In the ongoing journey toward criminal justice reform, stories have the power to inspire change and foster understanding. BET+’s film “Kemba” is one such story, shedding light on the human impact of the justice system and the urgent need for compassion and reform. As we explore the significance of this film and we  advocate for President Biden to grant clemency for more women that have received over sentence prison term. 

“Kemba” tells the compelling story of Kemba Smith, a young woman whose life was dramatically altered by the criminal justice system. In the early 1990s, Kemba was sentenced to 24.5 years in prison for her minor role in her boyfriend’s drug activities, despite being a first-time, non-violent offender. Her sentence was a harsh consequence of mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

After serving six and a half years, Kemba was granted clemency by President Bill Clinton in 2000. Her story, now depicted in “Kemba,” highlights the critical need for second chances and the possibility of redemption, resonating deeply with viewers and advocates alike.

Michelle West’s story mirrors Kemba’s in many ways. In 1994, Michelle was sentenced to life plus fifty years for her alleged involvement in a drug conspiracy and a related murder. Despite maintaining her innocence regarding the murder and having an impeccable prison record, Michelle has spent nearly three decades behind bars.

Her daughter, Miquelle West, has been a relentless advocate for her mother’s release, emphasizing the severity and injustice of Michelle’s sentence. Michelle’s case highlights the broader issues within the criminal justice system, such as the overuse of mandatory minimum sentences and the lack of parole opportunities for non-violent offenders.

Clemency is a powerful tool that can correct judicial excesses and recognize the potential for rehabilitation. Michelle West’s continued incarceration, despite her reformed character and the advocacy of her family and supporters, calls for urgent action.

President Biden has the authority to grant clemency, an act that would reunite Michelle with her family and signify a commitment to addressing the deep-seated injustices in the justice system. Granting clemency to Michelle West would be a step toward acknowledging the harsh realities of mandatory minimum sentencing and promoting a more humane approach to justice.

Represent Justice plays a crucial role in amplifying stories like those of Kemba Smith and Michelle West. By raising awareness and advocating for policy changes, Represent Justice helps humanize those affected by the justice system. Their efforts are essential in building public support for clemency and broader reforms.

Films like “Kemba” serve as powerful vehicles for empathy and change. By bringing personal stories to the forefront, they invite viewers to understand the real-life impact of the justice system and inspire action. This kind of storytelling is vital for driving the public support needed to influence policy changes and clemency decisions.

As we reflect on “Kemba” and the ongoing struggle of Michelle West, it is clear that personal stories can drive meaningful change. We urge President Biden to grant clemency to Michelle West, addressing a longstanding injustice and reuniting a family. Additionally, we support the work of Represent Justice, whose advocacy is crucial in the fight for a fairer and more compassionate justice system.

By championing the stories of individuals like Kemba Smith and Michelle West, we can work together to create a justice system that embodies fairness, rehabilitation, and humanity. Let us use the power of empathy and storytelling to advocate for change and support those who have been unjustly affected by the system.


Check out my full interview below with Kemba: