I am excited to introduce Eric Smith, CEO of Easy Star Records, an independent record label specializing in reggae and dub. Not only is he the head of incredible chart-topping record label, churning out reggae hits for over a decade, he also is a close college friend. I grew up not knowing any mixed kids ever and so when I finally got to college and met a cool crew of mixed friends, I felt like, wow, these new friends understand me. It meant a lot. Eric’s parents, who are crazy cool, were the first mixed couple I had ever met, of our parents generation, that were still together and very much in love. It brought me joy to know them and gave me hope to witness their connection. Here are some insights from Eric Smith….
Radiant Mix: What is your nationality? How do you identify yourself ?
Eric Smith: I’m a New Yorker first! And if I drill that down further, I’m an East Village-New Yorker to be more specific. But beyond my NYC pride, I have identified myself primarily as biracial and secondarily as African-American. I have always been acutely aware of the significance my race, or perceived race, has played in shaping how people see me.
RM: What do people ask you about your heritage? What do they think you are?
ES: In New York, people most often think I’m hispanic, especially in my neighborhood which has been predominantly Puerto Rican since I grew up in the 70s. When I travel to Central or South America people often think I’m a native until they hear me speak. In Europe people often think I’m Middle Eastern. Otherwise, people will ask me what I am or assume I’m biracial, black, white, etc…I get everything. Back in the 70s some kids would not believe that I could have a black father and white mother.
(Eric Smith and his daughter Simone)
RM: From your unique perspective on life, what are two special benefits, aka superpowers, that you want to share about being biracial?
ES: Being the product of a union between two human beings who crossed social and institutional divides to be together out of mutual love, respect and intellectual curiosity for each other is deeply empowering. It has given me a sense of purpose that I have carried with me for as long as I can remember. To feel that I exist because of the confidence and will of my parents to forge ahead on their own path-—despite forces pressuring against my very existence—gives me an appreciation for just being, which puts everything else in appropriate perspective.
To debunk racist and bigoted doctrines by being alive is deeply satisfying. I gain ground in the struggle over racism just by breathing….and then I go from there. In many ways, being rational, stable, productive and biracial carries with it a fundamental and inalienable argument against the far too many who use fear-mongering and race-baiting to demonize the coming together of people of different races.
( The Smith Family )
RM: What are your words of wisdom on how we can transform racism in America and heal the racial divide?
Have a full conversation on race and accept the multiple layers of that conversation. Have the courage to look at the gray that exists, since the conversation is anything and everything but black and white. Reject selective thinking or short term memory and embrace a sober, inclusive, exhaustive and fact based reflection on our American history as it pertains to race. Since no part of American history has not been touched by race and racism.
ES: What is one wild thing on your bucket list?
I want to bike from New York to San Francisco, and then walk back.
Check out all the latest reggae releases by Easy Star Records at www.easystar.com.