Black students share perspectives about their BYU experience

Johnisha Demease-Williams explains her experiences as a black student on campus in her documentary “The Black Student Experience BYU – Black History Month Edition.” (Johnisha Demease-Williams)

An online film titled ”The Black Student Experience BYU – Black History Month Edition”, was recently created by BYU psychology sophomore Johnisha Demease-Williams to express the experiences black students have on the BYU campus.

Demease-Williams started the film because she wanted to shed light on the issues black students face on campus, continue the conversation, search for solutions and give black students a voice.

The video is a 55-minute film. Williams created a similar video last year because she felt like the discussion on campus about the issues black students face in Provo was lacking. Both films ask black BYU students questions of their concerns about being a black student on campus.

Williams said she wanted to do everything and anything in her power to provide black students a voice on campus. The second video focuses solely on the black experience itself.

“I feel like there is a lot of stuff that black students want to do and that we have opinions and feel a certain way about, it really isn’t heard,” Williams said. “If we do say something, it’s usually overlooked. I just want people to really understand and care about what we feel like we need or want on campus.”

Darryl Dzapasi, an African international student, said more can be done to teach all students on campus about other cultures and backgrounds that aren’t their own.

“To improve our experience on campus, I think KFC or Popeyes on campus would show an interest in the needs of black students,” Dzapasi said. “As funny as that may seem it’s something that could indeed make a difference.”

Mario Pereyra, cultural programs coordinator for the BYU Multicultural Student Service Center on campus, said the black experience is a completely different experience than any other BYU student’s. He said in order for students to understand and empathize with black BYU students, they need to hear their unique perspectives.

“We all view things through our own personal lens,” Pereya said. “If that is the only way we are viewing things, then we are going to be missing out on a lot, especially at BYU. When we get to hear a little bit more from our black students and what their experiences actually are, students can actually learn a lot.”

There are many things BYU students can do to understand black students’ perspectives on campus, Pereya said. One suggestion he gave was for students to get involved in the Black History Month events on campus.

Pereya also encouraged students to get out of their comfort zone and meet black students on campus.

“Get to know several different students,” Pereya said. “There is not just one black experience at BYU. Students will learn a little bit more if they meet many new people and understand their perspectives.”

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