Originally from Brooklyn, Kempis was a gifted student who set off for Philadelphia as a 15-year-old ninth grader with a couple of childhood friends with plans to make money and find respect. Their plans went terribly wrong and within months he and a friend were facing a murder charge. The newspaper photo in the background of this page shows Kempis (right with glasses) and his friend Dameon being led from the courtroom. He tells his story in the video below, which also includes excerpts of interviews with his mother and aunt, who have stuck by his side (along with the rest of his family) through some 28 years of incarceration.
“One Year Out”
Most juvenile lifers we have talked to don’t like to speculate on their release. In this candid piece of audio, Kempis lets us into his head and tells us what he imagines his first year out of prison would be like (13 minutes).
“The Fierce Urgency of Now”
In this short excerpt from a conversation in February, 2015, Kempis talks about the duty we all have to wrestle with the larger issues of our time, including the concept of forgiveness (5 minutes).
Kempis (or “Ghani,” as he is known inside) talks about the Fathers and Children Together (FACT) program he helped found at Graterford. In this story from 2012 on Power 99 he speaks about the program (51 minutes. Ghani begins at about 4 minutes in).
“The Potentiality of the Human Race”
A follow-up on the FACT program on Power 99. At around the 22-minute mark Kempis talks about the program and quotes James Agee: “In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again” (27 minutes).
In this interview, Kempis Songster’s younger cousin, Malik Songster-Thomas, talks about his relationship with Kempis and the reasons why he believes Kempis should be resentenced and released.