In Memory of Activist Karen M Smith
By: Melvin Perez
This Month we Remember our comrade and Sister, Karen M. Smith, 46, who died on Nov. 29, 2020, because of fatal car accident near waldo, Florida. A dear friend, beloved community Organizer and Activist, Karen lived a life of service to individuals who needed their voices to be heard for justice for them, their families and those living in the special heart for those in jail, and behind prison bars, where their lives are often forgotten in the system. Someone needed to advocate for them, so Karen would join with like minded individuals for justice for these individuals. Karen was born on August 23,1974 in Connecticut, where she grew up in a diverse culture. She later moved to Lake worth, Fl where she met her husband and had her first Child. During this time Karen’s husband was arrested and subsequently sentenced to serve time in the Florida Dept. of Corrections. Karen would often travel 100’s of miles to visit him at Century, Okaloosa and Mayo C.I. during his 10-year sentence, and take their child to visit. During these visit Karen noticed that prisoners would complain to their family and friends about abuse and inhuman prison conditions. Karen also experienced her own issues when trying to visit or calling the prison on behalf of her husband. This contact with the prison industry and experience, left Karen with resentment and a sense that the prison system was failing its citizens in the fair treatment of the people under its custody and their family & friends. Karen also met other prisoners, family, & friends of prisoners during the visits that shared the same views .. This was the start of a new journey for Karen. But while this was the spark that started the fire, Karen became moved by involving herself in activism & advocacy after moving to Gainesville & enrolling in Florida University. It was there that she met other Students and Organizations that wanted to make a change & they did. Karen finished a 4-year degree in Social Studies and started her first year of Law school. But Karen ended up dropping out of law school, because of already having a $35,000 student debt and law school would have added another $35,000 plus with her daughter being home schooled plus other activities of supporting prisoners pushed her to the decision of dropping out .. At this point in Karen’s life, she became really involved in Prisoners’ rights, In 2018 during a protest & hearing in FDOC central office about the visitation rule proposal, Karen met with Julie Jones , FDOC Secretary and Ricky Dixon Chief of Security operations at the time .Mr. Dixon told Karen that her Organization was a joke and that for this reason , nobody wanted to Organize with her .But Karen didn’t stop she continued to fight for prisoners rights .Then later also got involved in immigration rights , black lives matter & other human rights .Before Karen’s death , she was involved in every area of human rights one can think about .. Karen Made a lot of changes and worked with a lot of people across all lines, Made a lot of friends in the process and some enemies. To show support, for Karen’s last birthday her incarcerated friends sent her birthday gifts that inclueded laptops, all in one printer a cake & balloons. Karen was always there for her incarcerated friends. Challenged rule proposal, went to the workshops in Central Office and paid for all this with little support and from her own money. Karen also had many good friends outside that would support her and work with her. she met Lawyers, Reporters, Wardens, Corrections, Officials & many other people in her daily life. Karen was also a good mother, sister, friend & comrade. In reality it was Karen’s experience with the Florida Dept. of Corrections, during the incarceration of her former husband, who later died after being released from prison, that made Karen fight the abuse and human rights violations like she did . Karen became good at it. To her friends, family & the prisoner’s rights movement & human rights, her passing was an injustice. Even so Karen’s friends remain committed to honoring her legacy by continuing to fight for injustice , abuse of power & human rights .Karen Smith we will always remember you and love you for your unselfish dedication to the movement .REST IN POWER , Comrade ,Friend, Sister, Karen Smith ..