“I speak for the underdogs. I speak for the LGBTQ community. I speak for the BIPOC,” says Valerie Smith-Jackson, using the acronym for Black, Indigenous and people of color. “I speak for those who are suffering through drugs and alcohol, those who feel disenchanted with life and want to commit suicide — I fight for them all.”
Wielding this powerful dedication to underserved populations, the Asheville-based activist, motivational speaker and priestess is primed to inspire genuine, lasting change through her new podcast, Enchanting Asheville. The series debuted July 21 with guest Amy Cantrell, co-director of nonprofit community aid group BeLoved Asheville. New 30-minute episodes will be added each Tuesday on all major podcast services, featuring discussions of the lives of local people of color and those who love them.
A transplant from the South Carolina Lowcountry, Smith-Jackson is the descendant of a grandmother who had 22 children, which she says led to her being “born like a priestess with an overindulgent expression of kundalini [i.e., divine feminine] power.” As such, her nature is highly sensual and sexual, and she celebrates her femininity at all times. In seeking to put a name to her free expression of these qualities, the closest she came to an accurate moniker was “Supervixen.” Then one day, she fortuitously came across “Supervixen” by the rock band Garbage, embraced it as her theme song and officially became Priestess Supervixen.
“I use the word ‘Supervixen’ now, not only to express my sensuality and my love for my femininity, but also as a priestess,” Smith-Jackson says. “How I present my information is both sensual and engaging, so I use my warm voice with my spirituality, backed by my sensual power. And I use it to enchant love, understanding, encouragement, freedom and peace to people.”
In spreading that enchantment, Smith-Jackson had long wanted to explore podcasting and other social media endeavors but is admittedly not as fluent with technology as she’d like. “I put [it] out in the universe, as a witchy woman would do,” she recalls. “I said, ‘I need someone that knows how to do podcasting and different things like that. Bring them to me because I don’t know what to do.’ And you forget that your power is in asking — it’s in your voice.”
Before long, she was giving an online talk when Asheville-based producer Ben Stockdale reached out and asked if she’d ever thought of doing a podcast. The synchronicity of creative forces in the universe made Smith-Jackson instantly crack up, and she quickly accepted his offer. Since this summoning, she says the two have become “quite a pair,” noting Stockdale’s “more conservative” mindset but also someone with his own spirituality. She says he honors her as a person of color and, inspired by Black Lives Matter initiatives, wanted to do something for the community but didn’t know how until he and Smith-Jackson crossed digital paths.
“Everyone has a piece in this movement, and not all of us are going to agree on the right tactic to attack racism, disenfranchisement and poverty,” she says. “We may not know one way that we can all do it, but we all do it in our own way. Before we know it, we’ve already taken care of a lot and we’re now laughing on other side in the sun. We can do this. Everyone just be true to who they really are. Do their work — their own unique spiritual work — on their negative aspects of themselves, and let’s come to the table.”
In addition to Cantrell and Michael Hayes, executive director of Umoja Health, Wellness and Justice Collective, Smith-Jackson plans to speak with local business leaders, faith leaders, activists and artists on future Enchanting Asheville episodes. Politicians are also in the mix, with Asheville City Council member Keith Young and City Manager Debra Campbell high on her wish list.
She’s additionally on the lookout for community members with recent engaging stories to tell regarding race relations — and found one via Facebook involving a woman of color who had a negative experience with a sales rep at a downtown Asheville boutique and vowed to never shop there again. The store owner then reached out to the customer, saying the experience was not indicative of the business’s values and asked her to have a discussion about what had occurred.
Sensing an opportunity for Enchanting Asheville, Smith-Jackson waited a few days, messaged both parties and learned that the dialogue had gone extremely well and resulted in the shopper being gifted the item that prompted the troubling encounter and being recruited to help the business owner and her staff to develop racial equity practices in sales. Smith-Jackson then invited both women to come on her show to reflect on the turn of events; they agreed, and the conversation resulted in what the host calls “a very powerful podcast.”
“I’m going to keep after everybody that’s doing their best to have a beautiful impact on our community in their own unique ways,” Smith-Jackson says. “That way, eventually, when people want to think about coming to Asheville to live, to do shows, to do anything, I’m going to be a podcast they’re going to be wanting to listen to. How are people getting along here? How are things working out for the community here?”
True to the podcast’s name, each episode concludes with an enchantment based on the discussion that’s just occurred. During that final stretch, Smith-Jackson amplifies “the positive experience or intentions in the universe of what we need as a community, as people of color and all those who want peace and harmony here.” She describes the enchantment as “scooping up some of the darkness and transforming it into light and pushing it out into the universe,” one of many qualities that she hopes will help set Enchanting Asheville apart from other local podcasts.
“I’m not of any religion and I’m not of any one political affiliation. I’m a witch. I wouldn’t be considered the most popular, well-loved person, but I’m going to do my share to have an impact with a whole legion of us who’ve been sitting in the shadows doing spiritual work forever,” Smith-Jackson says. “I’m calling forth Christian prayer warriors. I’m calling forth all the spiritualists and healers. I’m calling forth all the spiritual entities in this land, ancestral and natural, for the change of Asheville for the people and the whole damn world. It is now. This is the perfect time. I’m just a dot in this movement.”
Find Smith-Jackson’s podcast here: avl.mx/7qg