For one of my elective courses this semester, I decided to enroll in the Critical Race Theory (CRT) course taught by Professors Daren Graves and Kimberly Truong. The course is designed to teach students about CRT as a theoretical lens from which to examine and deconstruct racial inequalities in society and in education. While CRT is a framework used to confront the general race-based disparities that exist in society, other offshoots of CRT have developed to address particular racial or ethnic groups. One of these is called TribalCrit, which looks at issues facing Native Indian communities. Because of the nature of the course, much of the work has been theoretical, but I appreciate the moments in class when we are able to see the real life applications of the theories we learn.
In mid-October, we had the honor of having Adrienne Keene (a doctoral candidate in Culture, Communities, and Education) as our guest lecturer. Adrienne’s research focuses on college access and college transition for Native students (http://scholar.harvard.edu/ajkeene). In addition to her research, Adrienne has a blog called Native Appropriations, which is a space to discuss and challenge Native representation in the media and society (www.nativeappropriations.com).
Adrienne’s lecture was illuminating for several reasons. Even though I am interested in college access and success, I did not know much about issues affecting Native students. Hearing Adrienne speak about her experience with College Horizons opened my mind to an entirely different side of college access and higher education. Furthermore, I was inspired by Adrienne’s use of social media to push back on offensive cultural misrepresentations. Adrienne spoke out against designer Paul Frank’s 2012 “Dream Catchin’ Powwow”, which eventually resulted in the designer’s company taking actions to correct their wrongs and to collaborate with a Native designer to make a collection whose proceeds would be donated to a Native cause. The guest lecture was not only a chance to see theory in action but also an opportunity to learn about the incredible things fellow Harvard students are doing to spark positive change in their communities.
Jessica Acosta is Master’s in Education candidate in the Higher Education Program. Deeply passionate about issues of race, equity, and college access, Jessica aims to gain knowledge and tools to promote a deeper understanding of multicultural issues and to help students of color strive towards academic success in college and beyond.