Campus & Community

Being her own hero — with a hand up

Team captain Harmoni Turner at Lavietes Pavilion.

Niles Singer/Harvard Staff Photographer

4 min read

Junior basketball captain Harmoni Turner details childhood abuse, adoptive mom who taught her to believe in herself

Harmoni Turner gets emotional talking about her adopted mother, Krystal.

The star junior basketball guard and team captain can draw a direct line from her success back to the rock-solid support of a woman who helped her navigate a traumatic early childhood and become a student-athlete leader.

“At a young age I didn’t think I was deserving of a mother like her. When she came into my life and took me in as her own, it was comforting to see her love me for me, regardless of the circumstances that I’ve been through. You can’t ask for a better mother than that. She didn’t have me, but it felt like she did,” said Turner, who had already hit 1,000 points for the season by early December before being sidelined by a knee injury. She just returned to the lineup this month.

Turner is no stranger to adversity. As a child in Mansfield, Texas, she experienced physical and emotional abuse from her birth mother before her parents separated. Her biological mother even tried to take her own life as well as that of her daughter.

When Harmoni was 4, she met Krystal, who would later marry Rocky, Harmoni’s father. Rocky gained full custody of Harmoni when she was in third grade. And Krystal turned out to be someone who will “make you believe that you can do something you’ve never been able to.”

“I’ve learned a lot from her, she is my hero. I look up to her every day of the week. She is someone I aspire to be like because I didn’t have that when I was younger,” Turner said.

“Harmoni knows the spotlight she has on her. She knows that she stands for something much bigger than herself, and I think she operates in a very mindful way because of that.”

Carrie Moore, women’s basketball coach

Carrie Moore, the Kathy Delaney-Smith Head Coach for Women’s Basketball, said: “Harmoni’s vibrant. You talk to her, and you love being around her. When there are things that Harmoni is going through and she needs someone to talk to you, her parents are on that list. There are some trust issues and factors in her childhood story, and Krystal has been a saving grace and a blessing for Harmoni in a lot of different ways.”

Last summer, the two began Pretty N’ Secure as a way to help other young girls going through difficult situations. Through online and in-person sessions, the mother and daughter mentor middle- to high- school aged kids in Texas for a year.

The group meets two to three times per month, learning practices to navigate their situations on their own. When the Crimson women’s basketball team went down to Waco, Texas, to play Baylor in November, the Pretty N’ Secure girls were there to cheer on Turner.

“In a lot of these situations, they feel like it was their fault, and when you’re at fault you feel insecure. We want the group to understand that their traumas do not define who they are. Regardless of what you’ve gone through, there’s still more out there for you to accomplish,” Turner said.

“Harmoni knows the spotlight she has on her. After being here for three years, she is tapping into all that Harvard has to offer,” Moore said. “She knows that she stands for something much bigger than herself, and I think she operates in a very mindful way because of that.”

Turner agrees.

“I want the girls to feel inspired through my story, and I’m sure they feel inspired by my mother’s story as well,” she said. “I want them to say, ‘Yes I went through that, but watch me be my own hero.’”