What’s Next for BYU’s ‘Black Menaces’
The Black Brigham Young University students behind the popular TikTok account are now helping students who feel marginalized at other predominantly white institutions.
- The Black Menaces began as a way for Black students to share their experiences at BYU.
- As their TikTok’s popularity skyrocketed, they evolved their content and mission.
- Now, they’ve introduced new Menace chapters, started a podcast, and will be giving out scholarships to incoming students.
Earlier this year, a group of Black students at Brigham Young University (BYU) went viral on TikTok for their approach addressing tough political and social issues on their predominantly white campus.
Through a series of short Q&As broadcast on the social media platform, these students uncovered widely held views of racism, sexism, and homophobia at their school.
Now, as the account's popularity has skyrocketed and their content has evolved, so has the group's mission.
"We're not just highlighting BYU anymore," Rachel Weaver, one of the founding members of The Black Menaces on TikTok, told BestColleges. "We're really highlighting the reality of predominantly white institutions (PWIs) and … how higher education does not have a lot of resources or policies in place to help BIPOC and marginalized students, specifically Black students, have a positive experience on their campus."
Weaver, along with her peers — Nate Byrd, Kylee Shepherd, Kennethia Dorsey, and Sebastian Stewart-Johnson — initially started the account to shed light on Black students' reality at BYU.
But as views on their videos started to climb and the comments poured in, The Black Menaces realized they were far from alone in their struggles and experiences at their PWI.
"[PWIs] are all similar in that they have this embedded racism and homophobia in their DNA," said Stewart-Johnson.
As TikTokers began comments with stories of their own negative experiences at their respective PWIs, The Black Menaces realized they had a unique opportunity to expand the conversation. That's what sparked the idea for Menace chapters.
Through Menace chapters, the original Black Menaces help students on other campuses create online content similar to their own while also advocating for changes to the systems and curriculum on those campuses.
The group introduced their first Menace chapter at Tennessee's Vanderbilt University in early May. Since then, they have added chapters at Utah Valley University, Utah State University, and San Francisco State University.
@blackmenaces showing another PWI (Predominantly White Institution) isn’t truly a safe space for ALL communities #fyp #blackmenaces #blackmenacesvlog #pwi #poc #vanderbilt #nashville #byu ♬ original sound - the black menaces
@blackmenaces Are all PWIs the same? #fyp #byu #uvu #utah #orem #provo #pwi #blackmenaces #blackmenacesvlog #FrunktheBeat￼ #blacktiktok #poc ♬ original sound - the black menaces
The Black Menaces plan to slowly introduce more chapters while focusing on the unique factors that make each respective PWI more or less inclusive to various marginalized groups.
The group has launched a podcast where they answer questions about their own experiences while also highlighting stories from queer students, first-generation students, international students, and students from other marginalized communities at their school.
"[We're] really focusing on that college experience and how it feels to be someone who is not a white, cisgender male at a school like BYU," said Weaver. "I think people's stories are really powerful, and we want to be able to share those."
Most recently, The Black Menaces announced that they will be giving away eight $500 scholarships for the fall 2022 semester. To apply, incoming and returning students must submit a 60-second or less video explaining how they plan "to be a menace" on their campus in the upcoming semester.
Despite all these new initiatives, the group is still just getting started and has ongoing plans for more change. Both Weaver and Stewart-Johnson say that having The Black Menaces enhanced their college experience in unimaginable ways, and they want to use it to do the same for others.
"More people were advocating for me on campus than I thought possible, and they're doing so in a much more open way now," said Stewart-Johnson. "As a person of color at a PWI … find your community … people you can rely on who understand you, accept you, and support you in all ways possible."