Kemba Smith paid a high price for having low self esteem and loving a man more than she loved herself. Kemba’s story is the sinking trajectory of a young woman born to advantage and remarkable vulnerability in the suburbs of Richmond, who made a few flightless hops toward adolescent rebellion during college, and then found herself a man. He was, as it turned out, very much the wrong man. The way Kemba tells it, it was just a short slide from love to fear, and from fear to helping, running. But the truth of why Kemba Smith fell in love with Peter Michael Hall–and stayed, while he pulled her down with him–is extremely complicated and ends for him, and for her in at least one respect, with his unresolved death. Her story is replayed daily in the lives of thousands of girls and young women throughout America with rising consequences.
Just over two hours from Richmond and 15 years later (from 1993, the start of Kemba’s legal peril, to the 2008 connection with L.O.V.E.), are the Ladies of Virtue and Excellence (L.O.V.E.), an after-school extracurricular organization for female students at Central High School in High Point, North Carolina. At Central High, L.O.V.E. uses a unique equation to promote scholastic success. Kemba’s life journey against the backdrop of a compelling story of a determined family from Sunflower County, Mississippi, has provided a roadmap to prepare young ladies for avenues of higher education, selfless service, personal growth and strength through positive self image, character development, and a greater appreciation of history and family support. Each of the young ladies of L.O.V.E Central High School are vulnerable. The variables of Kemba’s story are relived by thousands in some way as is the struggle and perseverance of the Carter family as told in “Silver Rights.” Together, these two powerful stories, one past and another still evolving, become the national demonstration to help rewrite and inspire a population of ladies of virtue and excellence in as many locations as possible.
The powerful forces of lessons learned, miseducation, and public policy will unite to begin a 12-month education and intervention series called “What’s L.O.V.E. Got To Do With It.” As an outgrowth of the PEN OR PENCIL: ‘Til Death Do Us Part” National Initiative, the leadership and oversight of the National Alliance of Faith and Justice will join forces with the Kemba Smith Foundation in a nationwide effort to rally and recruit an army willing to identify themselves as ladies of virtue and excellence from middle, high schools, and colleges across America.