Skip To Content

Alumnae Stories

Barbara Furlow-Smiles Breaks Boundaries With New Children's Book

October 2023

Barbara Smiles Headshot In the colorful tapestry of accomplished individuals in today's rapidly growing DEI space, Barbara Furlow-Smiles, C'2007, emerges as a multifaceted force — a celebrated author, compelling public speaker, and esteemed senior diversity executive who has left her mark on corporate giants like MTV, Meta (Facebook), and Nike.

Her odyssey began at Spelman where she majored in political science and minored in international studies, but her quest for a deeper understanding of the world was not limited to the Atlanta area. She earned a master's degree in public administration from Baruch College in New York and had a transformative study abroad experience at the University of Cape Town in South Africa where she immersed herself in international relations and communications, while embracing the joy of African dance as more than just a hobby — but rather a passion that would echo in her life's vibrant narrative.

Upon her return to Spelman, Furlow-Smiles didn't just bring back memories; she brought back a vision. Channeling her experiences, she birthed "Afro-lution," a groundbreaking student-led magazine dedicated to showcasing the stories of the African Diaspora. This initiative, the first student-led magazine to be sold at the College, not only highlighted her leadership but also echoed Spelman's commitment to empowering voices that often go unheard. Her passion for global understanding found further expression through her volunteer work with Global Learning in Costa Rica. There, she not only taught academic subjects to young minds but sowed the seeds of curiosity and compassion.

Furlow's love affair with travel commenced during her family's inaugural vacation to Hawaii where even at a young age, she began documenting her travels. This fervor for understanding diverse cultures blossomed and sparked her desire to immerse herself in the beauty of foreign lands and engage with people and places as a way to embrace cultural understanding.


A Book is Born 

When Imani Smiles In France

Her latest endeavor, the children's book "When Imani Smiles in France" was born from the experiences she and her husband, Ernest Smiles, gathered while traveling through more than 18 countries with their daughter, Imani. Witnessing Imani's growth — her burgeoning independence, boundless curiosity, and an innate compassion during these voyages became a precious gift they wanted to share with the world."

Large Blue Quote Left'When Imani Smiles in France,' is not only a source of inspiration but also a testament to the power of curiosity and the beauty of cultural diversity," said Furlow-Smiles. "It is currently the #1 hot new release on Amazon in Europe and achieved best-seller status during the first week of its launch, demonstrating its widespread appeal and we are grateful."

Imani's narrative is enriched by her African American heritage and offers readers a unique perspective into the mind of a young explorer who defies conventions. Her embrace of diverse cultures further elevates the book's appeal, as her open-mindedness is depicted through her interactions with newfound friends in France.

Global Opportunities Await

Barbara_Spelman_Book"This book holds particular significance for Spelman College and the current generation as it embodies the inspiring journey of a Black woman, a proud Spelman alum, and her Black family exploring the world," said Furlow-Smiles."

The book's narrative reflects the power of education, cultural exploration, and resilience in the face of adversity. It serves as a source of motivation for Spelman students and young Black individuals, demonstrating that their dreams and aspirations can take them far beyond their immediate surroundings, breaking down barriers and embracing diverse experiences while maintaining a strong connection to their heritage. Furlow-Smiles and her husband Ernest exemplify the values and aspirations instilled at Spelman and making it a compelling and influential story for today's generation.

What's Next up for Imani?

SmilesFamilyGroupPHOTOThe Smiles family is working on developing a global travel app designed by Ernest Smiles that allows users to create a global playground to connect children from all over the world through travel, curiosity and play. Additionally, the family is creating an "Imani Smiles Travel Doll" who will have a passport and suitcase to encourage children to travel. The book, the opening edition of an 11-book series, is slated to be on the shelves of Spelman's bookstore soon.

To learn more about Furlow-Smiles' endeavors, connect with her on LinkedIn and Instagram. Her story, woven with the threads of curiosity and understanding, is a celebration of the boundless possibilities that unfold when one embraces the wonders of our diverse world.