four Black students sit an empty lecture hall
Adraint Khadafhi Bereal

The Black Yearbook

Photos from the University of Texas at Austin

Photographs by Adraint Khadafhi Bereal

In August 2016, during his first week of college, Adraint Khadafhi Bereal went to “Gone to Texas,” a large back-to-school event held every year for students at the University of Texas at Austin. Hundreds upon hundreds of people had gathered in front of the campus clock tower for the welcome event and fireworks display. But despite the throng of students, Bereal didn’t see any who looked like him—and he wouldn’t for another week.

Octavian Moten

The university, like many flagship colleges across the country, enrolls vanishingly few Black undergraduates—just 4 percent of the 40,000 students are Black, and just 1.5 percent are Black men. That can leave the few Black students the university does enroll feeling isolated. So last summer, just before the start of his senior year, Bereal began work on The Black Yearbook, a project that aims to give expression to their experiences. It’s not a traditional yearbook; through portraits and 100 interviews, The Black Yearbook shows the highs and lows of Black life at a predominantly white college, both the beauty of the campus experience and the stress of having such scant representation. In several images, students turn their back to the camera. This, Bereal told me, is how white students too often see their Black peers: as faceless. They regularly mistake one for another. But even shot from behind, Bereal’s subjects reveal their individuality—a do-rag here, an expressive pose there.

Top: Black Homecoming, September 28, 2019. Bottom, left to right: Siji Deleawe; Awab Ahmed; Jala Jones

The yearbook is “a view into what our daily life looks like on a predominantly white campus,” Bereal said. He hopes people can see the full picture.

Members of the Longhorn Band