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Cedric Sunray: Response to recruitment incident at Harding Charter Preparatory High School

Cedric Sunray, former admissions counselor at Oklahoma Christian University, sent the following statement to The Christian Chronicle in response to a Feb. 24, 2020, incident at an Oklahoma City school:

Related: Christian university: ‘We’ve got to do better’ after racially charged recruiting incident

As a 6’4, 225lb. straight male of white racial phenotype, as well as being a former NCAA athlete and university coach, I know well the privilege and prestige that all these elements have provided me in America and never take that lightly.

Cedric Sunray

Then there exists the other side of my reality. I am the son of a cocaine dealer who lost his life due to his involvement in the drug game. I am an enrolled tribal member of a tribe where virtually all members are identifiable as People of Color. I was raised in a primarily Hispanic & Black community. The greatest mentors in my life have been Black, Hispanic and American Indian women & men. My closest friends are Black, Hispanic & American Indian. My wife and daughter are identifiable Women of Color (American Indian). I have stood as an advocate and ally against racism directed towards the Black community, including when I have had to stand against others in Indian Country, since my teenage years and have over 30 published works in magazines and major academic press books related to dismantling racism which are easily searchable on the internet.

The hundreds of workshops, presentations and trainings I provide to a variety of educational systems are focused on higher education funding and access, racism, colorism, classism, body image issues, food insecurities, perceptions of addiction, mental wellness, basic financial literacy, social media realities, positive classroom management principles and more. As a former teacher at three predominantly Black high schools in Oklahoma City — Oklahoma Centennial, Frederick Douglass and Northeast Academy (where I was honored as Teacher of the Year during the 2017-2018 school year) — I regularly engaged my students and colleagues on these issues.

My teaching is unorthodox, humorous, challenging and, most importantly, necessary. My Black and non-Black students, their families, my colleagues and others will attest to this and be quick to support my character, intention and more typical results.

Nothing I spoke at Harding Charter Preparatory during an initial “ice-breaker” session had any intention of promoting a racist agenda. My presentations are the opposite. They are intended to take a hard look at issues such as this. The most dangerous things in education are those we are unwilling to discuss. And sometimes when those discussions occur, misunderstanding and even anger can be the result.

Having done 87 of these exact presentations this year prior to this one, my only regret in reflection is not providing myself enough time to fully explain the purpose as I have been able to at other presentations, as some of the students and staff from what I understand felt like it was not explained thoroughly.

Despite this, we must continue these discussions. As educators, we are bound to doing this ethically and morally. Like dangers in education, we must also acknowledge the most dangerous elements in the media are those that require a 30 second sound bite and no context. Unlike educational engagements, which take time and patience, the majority of media doesn’t allow for taking the time and corresponding effort to get to the heart of a situation prior to creating an atmosphere of vilification, whether intentional or not.

My concern does not live with myself today. My concern is the perception by others of my former employer, Oklahoma Christian University, which is an open, inviting and supportive environment for people of many different races, ethnicities and nationalities. This situation should not discredit the institution. My words are my own.

My second and greatest concern, however, is the wellness of the students and staff at Harding Charter Preparatory and any push back they will receive from online predators who attempt to discredit them for publicly airing their grievances towards me. I stand by all students in speaking their mind and making their case. If the result is perceived as injurious to me, then I need to be to handle that.

One of my most profound mentors taught me early on in my teaching career to replace “safe” with “substantive” and then you can assist people better with their own wellness. I have no regrets in using this approach in my teaching and in my life. I have reached out to the leadership of both schools impacted by the presentation and offered to attend any meetings or forums that are necessary to discuss this situation and answer any and all questions that may be posed towards me.

— Cedric Sunray

Filed under: Cedric Sunray Harding Prep Letters to the Editor OC Oklahoma Oklahoma Christian Opinion recruiter responds response statement

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