FLINT, MI — “We are what we make of ourselves,” is a belief that community advocate and spiritual rapper Shanta Smith has helped him to overcome and be of service to others.
His origin of community advocacy and a musical artist was rooted in his experience growing up in the foster care system due to his parents’ drug addiction. The son of former Black Panthers, Smith, 42, is committed to being a part of the change in his home of Flint, Mich. and standing up for his rights and others.
“When you grow up in situations like that with your parents on drugs, you get to witness and experience a lot of things that are wrong with our family unit and then with the system,” Smith says.
Coming from a family of singers and growing up with his foster siblings who passed their love of music to Smith by teaching him songwriting and recording, he followed his family’s same path.
Smith attended college to study audio and video production but took a sociology class at Mott Community College where he ultimately changed his major to social work because he related to the subject because he lived it. He later received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan – Flint and Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Bowling Green University.
“Watching people overcome barriers and problems in their lives and me just being a part of that process. Seeing them happy and seeing their families happy, that gives me the energy and juice to continue doing what I’m doing,.” – Shanta Smith
“Once you wake up and grow up, I was a part of the problem for so long. I wanted to do something to give back, to kind of makeup for a lot of the stuff that I put into the community and the damage that I’ve done also,” Smith said. “There were a few different variables that pushed me and continues pushing me.”
Working for the Flint Odyssey House, a substance abuse recovery facility, is what helped to connect him to members of his community and pledging to a fraternity which requires members to partake in acts of service. It was where he met fellow community advocate Dewaun Robinson, who showed him different avenues to make an impact in the lives of youth. For Smith, the success stories bring him joy.
“Watching people overcome barriers and problems in their lives and me just being a part of that process. Seeing them happy and seeing their families happy, that gives me the energy and juice to continue doing what I’m doing,” Smith says. “Just being a part on an individual level and on a community level.”
He recently received his LLC for his organization Lazarus Music, Inc., a music production company, and alongside his wife is developing a program to assist individuals with developing their entrepreneurship, business, and non-profit organizations in Flint called, “Blueprint.” He also plans to work with youth on giving them the skill set to be producers and engineers as well as professionally record music.
Smith says when it comes to being successful and investing in yourself people often struggle and urges people to dedicate themselves to their passion.
“You have to be willing to commit to investing in yourselves to become what you want to be.”