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Kemba  Smith

Kemba Smith

Author & Criminal Justice Advocate


Nothing about Kemba Smith’s life was out of the ordinary until she began college at Hampton University. It was here she met and began a relationship with Peter Hall, the leader of a drug ring and one of the FBI’s 15 Most Wanted. The relationship would soon turn abusive and Kemba made multiple unsuccessful attempts to leave. After her boyfriend was found murdered, Smith was arrested and held accountable for his drug crimes and was sentenced to 24.5 years in prison. After spending six and a half years in prison, President Clinton granted her clemency in 2000. Read More >

Kemba used her experience as a domestic violence survivor, federal prisoner and mother to become a public speaker, advocate and author. She shares her honest and traumatic experience in her book, Poster Child: The Kemba Smith Story. Kemba’s story has been featured on CNN, Nightline, The Early Morning Show, and a host of other television programs. Her story has 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.

Motivated by her unjust sentencing, Kemba is 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. Because of her inspirational work, Kemba was invited to the White House in 2016 to meet President Obama. 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, has a law degree from the Howard University School of Law, and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. For the past few 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 inform people about  what is happening in our criminal justice system and hopes to inspire policy changes. 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 and make change happen. 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

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