Raised in a single-parent household in New York City, Topeka Sam became involved in drug dealing at an early age. As her role in dealing increased, she began travelling internationally to smuggle cocaine back into the United States by taping it to her body. She also got involved in the Mexican cartel. She was ultimately arrested and served a federal prison sentence for her role in a multi-kilogram cocaine trafficking conspiracy in 2012.
While in Federal Prison, Topeka K. Sam witnessed firsthand the epidemic and disparity of treatment of incarcerated women, specifically women of color. She felt the urgency to bring the faces and voices of women in prison to the public to bring awareness to women’s incarceration and post-incarceration issues in order to help change the criminal legal system. Topeka developed an organization, The Ladies of Hope Ministries (LOHM), whose mission is to help disenfranchised and marginalized women and girls transition back into society through spiritual empowerment, education, entrepreneurship, and advocacy. Topeka’s goal is to help ease the transition back into society for women. Topeka is also pursuing her Certificate in Christian Ministry at New York Theological Seminary, and is a Justice-In-Education Scholar at Columbia University. Topeka has been invited to speak at several panel discussions, including the #FreeHer Justice Advocacy Conference at Harvard University.