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
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
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.