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Kemba  Smith

Kemba Smith

Author & Criminal Justice Advocate


Growing up as an only child in Richmond, Virginia, Kemba Smith graduated high school and continued her education at the prestigious Hampton University. What happened to Kemba in her new campus environment was a nightmare, and led to a 24.5-year sentence in a federal prison. In December 2000, after serving 6.5 years, President Clinton commuted her sentence to time served. Read More >

Kemba went from college student, domestic violence survivor, federal prisoner, mother, public speaker, advocate and author. She shares her traumatic real life experience in her book, Poster Child: The Kemba Smith Story. Featured on CNN, Nightline, The Early Morning Show, and a host of other television programs, Kemba’s story has also been written about in several national publications including The Washington Post, New York Times, Emerge, Glamour, People, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and Essence magazines.

Kemba uses her voice as an advocate on a variety of criminal justice issues including: Conspiracy drug laws, crack cocaine sentencing, mandatory minimum drug sentencing, women and incarceration, felony disenfranchisement, and re-entry. In 2016, one of her memorable moments was meeting President Barack Obama at the White House. In addition to her advocacy work, she is a sought after speaker at colleges, universities, high schools, juvenile facilities, churches and national conferences around the nation.

Kemba is a graduate of Virginia Union University with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. For the past 3 years, Kemba has served as a member of the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission in which she was appointed by Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Kemba has received numerous awards and recognitions for her courage and determination to educate the public about the devastating consequences of current drug policies and for her commitment in serving women and youth

Kemba believes in sharing her story as an educational tool to wake people up to what is happening in our criminal justice system and hopefully to impact policy. Ultimately, Kemba knows that there is a lesson in each experience in life, and she has embraced her experience, learned from it, and is now using that experience to teach others. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

American Drug Policy & Its Devastating Effects

Women & Mass Incarceration

First Generational & First-Year College Student Empowerment

Making Healthy Choices & Consequences

Domestic Violence, Self-Esteem & Relationships

Personal Responsibility: Today’s Choices are Tomorrow’s Consequences

Connect with Kemba Smith