Adraint Bereal was discouraged by the absence of students who looked like him around campus. But as a freshman walking through the Student Activity Center, a door finally opened.
Now, three years later as a design senior, Bereal is aiming to showcase the stories — all of them — of black students on campus.
Bereal calls the project “Black Yearbook,” and while the final product will be a physical book, it won’t fit within the definition of a typical yearbook. Rather than featuring events within the black community, it will instead highlight the narratives of black students themselves.
“The idea is to curate all these experiences and put them together to show people what is happening in our community and to give them a better understanding of what’s going on,” Bereal said.
In spring 2019, Bereal worked on a similar project titled “1.7,” a reference to the percentage of black men that attend UT. After interviewing and photographing 25 black male students, he showcased his work at the George Washington Carver Museum and began brainstorming for his next project.
Overall, less than 5 % of UT’s student population is black, according to data from the University. With this knowledge in mind, Bereal wanted to continue to explore the black experience at UT. The idea for “Black Yearbook” was born when Bereal realized he had the ability to allow his peers to tell their own stories through his work.
Bereal wants to interview as many black students as possible to represent the community holistically, but he won’t be doing it alone. After working solo for “1.7,” Bereal has gathered a team of students to work on “Black Yearbook.”
“I don’t want to see something like this through alone because this isn’t about me — this is about everyone,” Bereal said. “This is about our community and the things that we’re dealing with, the things that we’re seeing, things that we’re enjoying, the things that we’re not enjoying, and that all can’t come from me. That is impossible.”
As a model for “1.7,” biochemistry senior Brandon Okeke spoke about his experiences as a black male on campus and said he looks forward to participating in Bereal’s
“It will spark the minds of black creatives on campus to explore what else can be done for our community,” Okeke said. “His mindset is definitely one that is valuable to
To tell stories like Okeke’s, Bereal said each student will be allowed to narrate their own experiences completely without fear of censorship.
“It is purely what the students are saying, and I’m not looking to hold back the opinions of my peers,” Bereal said. “I want to showcase the greatness and talent, and the good, the bad, all those things in between what’s happening because I think there’s a lot there.”
Bereal and his team want to leave UT with “Black Yearbook” as their legacy and as a service to their community. Equally important, Bereal said, is bringing the black perspective to the forefront of the minds of the administration.
“This has the potential to not only resonate here, but at other predominantly white institutions as well,” Bereal said. “This isn’t just a UT issue. This is an issue at many other public institutions across the state.”