Jasmin Smith tackles problems as immediate as a baby’s dirty diaper and as global as racial justice. And she’s good at all of it. After she ran out of diapers at the mall and couldn’t find any readily available, she created a vending machine company with baby items so other parents caught short would have an option. When she saw a need for community support during the 2020 racial justice protests, she lept into action, using her experience as an organizer to put together rallies and create spaces for people to get together. When she noticed people were curious about how to support Black people in Anchorage, she spearheaded a new online Black business directory to channel people’s energy into dollars.
A successful entrepreneur, Smith is one of the state’s go-to advocates for economic empowerment and social justice. She said her fierce commitment to Alaska stems from her love of her culture and her history as both a Black person and an Alaskan.
“I had so much pride being Alaskan that when I went to college initially, I went to Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, Alaska,” Smith said. “I went there because Alaska civil rights activist Elizabeth Peratrovich went there, and she was one of my idols.”
Smith moved to Alaska as a kid with her mom who was in the military. Growing up she found inspiration in Black leaders and educators and built relationships with people across cultures. She eventually settled in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country — Anchorage’s Mountain View. In travels Outside, she said people are always shocked when she proudly states she’s from Alaska. “They never expect us to be here,” she said. But what’s more shocking to her is how little people know about the history and contributions of Black people and people of color to the state. Telling that history, learning from her elders, and teaching it to her kids contribute to her mission today.
“That’s going to pave the way for a community where Black people in Alaska are even more seen and heard,” Smith said. “I just love the fact that Alaska is wild and open in the sense that there’s no limitations. I can control my narrative and my story; my kids can control their narrative and their story.”
As an active community member, Smith is known as a connector and relationship builder with a laser focus on improving the people and places around her. Anyone who has ever tried to turn an idea into a reality knows how difficult it is. To do that in service of racial equality in a predominantly white space can feel impossible. But to Smith, ‘impossible’ is simply a problem looking for a solution. That doesn’t mean it’s easy.
“Sometimes you’re in spaces where you’re alone, and you’re the only voice and you have to advocate and fight just for your right to be there and exist in those spaces,” Smith said. “It has been hard, but it’s worth the fight.”
It’s worth it, she said, to follow the footsteps of those who came before her and leave a more equitable Alaska community for those who are coming up behind.