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She has also been a voice on voting rights and mandatory sentencing.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Plans are underway for a movie about Kemba Smith Pradia’s life as a young woman whose tumultuous four-year relationship with a major drug dealer landed her in prison under a 24-year mandatory sentence.
The Virginia native hasn’t given much thought to whom she would like to see in the title role of the movie that is being scripted from her self-published book “Poster Child: The Kemba Smith Story.”
“I’m a very humble type individual. I just want God to do what needs to be done so it can be impactful,” Pradia said in telephone interview.
The movie will show that Pradia was doomed until President Bill Clinton granted clemency to her and others who faced extreme sentences because of mandatory sentencing guidelines. She served almost seven years of her sentence.
Pradia, who will be 48 on Wednesday, has been in the news for nearly two decades. Prior to her release, Pradia’s parents and friends crisscrossed the country, seeking a change in mandatory sentencing laws, especially as they pertain to first-time offenders and those convicted of nonviolent crimes.
For the past 13 years, Pradia herself has been talking to others about “toxic relationships” and domestic violence in addition to calling attention to unfair mandatory sentencing guidelines.
Pradia, now married and the mother of two, refers to herself as a “poster child for domestic violence.”
She is speaking in Roanoke on Saturday during a luncheon, “Standing Together Against Domestic Violence,” a joint venture of Beta Chi Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha and the Roanoke Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
The event marks the first time the Roanoke AKAs and Deltas — affiliates of the nation’s two oldest black sororities — have worked together on a social justice project of such magnitude, said Delta President Diane Jones.
Proceeds will benefit TAP-Sabrina’s Place, a supervised visitation and exchange program that serves victims of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
Both sororities work with Sabrina’s Place, named in memory of Roanoke nurse Sabrina Rucker Reed, who was killed by her husband when he arrived to pick up their child for a visit.
Beta Chi, in keeping with one of its national mandates, must partner with another community group to promote a social issue, and the group selected Sabrina Place as the beneficiary of its project because Reed was a member of the chapter, said Deidre Trigg, AKA Social Justice chairwoman.
“Our goal is to impart awareness and knowledge about domestic violence,” Trigg said.
Kemba Smith — as she’s been known through headlines — was from an upper-middle-class Richmond family and an AKA debutante when she ventured off to historically all-black Hampton Institute.
Wanting to fit in, she got caught up in the wrong crowd. Her “popular” boyfriend was eight years her senior and didn’t even attend the college.
They were together four years, but she made several unsuccessful attempts to leave him because of physical and emotional abuse.
She admits to knowing that her boyfriend was dealing drugs, but she didn’t know that he was the leader of a $4 million crack cocaine ring and one of the FBI’s 15 Most Wanted.
After the boyfriend was discovered slain , the government held Pradia accountable for the total amount of the drugs in his drug conspiracy charge.
She turned herself in, and although she had no criminal record, she was found guilty. She entered federal prison seven months pregnant with a son, who now attends Washington and Lee University.
She was supposed to be incarcerated until 2016 but advocacy efforts by her parents, several organizations and friends led to Clinton’s commutation of her sentence in 2000.
She’s since become an advocate for social justice and an activist and has earned several college degrees, married and become a mother a second time.
She wants to remind people that “domestic violence doesn’t have to be physical” and to call attention to the disenfranchised. One of her most emotional experiences was walking into a voting booth and casting her first ballot in the 2012 presidential election.
“I believe voting is a basic human right,” she explained.
W hile Pradia doesn’t seem to care about who portrays her in the movie about her, she plans to continue advocating for the automatic restoration of voting rights for nonviolent offenders.
She also looks forward to one day meeting Clinton and thanking him for her clemency.
Tickets for the 11 a.m. luncheon event at Holiday Inn, 3315 Ordway Drive N.W., Roanoke, are $25 and can be obtained by calling Deidre Trigg at 529-2700.
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