Smith shares horror of making a "bad choice"

admin | 11/8/2011, 5:18 a.m.

Her love for a drug dealer results in 24-year prison sentence Kemba Smith Pradia celebrated her 40th birthday in July surrounded by her parents, husband, 16-year-old son and an 18-month-old daughter. The story of her life has been acquired by Rainforest Films the Atlanta-based company that has produced Stomp the Yard and This Christmas. And she has become a national spokesperson for teens, using her harrowing experiences to illustrate that there are always consequences to the choices we make. Its a marked difference from where she once stood. In 1994, she faced a judge and was sentenced to 24.5 years in federal prison. Her crime being in a relationship with a kingpin in a multi-million dollar crack cocaine ring. He was killed before police could apprehend him. But she was charged with his crimes. Her book, Poster Child: The Kemba Smith Story, is a no-holds barred memoir that is at times shocking, with tales of domestic violence, murder and a justice system gone wrong. Initially I felt betrayed, hurt and was in disbelief when I was sentenced, she said. I gave birth to my son [the child of her lover] in prison I was in shackles [hands and feet] and the U.S. marshals wouldnt even let me touch him or kiss him. When I began to read more about Black history, it made me see things more clearly. I saw the injustice in our justice system. Smith was released from jail 10 years ago, after serving 6 1/2 years but only because her story gained nationwide attention. President Bill Clinton signed an executive clemency releasing her. But other woman have not been as fortunate. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of young women who were first time, non-violent offenders that were once the girlfriends of major drug dealers. Smith says she hopes that her book and her public speaking engagements will encourage young men and women to make the best of every opportunity and to make healthy choices as it relates to relationships. There are many women, like Danielle Metz and Michelle West, who are still in jail and serving very long sentences, she said. It was God who ordered my steps and gave me a second chance. I had to learn how to love and value myself thats half the battle. Then you wont let anyone come along and sidetrack you from your dreams, disrupt your relationship with your family, or mistreat and abuse you just because you want to be loved. Prison taught me that I am strong woman. I realized that if our ancestors could overcome the obstacles they faced, I could too. She adds that she accepts full ownership in not walking away from the glitter and gifts that came with being a drug dealers woman. I tried to pretend that what he did for a living was his thing because I was in school [Hampton University] and wasnt part of it, she said. Then the abuse started and I developed this fear I was afraid to leave him because of what he might do. Smith has beaten the odds and is using her life to help others. She hopes they wont make the same poor choices that she did and says now, life is good. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com