Keynote Address– Kemba Smith Pradia (AND STILL I RISE)
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. Kemba went from college student, domestic violence survivor and federal prisoner, to 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, Court TV, The Early Morning Show, Donahue, Judge Hatchett, 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, Glamour, People, JET, Emerge, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and Essence magazines. Kemba is a graduate of Virginia Union University and was a past recipient for a two-year Soros Justice Postgraduate Fellowship for advocates. In December 2014, Kemba was appointed a member of the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission by Governor Terry McAuliff. She has spoken at the White House, testified before Congress and the United Nations.
She is a popular speaker at colleges, universities, high schools, juvenile facilities, churches and national conferences around the nation. She 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 prevent others from going down a similar path. 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.