Kemba Naimbi Smith spoke in Florida A & M University’s Lee Hall for Journalism colloquium, Nov. 8.
Smith, alongside author Reginald Stuart, spoke to FAMU’s journalism students about Smith’s experience with a drug dealing and abusive boyfriend, serving jail time for a drug conspiracy and relating to the many black females in prison.
Smith’s history is a long one as she goes from being an accomplished high school student in Richmond, VA, to a discouraged attendee at Hampton University, falling prey to peer pressure and becoming involved with Peter Michael Hall, a convicted crack cocaine dealer.
Because of her association with Hall, in 1994 Smith was sentenced to 24 years in prison for a case of drug conspiracy.
She would have been released in 2016, however that sentence was severely reduced to only six years in federal prison due to the support of parents and a magazine article, as well as others, who felt her charge was an injustice.
Stuart, who wrote the article “Kemba’s Nightmare” in the 1996 May issue of Emerge Magazine, also spoke to students.
“I came to FAMU to talk to students about the importance of writing about serious issues that confront our community,” Stuart said.
Stuart’s 12,000 word article was 21 pages and explained in detail Smith’s situation, how her parents were dealing with the situation and Smith’s life growing.
“The Kemba Smith story is one of those serious stories that need more and constant attention from black Americans,” Stuart said.
Smith said she understands and acknowledged the importance of the magazine article as it worked as an advocate to plea her case.
“If it had not been for that article, people in the community would not know of my situation,” Smith said.
Although Smith’s sentence was reduced, her experience in jail is one she will not forget.
“Yes, there should have been a punishment, but the punishment given was too excessive,” Smith said.
She said she never handled, used or sold drugs and was arrested on conspiracy.
Smith gave birth to her son, while incarcerated and could not see him for five months.
Her prison experience showed her the status of many black males and females in prison, which inspired her to speak about her case.
“We have a responsibility to keep our black people moving forward,” Smith said.
Students who attended the event appreciated Smith’s appearance.
“I thought it was very motivational,” said Markashia Jeter,19, a sophomore broadcast journalism student from Atlanta. I felt like it was a voice for African-Americans, and women in general.”
Ashey Bates contributed to this article.