PYD & Social Justice: A conversation with Dr. Keshia Harris

On Tuesday, March 2, the second visitor to our PYD & Social Justice series was Dr. Keshia Harris, a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Boston University’s Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. Dr. Harris shared findings from her doctoral dissertation on child and adolescent development, educational inequality, and colorism among Black and Latinx youth in the U.S., Brazil, and Colombia. This discussion of her extraordinary work was both compelling and engaging.

I was most fascinated in the talk given by Keshia Harris on March 2, 2021 as part of the PYD & Social Justice: Conversations with Thought Leaders series at IARYD, and afterwards I read her article on biracial colorism. I had been unaware that colorism was so pervasive outside the US. Dr. Harris’s research in Brazil and Colombia was especially revealing of social perceptions, and it was important to get a perspective on this in addition to what we are currently living through in the US. On a more personal level, Dr. Harris’s talk made me remember experiences I had had as a 2nd-3rd grade teacher in Berkeley, California, at the beginning of my career. Half the children in my class were African American, and I was shocked at how much time they spent on the playground comparing skin tones and claiming that someone was darker than they were. As a fledgling teacher wanting to create a community of acceptance and equity, I was troubled by this, but no amount of my intervening could change this behavior. Dr. Harris’s talk made sense out of my experiences. I look forward to reading more of her work.
Martha Pott, Ph.D., distinguished senior lecturer, CSHD

Dr. Harris discussed how she approaches social justice in her research about educational inequality, colorism, and racial pride. She spoke about her strengths-based approach to research on colorism and educational inequality in Brazil and Colombia, focusing in on the role of both risk factors and protective factors. As a department that takes a strengths-based approach to research, it was enlightening to hear and reflect on the approach Dr. Harris takes in her research.
Mary Buckingham, Ph.D., research assistant professor, CSHD

Attending the sessions held for in the Social Justice and PYD series has been an amazing experience! The speaker I had the honor of seeing this past Tuesday was Dr. Keshia Harris, and she talked with us about her research using a strengths-based approach to colorism and education inequality in Brazil and Colombia. This conversation was engaging and informative, sparking both passion and curiosity in those who joined the zoom call. Having the opportunity to speak with professionals in the field is an incredible experience, and I look forward to attending the next talk in the series!
Julia Dennis, first year MA student, CSHD

I enjoyed learning about Dr. Keshia Harris’ research that she conducted in two Latin American countries. Her work addressed and connected colorism, discrimination, and educational pathways among adolescents – all timely topics—in a meaningful way. She was able to ascertain how adolescents’ experiences of colorism and discrimination impact their educational goals. Whereas her qualitative work complimented the quantitative survey and sought to identify protective factors among youth, highlighting her approach to conducting social justice-oriented research. Overall, I was thrilled to learn about her research and look forward to her future projects and findings.
Patrece Joseph, 5th year doctoral student, CSHD