February 22, Only on BET+



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Link to YouTube trailer here

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PREMIERE DATE: The feature-length film inspired by the work of criminal justice reform advocate Kemba Smith premieres on Thursday, February 22, only on BET+.


DESCRIPTION: Based on the true story of Kemba Smith, “Kemba” follows the journey of a sheltered college student who falls in love with a man, only to find out he isn’t who he seems. When Kemba learns of her boyfriend Khalif’s true identity as a drug kingpin, he turns abusive—grooming straight-laced Kemba to overlook his illicit dealings. Though she never dealt or handled drugs, in a tragic turn of events, Kemba receives an outrageous sentence for her boyfriend’s crimes—placing her in the middle of the government’s “war on drugs.” Never losing hope, her parents, Gus and Odessa Smith, along with an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund launch a campaign for appeal and later clemency, harnessing the power of Black civic organizations, sororities, celebrities, and lawmakers to help free Kemba.


  • NESTA COOPER (bio) - “Kemba”
  • SIDDIQ SAUNDERSON (bio) - “Khalif”
  • MICHELLE HURD (bio)  - “Odessa Smith”
  • SEAN PATRICK THOMAS (bio) - “Gus Smith”


  • Executive Producers: Nick Reid, Kemba Smith, Constance Orlando, Maureen Guthman
  • Producers: Rob Pfaltzgraff, Lana Link, Stacey Parks
  • Written by: Christine Swanson
  • Directed by: Kelley Kali
  • Produced by: MPI Original Films


  • Female incarceration

  • Domestic violence against women

  • Mandatory minimum sentencing


Kemba Smith Pradia went from college student to drug dealer’s girlfriend to domestic violence victim and in 1994 she was sentenced to 24 1/2 years in federal prison. Kemba’s case drew support from across the nation.


Often labeled the “poster child” for reversing a disturbing trend in the rise of lengthy sentences for first-time, non-violent drug offenders, Kemba’s story was featured on a variety of television shows and in several publications. The support prompted then President Clinton to commute her sentence in December 2000, after having served 6 1/2 years in prison.


Today, Kemba is a wife, mother, public speaker, advocate, consultant, and author of Poster Child. She has worked with senior officials at The White House, the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Members of Congress, and has led trainings for Federal and State Probation organizations across the country. Corporations such as Verizon, Traveler’s Foundation, Proctor and Gamble, Bank of America and Gulfstream have sponsored her speaking at events across the country. She has received numerous awards and recognitions for her courage and determination as a motivational speaker and advocate.

In 2019, Kemba was appointed to the Virginia Parole Board by Governor Ralph Northam and served for over two years. In January 2022, she involuntarily separated from the State due to the transition of a new gubernatorial administration. Prior to her appointment, she served on the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission and held the position of State Advocacy Campaigns Director with the ACLU of Virginia.


Currently, Kemba is an entrepreneur and consultant. She continues to serve on the Board of Directors for Virginia CARES and Drug Policy Alliance. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the NAACP, the National Association of Black in Criminal Justice, and Co- convener of the Justice Roundtable.

Along with being an advocate for criminal justice reform, Kemba is the founder of her 501 (c) 3, The Kemba Smith Foundation. Ultimately, Kemba knows that there is a lesson in each experience in life, and she has embraced her experience, learned from it, and is now using that experience to teach others.



MPI Original Films is a subsidiary of the Moving Picture Institute—a production company and talent incubator that creates high-impact films designed to entertain, inspire, and educate audiences with captivating stories about human freedom. MPI Original films include the 2019 feature film Miss Virginia starring Uzo Aduba (Mrs. America, Orange Is the New Black) and A Piece of Cake starring Rich Sommer (GLOW, Mad Men), which was nominated for Best Narrative Short at the Tribeca Film Festival. MPI’s most recent feature Pinball starring Mike Faist (Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story) and Crystal Reed (Teen Wolf, Swamp Thing) is currently available on streaming platforms including Hulu and Apple TV, and was hailed by New Yorker critic Richard Brody as “better than all ten of [last year’s] Best Picture nominees and one of the best three films of 2023 so far.” For more information, please visit



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