When Kemba Smith Pradia spoke this fall to a gathering of students at South Carolina State University, her candid talk about violence against women and the campus “hype” over drugs, sex and money resonated with students and faculty alike.
“By having enough courage to stand up and share her story, she empowered a lot of young men and women,” says Tiffany McMillian, a social work major at SCSU who was in the audience. “She was really real. (She) didn’t keep any secrets.”
Kemba Smith Pradia knows of what she speaks.
Ten years ago this month, Kemba Smith was wasting away in a federal prison as prisoner No. 26370-083. Used by others as a “drug mule,” the Richmond, Va., native, had pleaded guilty to her low-level involvement in a violent cocaine drug ring. She was serving a mandatory federal prison term of 24 1/2 years with no chance for parole. Her sentence was longer than that for many people convicted of murder, rape, robbery, fraud or arson, despite her being a first-time, non-violent offender and, in this case, having never used cocaine or benefited financially from the drug ring’s activities.