Kerida McDonald, Ed.M.'85, Ed.D.'89, is on a multicountry life-cycle journey.
The last time Kerida McDonald, Ed.M.'85, Ed.D.'89, had visited the Ed School was to attend her graduation. As she rushed around campus last spring, the memories came flooding back. "Rastafari, I wonder what happened to . . . ," she would say as she remembered an old acquaintance.
In the 20 years since her graduation, the Jamaica native spent her time mothering five children, consulting on early childhood development, and serving as an international civil servant. She joined UNICEF Jamaica in 1998 and spent the next six years supporting policy and legislative frameworks for early childhood development. As a Rastafari, her spiritual home is Africa and, in 2004, she traveled there as head of the Health, Nutrition and Early Childhood Program in UNICEF Tanzania.
"It was a powerful feeling to be there . . . to be where your ancestors were shipped from. It was an eerie feeling to walk into the dungeons in Zanzibar, to see where our forefathers were first held as slaves," she says, shaking her head as if in disbelief.
The struggle for justice, a core tenet of Rastafari, informs McDonald's passion. "I am a child of the universe, wanting to see a better world for us and our future generations. ... To be able to connect to the continent and apply what I have gained in the West to development in Africa is a big privilege."
Recently she moved to Ethiopia to her current post as chief of communications for UNICEF. Her work focuses on behaviorchange communication around immunization, sanitation, and nutrition. "While at Harvard, and even in Jamaica, early childhood was about education; in my current work, it is about survival. When 30 percent of children do not [live] to their fifth birthday in Tanzania, you need to understand early childhood development differently," she says.
She says is grateful to the Ed School for opening doors that would be closed to a Rasta. It is apropos that she returned to campus for the 2009 Alumni of Color Conference's panel on international experiences with discrimination. "Slavery and colonialism still has an anchor that is very heavy," she says. "It still determines the tribalism and divisions that we have not been able to get past."
-- Kenneth Russell, Ed.M.'00, is a third-year doctoral student in Cultures, Communities, and Education and a native of Jamaica.