Queen Ekejija, a senior public relations member and a participant in DDCE’s Intellectual Entrepreneurship Pre-Graduate Internship Program, was chosen as the recipient of the National Black Law Student Association Nelson Mandela Scholarship. Awarded at the 46th Annual National Black Law Student Association Conference in Milwauke, Illinois, on March 8, Ekejija won the $500 scholarship in recognition of her inspiring and challenging essay that re-examined the growing crisis of mass incarceration of African-Americans as a human rights issue.
The Dallas native is a member of the Black Pre-Law Association and an IE Pre-Graduate Student Intern. Although she plans to pursue law school in the future, she has accepted an offer to join Teach for America in the fall of 2014. “I’d recently read The New Jim Crowe having wanted to have some clear objectives when entering the classroom this fall as a teacher and considered the many things I’d learned in my own classes as an African and African Diaspora Studies concentrator, such as the school to prison pipeline issue,” said Ekejija. “I recalled that less than 10% of Dallas high school students are ready for college and that by 5th grade, it is determined who will make up the future prison population.” It is in reflection of that reality that Ekejija poetically drafted her essay during a day off in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Ekejija’s essay demonstrates her intentions and desire to transform the lives of underserved populations of students, exploring issues of racism, classism and institutional bias that ultimately contribute to the deplorable statistics of imprisoned African-American males. She believes these statistics have a profound impact on the reality of communities of color, the promise of a nuclear family and children’s achievements inside and outside the classroom. “’Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’… it is our duty to advocate for people,” Ekejija wrote. “This is a time for the African-American legal community to come together in support of legislation that favors ending mass incarceration.”
In reflecting on her accomplishment, Ekejija shared that the greatest reward was knowing that the contents of her essay would continue to drive her work and direct her purpose.
–Virginia A. Cumberbatch