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Growing up as an only child in Richmond, Virginia, Kemba Smith Pradia graduated high school and continued her education at prestigious Hampton University. What happened to Kemba in her new campus environment was a nightmare. In an attempt to “fit in,” Kemba associated with the wrong crowd and became involved with a drug dealer. He was a major figure in a crack cocaine ring and drew Kemba right in the middle of his life with physical, mental and emotional abuse disguised as “love.”
After enduring this turbulent four-year relationship in 1994, Kemba was sentenced to 24.5 years and served 6.5 years in federal prison. Fortunately, she regained her freedom after President Clinton granted her clemency in December 2000. Her case drew support from across the nation and the world to reverse a disturbing trend in the rise of lengthy sentences for first time non-violent drug offenders. Her story has been featured on CNN, Nightline, Court TV, The Early Morning Show, Judge Hatchett, and a host of other television programs. In addition, Kemba has been featured in several publications such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, JET, Emerge, Essence, Heart and Soul, Glamour, and People Magazines.
Kemba’s traumatic real life experience forces today’s students to recognize that there are consequences to their life choices. She has been corporately sponsored to speak at a variety of high schools and college venues by Proctor & Gamble, Bank One Academy, Shell Corporation, BET, Traveler’s Foundation, and Verizon. Rainforest Films acquired the rights to produce Kemba’s life story into a film. Rainforest Films is based out of Atlanta and has produced the critically acclaimed films: Stomp the Yard, This Christmas, Obsessed, Takers and Think Like a Man.
Kemba is a graduate of Virginia Union University and was a past recipient for a two year Soros Justice Postgraduate Fellowship for advocates. She has spoken on panels, testified before Congress and the United Nations regarding a variety of criminal justice issues including: crack cocaine sentencing, mandatory drug sentencing, women and incarceration, felony disenfranchisement, and re-entry. Currently, Kemba is continuing to develop her 501 (c) (3) foundation, the Kemba Smith Foundation.
As a wife, mother, advocate, national public speaker and author of her long awaited memoir, Poster Child, Kemba has received numerous awards and recognitions for her courage and determination to educate the public about the devastating consequences of current drug policies. 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.