According to Smith, parenthood has spurred him to re-evaluate the best vehicle for his activism. During the 2015 Black Lives Matter protests, he was not yet a father and free to protest. He wrote that he “moved through the night with brazen indifference about what might happen to me.”
Now, “My decisions are no longer singularly centered on me.”
Perhaps Smith says, he can best effect change by being an educator—helping people understand how we arrived at this point in time.
Educating seems to come naturally for Smith. After graduation from Davidson, he taught high school English in Prince George’s County, Maryland where, in 2013, he was named the Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year by the Maryland Humanities Council. He has spent the past six years teaching writing and literature in the D.C. Central Detention Facility. His experiences there shaped his studies at Harvard where he was awarded his doctoral degree this spring, after defending his dissertation via Zoom.
Smith’s upcoming debut nonfiction book, How the Word Is Passed, is due out in 2021. It explores how different sites across the country reckon with, or fail to reckon with, their relationship to the history of slavery.