From Dana's Guests

Promise's Promise :: Eva McKend

Eva McKend Born in Harlem, New York of Guyanese-American parents, diversity and community activist, Eva McKend has received her formal education at the Birch Wathen Lenox School since she was in kindergarten. The student, a Nicole Jamison scholar, in addition to various other accomplishments holds the title of Student Council President at this prestigious institution on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She continually strives for diversity in this small private school setting. McKend encouraged the school to re-continue to attend the SDLC/POCC (Student Diversity Leadership Conference/People of Color Conference) and was asked to represent her school in 2004 (Miami) and again in 2005 (Dallas/Forth Worth).

Last year, while being the youngest intern that Essence magazine has ever had and being an Editorial Director of an in-house magazine prototype, Glass, she traveled to Africa with the Harlem Educational Activities Fund and Japan with the Young People's Chorus of New York City. Eva continued to travel this summer in her venture for diversity and understanding. She went to China with the American Forum for Global Education where she studied at Peeking University in Beijing and then toured smaller cities including Shao Lin, Luoyang, Ho Hut (the Grasslands), and Xian. Prior, she was at the LEAD Program in Business at Stanford University, where her group placed first in the final business competition at the Apple Corporation. She wrote the script for the commercial for their product, Sound Drops, which placed first.

Eva is passionate about global diversity. She is particularly distraught over the atrocities taken place in Sudan and became a student coordinator for Sudan Freedom Walk. She attended a Sudan Mobilization Conference and planning meetings for the Sudan Freedom Walk. She sold T-shirts for the cause and recruited students from across New York City to attend the protest and introduced former NBA star Manute Bol of the Washington Bullets and activist for Sudan.

She is the recipient of the very first year Karenna Gore Schiff Award, which she received directly from Ms. Karenna Gore (daughter of Al Gore).

Out of several students that applied to the New England Young Writer's Conference at Breadloaf, thewriter's campus of Middlebury in Middlebury, Vermont, Eva was the only one selected from her school and received a standing ovation for her poetry. More recently, McKend won the Triple "C" Award in recognition of "commitment" "character" and "courage" from the State of New York Office of the Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. This was given to her at the Honors Convocation at school.

Eva McKend is particularly impressive, because she has done all of this at a particularly young age and on full scholarship. She is currently aspiring to have Barack Obama speak at her graduation ceremony in 2007. She believes his presence will be particularly powerful, since she is an African American president at Birch Wathen Lenox; a rarity at such an institution and Obama is so clearly on the Presidential path.

I met Eva for lunch about a week before school was to begin. I had Gussie with me. We ate salads.

As I spoke with Eva she unfolded as this extremely wise, surprisingly thoughtful and disarmingly capable woman with a child's profile. She is in high school, yes, and I was challenged to match her knowledge and enthusiasm for what is happening around the world today. Her self confidence in her ability to make a significant difference in world affairs left me committed to raising the bar for myself in that regard.

I met Eva for lunch about a week before school started. I am glad that I had Gussie with me...

I am Eva McKend.

I grew up on the Upper West side of Manhattan. I was raised by a single mom and my aunt. At a young age my mom really saw that the education in New York City public schools wasn't the greatest. When she heard about this program called Early Steps that supports minorities in going to private schools by awarding scholarships from kindergarten through 12th grade, she made sure to get me into the program. As a result, I was able to go to The Birch Wathen Lennox School. That is the school that I go to now.

Eva McKend

Slavery Is Not History

by Eva McKend

I recently was shocked to learn this atrocity last year at an assembly here in the Birch community. Last year, Simon Deng, whom as a young boy lived as a slave for two years in the north of Sudan before making his escape, spoke of his inhumane experiences and his mission to abolish slavery. After being abducted by an Arab northerner at age 9, Deng spent several years as a domestic slave in northern Sudan. Deng, a native of the Shilluk Kingdom in southern Sudan, narrowly escaped death during a government raid on his village as a young child. Inspired by Deng’s story at the Birch Wathen Lenox School, on Sunday, October 3rd at the Columbia Law School, I attended a conference hosted by the American Anti-Slavery Group. The conference was held in memory of Dr. Samuel Cotton, a former professor of Columbia University who died of cancer. In the late 80’s Dr. Cotton started the Coalition Against Slavery in Mauritania and Sudan. He too was surprised to learn that slavery existed. He was inspired to make a trip and see the slavery in Sudan and Mauritania first hand. When speaking to Denise, the daughter of Cotton and a former Fieldston student, about her dad, his legacy, and the anti-slavery movement, we were surprised to realize how much we still had to learn. At the conference, Simon Deng spoke of how as a child, he witnessed people being slaughtered and his elders being burned alive. At just nine-years old he had to supply water for an entire family. Thousands are still enslaved in Sudan and threatened to be mutilated or killed if they try to escape. The Arab government in Sudan to date is responsible for slaughtering and enslaving millions of black Africans especially children. After freeing all the slaves in Sudan and Mauritania, Deng as well as other activists want to progress towards equality among Arabs and Africans.

Students from Universities across the North East attended the conference. Patrick Schmitt of Georgetown University spoke of STAND, Students Taking Action Now Darfur, a student organization of over 1,000 members that work to stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. STAND was created at Georgetown University in September 2004. Six months later, it became a national movement. STAND chapters are shaped around achieving four interconnected objectives: increasing consciousness about the crisis in Darfur both in the United States and abroad, raising relief for the victims and refugees, taking political action for a sift and sustainable solution to the crisis and coordinating national and international efforts to achieve the three initial goals.

One major aspect that I took from the conference is that our nation and the entire international world is playing politics with this issue but truly not doing anything about the situation. In Africa there are a lot of resources, but what many individuals fail to realize, especially our youth, is that many of the resources are inhabited by great nations like America. In South Africa, to end apartheid, powerful nations slowly divested from the country. The only reason that corrupt nations are even able to function and survive is because powerful wealthy nations with immense power keep it afloat. This essentially means that countries like America hold a lot of power in altering catastrophic international events. If they enter it with good will and intention, and not with ulterior motives, as a nation we can spark great change.

Ben Hannah, A Harvard senior, spoke of major divestment plans and how his university, fully divested from Sudan. At Harvard, the senior class decided to not give the annual gift to the alumni to prove a point that they were not going to support the corrupt slavery and genocide in Sudan. Harvard Democrats and Harvard Republicans worked together and held a protest with 500 students. Harvard understood and wanted to be a part of the student activism and completely divested from Petro China Company Limited, pulling out close to 4.4 millions dollars. Other Universities that have fully divested excluding investments in humanitarian aid, agriculture and medicine include: Stanford and Dartmouth. The only states that have fully divested are New Jersey, Illinois and Oregon.

A small 5th grader in Oregon embarrassed the Senate into acting when he avowed, “I have homework, I have school, I have chores, but I still have time to help stop slavery in Sudan. Is the Senate too busy?” As students of the Birch Wathen Lenox School, we are in a privileged position to be educated. I know that on a daily basis incredibly talented and intellectual counterparts surround me. From this article, I hope that you are inspired to go to and learn more about the unfortunate slavery and genocide in Sudan and Mauritania and what you can do to help the people. This is not about your personal perception, community service hours, or standing up in front of a group of people just to say that you did something. This is about spurring actual change and seeing tangible results. More importantly, this is about knowing that someone is going to live because of our unified efforts and sacrifice. Therefore, as leaders of tomorrow we have to ensure that our country upholds its unofficial claim as the greatest nation in the world. I know that the BWL community can work together to insist upon our government that there is an importance in divesting from Sudan and helping the victims of this on going tragedy, for it is truly the youth who have the impact and must be the voice for the voiceless.

It has been a long journey. I am now a senior and I have been at the same school for 13 years. Academically it has been great and I have really learned the importance of cultural and economic and racial diversity.

You could say that I have learned many lessons as a student. One of my most recent lessons was this summer.

I was in China; in Beijing. I studied at Peking University and I visited some of the other smaller cities. I have to say that, globally, a lot of other countries are really advancing, particularly China. I think that Americans don't really realize that.

You can be in the best schools in this country, high school level or college, and find that there are some really stubborn people that believe that The United States is the greatest country in the world and that everyone should speak English....

It has occurred to me that soon we are not going to be making airplanes in this country. That is huge! In World War II we depended on the things that we made here. We won't have that opportunity if another world war breaks out. As I traveled this summer I really realized that. This is an important lesson that I have learned:

We live in a world, not just a country.

Through my writing I hope to make a difference in this world. I love to write and I think that it is a good way to talk to people about what is going on.

I have been a pioneer for diversity in my school since the 8th grade. When a lot of people were hesitant about it, I wrote an article titled What is Wrong With the "D" Word. I got some good responses from that. I wrote another article called Slavery is Not History, about Sudan and how people are still being enslaved there. That got more feedback and more discussion. I wore a shirt to school that said "Slavery is still going on...". People thought that I was talking about Black oppression but I was talking about human trafficking.


I really like words. They are really powerful. They start discussions. If we are not afraid to talk, then we can take a step toward peace.

Everyone is afraid of something but some people just act because it is the right thing to do. That is courage.

I am courageous and that comes from all of the experiences that I have had. I have been many places. There is not much that I think I can't do. I think "Well if it has to be done then I am going to do it".

If I could change one thing about the world it would be unification and I think that we need to know more at a younger age. Like I think that they should start teaching Chinese in Kindergarten. I want to tell our President that. This is going to be the next World Power. We should be prepared.

I still have a long way to go and a lot of things that I want to accomplish but I think that I am already successful. In a place that, technically I wasn't even supposed to be ( tuition at my school is around $30,000 a year but I don't pay that) I have risen and I have done some pretty great things like becoming the first African American to be President of the student council.

And --

I am becoming an intellectual.

I was speaking to a young kid the other day. He said to me,

"You strike me as a person who gets straight 'A's' in school"

I said to him,

"Actually I don't."

He said,

"Well you seem really smart."

I said,

"Intelligence has nothing to do with grades, absolutely nothing."

Intelligence has nothing to do with grades or SAT scores. Those are societal definitions of intelligence. I would say that I am successful because I am getting to that point where I think that I am pretty smart. I feel good about myself but I am perhaps not smart based on the way that society defines smart. I am smart because I am always willing to learn.

What I want right now is to get a good education. College is a big thing on my mind right now. I want to travel more - go to Africa. I would really like for this country to change its policies. I want to write.

What I believe is that --

President Bush needs to go, right now...

If I could just pick up a telephone and change that, I would do so...If I could pick up the phone and change what is going on in Sudan, I would do so...

If I could change the world...

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