Hazel Joyner -Smith, entrepreneur, educator, landowner, grandmother, cultural activist and a pioneering change agent lives quietly in Nashville, Tennessee.
Born in a small rural farming community in Reidsville, North Carolina to Lawrence and Pearl Joyner, Hazel is the oldest of four children. Hazel’s role as the eldest sibling prepared her for leadership.Her father, who was widowed at a young age, never re-married, but devoted his time to raising his children and managing his farm, one the largest black-owned farms in Rockingham County. At the young age of six, her life was immersed in helping her father to manage the household and his 152 acre farm that provided jobs for many in the community.
Hazel, mother of the three successful daughters, Mica, Ingrid and Ivy, earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Winston- Salem State University, Winston- Salem, NC.After several years as a classroom teacher, she later received her Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, NC.Her transition from the classroom to positions of leadership served as a logical link to developing innovative programs that over the years, has leveraged new alliances.
With a resume that reads like a modern day pioneer looking for high adventure, no matter what the profession, whether serving as the program director of the Race Relations Institute at Fisk University, the director of the first HIV and AIDS Organization in NC, a Radio Personality, a Talent Coach, Civil Rights Worker, a Consultant and Trainer in cultural diversity, or national and international Negotiator for human rights issues, she always campaigned for equity of access.
Her passion to provide students, parents, individuals and communities every opportunity to learn and experience allowed her to naturally matriculate her focus to the industry of film, television, and music.In 1999, she began her work as a key organizer of the Film Festival hosted at Fisk University. Subsequently in 2006, Hazel entered into one of the most challenging phases of his career as an entrepreneur and the Founder/CEO of the International Black Film Festival of Nashville, located in Nashville, TN.The festival, now in its 4th year emerged on the scene as the first and only ongoing International Black Film Festival in the state of Tennessee. Under her leadership, the festival has gained momentum and is quickly being recognized in the national and international festival arenas. Hazel, a natural born leader, motivator and educator continues to draw the world in with her contagiously uplifting spirit as she takes the festival to the next level!
SEPTEMBER 22, 2011 the rank of chevalier, or knight, in France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres was bestowed to Ms. Smith for her lifelong contributions in furthering the arts in France and throughout the world while enhancing Tennessee’s cultural arena.
Established in 1957 and awarded by France’s minister of state for cultural affairs, The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres recognizes significant contributions to the French arts, literature or the propagation of these fields abroad. Laureates include both natives of France and non-natives. Recent American recipients include Paul Auster, Morgan Freeman, and Meryl Streep. The Consul General of France in Atlanta, Pascal Le Deunff, visited Nashville to present Joyner-Smith with the Arts et Lettres Medal Award during a private reception on September 22, 2011.