Is ‘Kemba’ a true story? The tragic and inspiring life of Kemba Smith

The studio of Act and Blavity recently released the trailer for Kemba, a BET+ Original film about a young woman who falls in love with a drug dealer and ends up in prison for it. Despite knowing her boyfriend is a drug lord, Kemba, the film’s protagonist, remains in the relationship, prepared to overlook his illegal dealings.

Kemba is based on the true story of Kemba Smith, who was imprisoned for the crimes of her late boyfriend

Kemba tells the story of criminal defense attorney Kemba Smith, who was imprisoned for her relationship with Peter Hall, a drug dealer. In her book, Poster child: the Kemba Smith story, she says she feared she would be harmed if she broke up with Hall. Despite never using or dealing drugs, Kemba was held responsible for Hall’s crimes after his murder.

Kemba was 24 years old when a judge sentenced her to 24 years in prison. She was a victim of the government’s cruel and unjust ‘war on drugs’, in which first-time offenders were punished as severely as hardened career criminals. It forced judges to hand out long sentences without taking into account mitigating factors, such as the physically violent nature of Kemba’s boyfriend.

Determined to find justice for Kemba, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has challenged Kemba’s sentence and used her case to campaign against draconian sentencing provisions. LDF obtained presidential clemency for Kemba in 2000, six and a half years into her sentence. Kemba holds degrees in social work and law and is now an author, motivational speaker, criminal justice advocate, mother and wife.

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