Keena Smith is many things – a wife, mother, veteran, government employee, union member, shop steward, legislative political coordinator, women’s and fair practices coordinator, and Committee of the Future team member. But most of all, she is a champion for social justice.
Not only has she done an outstanding job amplifying the voice of her fellow federal employees, she is also the voice for those in her community who at times find themselves powerless.
Keena is deeply involved in her local community in the suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Being a mother, she is passionate about school politics and determined to make sure school policies benefit children, not harm them.
She’s active in Metropolitan Congregations United, an organization that brings various groups together to create a better life for everyone in the community. She was a member in the organization’s Education Task Force that is leading the fight to “Break the School to Prison Pipeline.” The task force fights bad laws that send kids to jail instead of keeping them in school. One law in particular allows a child to get charged for a felony at any age if a schoolyard fight breaks out, potentially sending kids to prison and ruining their futures because of childhood antics better handled by school administration than the justice system.
Last year during the teachers’ walkout, 200 kids, including her son walked out and rallied peacefully to show support for their teachers. They were suspended and barred from participating in their high school graduation ceremony as a result. Keena played a vital role in helping organize several school district rallies against school suspensions. They met with school area superintendents and school boards and succeeded in getting that decision overturned.
“I always have the passion to be locally involved and being a voice and advocate for my own children dealing with school politics and social issues that affect me and my family and community as well,” she said.
Besides getting involved in schools, Keena also helps at a local church cooking and preparing bedding and toiletries for the homeless community.
Keena has been with the Veterans Benefits Administration for eight years. She joined our union when she first started but became active in her local a few years later by volunteering at lunch and learns. Back then, her local was trying to get its Legislative Political Coordinator group going, so she volunteered and was appointed to be the local’s LPC a year or so later. Since then, she’s been heavily involved in legislative work.
“I really love doing it,” she said. “I really love being a voice and advocate for federal employees.”
As one of Local 2192’s strong union stewards, she’s a first responder when an employee files a grievance. As part of our union’s Committee of the Future, she is a mobility captain for her local to help mobilize members to become more knowledgeable and active in the union. As her district’s women’s and fair practice coordinator, she responds to phone calls and email inquiries from local presidents, coordinators, stewards, and fellow federal employees about anti-discrimination laws in general and the EEO complaint process.
Her activism stretches far beyond the VBA walls into her own home. She’s grooming all her children to be activists. Her children are aged 19, 17, 14, and 10, and all of them participate in union and volunteer activities. One of them, however, has taken it a step further.
The 17-year-old is a senior in high school and president of the student council. He loves to do volunteer work. “He knows it’s important to have a voice,” Keena added. She is also proud of her oldest son who is on active duty in the Air Force.
Keena is soft-spoken, but don’t let that fool you. She is fierce. She is determined. She is the kind of person you want on your team. So please join us in congratulating Keena for winning the well-deserved Bernice B. Heffner Women’s Achievement Award!