Nesta Cooper, Michelle Hurd, Siddiq Saunderson, and Sean Patrick Thomas Star in BET+’s ‘Kemba’ – Based on a True Story [TRAILER]

bet plus kemba

BET+ has released the trailer for “Kemba,” a film based on the real-life story of criminal justice reform advocate Kemba Smith. Starring Nesta Cooper, Michelle Hurd, Siddiq Saunderson, and Sean Patrick Thomas, the movie tells the story of Kemba’s unjust sentence as a first-time, non-violent offender caught up in the government’s “war on drugs.”

The plot revolves around Kemba (played by Cooper), a sheltered college student whose life takes an unexpected turn when she falls in love with a man, Khalif (Saunderson). Unbeknownst to her, Khalif is a drug kingpin, and the relationship turns abusive as he coerces Kemba into overlooking his illicit dealings. Despite never being involved in drug-related activities, Kemba receives an unjust sentence due to her boyfriend’s crimes, placing her at the forefront of the government’s “war on drugs.” Her parents, portrayed by Hurd and Thomas, alongside an attorney from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, launch a relentless campaign for appeal and clemency, rallying support from Black civic organizations, sororities, celebrities, and lawmakers.


Directed by Kelley Kali, “Kemba” is scheduled to premiere on the streaming platform on February 22. Executive producers include Kemba Smith herself, along with Nick Reid, Constance Orlando, and Maureen Guthman. The screenplay, penned by Christine Swanson, comes to life under the production expertise of Rob Pfaltzgraff, Lana Link, and Stacey Parks.

The real-life story behind the film is both heartbreaking and triumphant. In 1994, Ms. Smith, a first-time, non-violent offender, was sentenced to 24.5 years without parole under the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. She was also pregnant at the time of her sentencing.

This act, signed into law by President Reagan, was a cornerstone of America’s “War on Drugs.” Despite the adversity, Kemba Smith emerged from prison in 2000, obtaining a bachelor’s in social work from Virginia Union University and a law degree from Howard University School of Law. Committed to criminal justice reform, she actively collaborates with organizations that played a pivotal role in her release and has served on the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission and the Virginia Parole Board.

Today, Kemba Smith is happily married and the proud mother of a son and a daughter.

For a sneak peek into the gripping narrative, watch the trailer for “Kemba” below.

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