KEMBA SMITH
(Biography)

Growing up as the only child of professional parents in Richmond, Virginia suburb, Kemba Smith led an advantaged and sheltered childhood. After graduating from high school in 1989, Kemba left the security of her family to continue her education at prestigious Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. What happened to Kemba in her new campus environment is every parent's nightmare. Away from the protective watch of her mother and father and in an attempt to "fit in", Kemba fell in with the wrong crowd and became involved with a drug dealer. He was a major figure in a $4 million dollar crack cocaine ring, and drew Kemba right in the middle of his life with physical, mental and emotional abuse disguised as "love".

Eventually, after enduring this turbulent four year relationship in 1994, Ms. Smith was sentenced to 24.5 years and served 6.5 years in federal prison. She also gave birth to her first and only son while incarcerated. Fortunately, Ms. Smith regained her freedom after President Clinton granted her clemency in December 2000. Her case drew support from across the nation and the world in crusade to reverse a disturbing trend in the rise of lengthy sentences for first time non-violent drug offenders. Her story has been featured on Nightline, Court TV, The Early Morning Show and host of other television programs. Along with several publications such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, Glamour , People, and Essence magazines.

As an advocate/public speaker, Ms. Smith has received numerous awards and recognitions for her courage and determination to educate the public about the devastating social, economic and political consequences of current drug policies. She has been corporately sponsored to speak at a variety of high school and college venues by Proctor & Gamble's Tampax "Totally You Tour", Bank One Academy, Shell Corporation and Travelers Foundation and Verizon. Ms. Smith's traumatic real life experience forces today's students to listen in hopes that they will recognize that there are consequences to their life choices.

In May 2002, Ms. Smith graduated from Virginia Union University with a bachelor's degree in Social Work and plans to attend law school in the future. She was recently awarded a Soros Justice Postgraduate Fellowship for advocates. This two year grant will enable Ms. Smith to inspire youth to become educated about certain injustices within the criminal justice system and unified effective leaders/advocates in the struggle for change, with the intent of generating community mobilization and action. This, she believes, is her mission.