Harvard instructor speaks at SRU

Sunn m'Cheaux gives motivational speech

Published by Kayla Raynak, Date: February 14, 2024

Harvard University instructor Sunn m’Cheaux was invited to campus to give a presentation for Black History Month on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Students gathered in the Smith Student Center ballroom for a nearly 2-hour presentation with an opportunity to ask questions at the end.

m’Cheaux is an activist who teaches the Gullah Geechee language in Harvard’s African Language Program.

“The Gullah Geechee people are the descendants of West and Central Africans who were enslaved and bought to the lower Atlantic states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia to work on the coastal rice, Sea Island cotton and indigo plantations,” according to the National Park Service.

m’Cheaux uses TikTok and other social media platforms to educate and answer questions.

The keynote speaker talked about several topics relating to his childhood and how he got to where he was today. He claimed his goal is to encourage and challenge people to push themselves to be better.

Originally, the plan was for m’Cheaux to speak to SRU Jump Start students, but since timing worked out, anyone on campus was able to hear his presentation.

Kristin Black, assistant director for transitions in the Office for Inclusive Excellence, contacted m’Cheaux after seeing his educational videos on social media and expressed her excitement to share his knowledge and words with the campus.

“[I] thought that his profession and his content and his thoughts and ideas would maybe strike a chord with students,” Black said.

“I find that these types of experiences tend to set the wheels of reflection in motion for the listener, and you start thinking and comparing yourself to what they’re saying, and realizing that you are doing fine and hopefully gives you a little bit more affirmation to just keep going and trudging through something that’s really difficult,” Black said.

The theme of the conversation was “Set your Feet on the Rock,” which m’Cheaux said was a “little punny because this is Slippery Rock University.”

“Everyone wants to be like a solid rock for someone, but nobody wants to be anyone’s stepping stone,” m’Cheaux said.

m’Cheaux talked about his struggles growing up, including repeating the 7th grade twice and how school was not really for him, though he excelled at other things. He spoke about how he did not let that stop him from becoming successful today.

He mentioned how certain things are not always fair for people and students trying to get an education. He claimed there is a standard to be good at subjects like math or science when individuals can be talented at so much more.

“By the time the class was over, no, I did not do that math assignment, but check out this poem. I did not do the science thing but look at this sketch,” m’Cheaux said.

“Think of every person who’s arrived somewhere and how they got there. Retracing your steps, I want you to think of I don’t know if it’s a job or a marriage or friendship like whatever the thing is that you achieved or where you arrived where you want it to be. Taking a step back, each individual step that was taken to get there,” he said.

He mentioned there are always ways to find and show your creativity and express who you are.

“As you move forward take a look around and ask yourself, without the negative connotation, ‘Who and what can be that stepping stone to get you where you’re going to be?’” he said.

m’Cheaux told The Rocket he was enjoying his time visiting campus and that SRU has good energy.


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