Keturah Gadson is a senior at Harvard College jointly concentrating in African American Studies and Social Studies with a focus on Liberation Pedagogy and Equity in American Schools. Keturah’s belief that education can be liberating is rooted in her African-American heritage, which taught her education is a necessary component in securing freedom. As a St. Louis native, Keturah’s high school participation in a student-led tutoring initiative in an unaccredited school district exposed her to the striking contradiction between America’s public narrative on the public school as the great equalizer and the K-12 system’s actual construction and perpetuation of inequality in practice. Realizing the kids she worked with had internalized narratives of failure about them as low-income black students from within and outside of the school, Keturah observed schools’ ability to circularly harm students’ self-concepts and reinforce deeply ingrained societal racial ideology. Keturah noticed similar trends in her own integrated schooling and became passionate about raising students’ consciousness of racial issues in schools.
As a Cheng Fellow, Keturah hopes to explore how Black students are conceptualizing their racial identities and assets in public schools in order to discover the systematic changes required to foster asset-based approaches to Black students’ education. She aims to research and build upon models of educational spaces that intentionally counter black inferiority ideology as a fundamental prerequisite to ensuring the maximization of black students’ potential. Her work is propelled by asking students, as the main stakeholders in their own education, what schools ought to be and teach. At Harvard, Keturah is a Presidential Public Service Fellow at the college and has also served as the First-Year Black Table President and as the Librarian of the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College.