Erika Smith is always thinking of ways to educate her community. Currently, she is the southside community and economic development manager at Invest Atlanta. Smith uses her platform as a powerful Black woman to impact those around her, and she sat down with rolling out to tell us how.
As a Black woman, what do you consider your superpowers to be?
My ability to leverage culture, community and creativity to galvanize support for efforts; to assist in the development of innovative ideas; to serve as a source of inspiration; and to positively impact communities — and all of it is done with grace, love and beauty at the core.
What key skills or qualities make you unique as an African American female leader?
One of the greatest skills — learned from my mother and from Dean [Sybil] Mobley, founder of the Florida A&M University School of Business and Industry — is the ability to confidently and comfortably navigate and be present in spaces within the professional and socioeconomic spectrum. Another quality is showing up as who I am without compromising my identity.
Why is it important for women of color to work in leadership roles and decision-making capacities?
The world is not a monolith, and as women leaders of color, we offer a very unique and dynamic perspective to our work and community. This perspective is grounded in all of our experiences and having to move through this world as a Black woman. This often provides us with a deeper commitment to people, community and empathy [and an] appreciation to understand cultural or social nuances that may impact outcomes.
If you could thank any Black woman historymaker for her contributions to society, who would it be and why?
There are so many Black women to thank, so I have to lift up gratitude, appreciation and admiration to my ancestors. I’m the product of generations of strong, bold and beautiful Black women who prayed for me, endured hardships, excelled at life and career, and laid the groundwork for my existence.
Why is it important for the experienced Black women to reach back and help younger women of color?
In life, there is so much that we must move through, lean in to, and navigate. By sharing ourselves and our truths, creating sister circles, and formally or informally mentoring younger women of color, we can help other women accomplish their goals. I’ve been supported and guided by dynamic women — older, younger and peers — who have pushed me, encouraged me, removed roadblocks and given me tremendous insights. This need to learn from each other never ends.
What are three success habits you implement into your daily routine to maintain your success, sanity and peace of mind?
Prayer and meditation, believing that all things are possible, and honoring what truly brings joy to my life — and not being afraid to walk away from people, places and things that don’t.