Richard Smith’s story is one of trauma and triumph. His father was murdered a month before his birth. His mother struggled with unaddressed trauma and poverty as a single parent. His childhood often chaotic, unstable and frightening. He survived abuse, experienced housing instability, and suffered emotional neglect. Failed by schools that labeled his trauma responses as maladaptive, he failed two consecutive grades, and was tracked into special education before dropping out of school in the 9th grade. He found solace being in community with other wounded young people and found a false sense of hope in the underground drug economy. At the age of sixteen, Richard was incarcerated in an adult jail. After several other arrests, Richard was deemed incorrigible by the criminal legal system and sentenced to spend all of his twenties in prison.
In prison Richard encountered men who helped him understand his pain and recognize his true potential. These wounded healers on the inside taught Richard about the history of slavery, the spiritual wisdom of his African ancestry, and the persistent impact of White supremacy on the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. They inspired in Richard a true sense of hope, confidence, and agency. They gave him wings!
Now a nationally recognized expert on trauma and healing for survivors of interpersonal and systemic violence. Richard has over two decades of experience developing and leading community-based programs to support the healing process of historically oppressed groups. He is an assistant professor at Long Island University Brooklyn’s Social Work Department. He has also lectured at numerous colleges and universities on issues such as systemic racism, mass incarceration, and trauma and healing. Richard has provided trainings and technical assistance for agencies throughout the country. Richard is currently the National Director of United for Healing Equity, the policy and organizing arm of Common Justice.
Richard earned BA in sociology from Boston University and holds a master’s degree from the University at Albany in Africana Studies. He is currently a doctoral candidate at SUNY Albany’s School of Social Welfare. His research focus is male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Richard is a Robert Wood Johnson Forward Promise Leadership Fellow. He is the proud father of two sons, Kaden and Kaleb.
Certifications & Awards
Robert Wood Johnson’s Forward Promise Leadership Fellowship January 2019
Society for Social Work in Research Fellow January 2018
Citizens Against Recidivism Inc. Citizens Bridge Builder Award September 2017
JustLeadershipUSA Leading With Conviction 2017 Fellow January 2017
New Leaders Council of the Capital District 2015 Fellow January 2015
SUNY Albany Women’s Gender and Sexualities Studies’ Mentor of the Year May 2014
Harvard Graduate School of Education New and Aspiring Leaders Certificate April 2014
Capital District YMCA Black and Latino Achievers Award June 2013
Johnson Communications 2011 Outstanding Community Service Award Jan. 2011
Offender Workforce Development Specialist July 2010
The Boston Trauma Center: Post Traumatic Stress Management November 2007
The Center for Law and Social Policy Reconnecting, Realizing and Reimagining Justice
Criminal Justice Investment Initiative, Developing Innovative Strategies for Addressing the Needs of Underserved Survivors of Trauma
National Center for Victims of Crime Conference: Equipping Allied
Organizations to Help Young Men of Color Heal
Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice Centering Survivors: A Critical
Equity Summit: Trauma-informed Approaches and Culturally Rooted Restorative Approaches to Ending Violence
University of Denver Colorado: Culturally Responsive Strategies for Healing Communities of Color
The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault: Healing is For Everyone:
Supporting Men of Color and People Living with Disabilities Who Have Been Sexually Abused