does not matter what anybody else thinks that you should be doing in your life. I cannot tell you how many times in my life I have been told—by people who don't know a thing about me— that I am wasting my talent by not playing basketball. I'm like, 'You don't know if I'm good at basketball. You don't know me.' I'm going to be real honest and say the biggest barriers I faced have been my own internal insecurities and thoughts or feelings that maybe I didn't belong, or I wasn't smart enough, or I wasn't enough—period. Once I let go of that, I’ve learned to be more outspoken and more authentic with myself. Letting go of that has been really instrumental in my growth.


Recognize is about celebrating inspiring community members, contributors and influencers making a difference with their distinct perspectives, style and commitment to finding purpose in their passions. Through Recognize, we will amplify Black stories, employ diverse talent, and invest in opportunities — throughout the year and beyond. This is not a campaign. This is a celebration of Black excellence.