Viral TikTok group Black Menaces launches SF State chapter
The newest chapter of the Black Menaces coalition uses TikTok to project students' voices.
September 22, 2022
“Are you a feminist?” “Have you experienced racism?” “Do you know what Juneteenth is?”
These are only a few of the questions the Black Menaces have asked on college campuses across the country.
The Black, student-run organization was created in February at Brigham Young University as a response to racism against Black communities at the university.
“A few of our [Black] students have been called the N-word, either on campus or right around campus,” said Black Menaces Content Coordinator and Editor Sebastian Stewart-Johnson. “So things happen very often.”
The Black Menaces are widely recognized for their online content, where they ask college students about Black culture and current issues to bring social awareness.
Currently, the Black Menaces have over 700,000 followers and more than 29 million likes on TikTok – their most engaged platform.
According to Stewart-Johnson, each chapter must follow a set of standards on how they interact with students; one rule is to not argue with the interviewee.
“The authenticity of the person will come out when they’re not pressured into debate or anything, or to change their view with what seems more acceptable,” Stewart-Johnson said. “We like to make sure that there’s no way that the people on the opposition can use us or put us into that stereotype of being aggressive because we’re simply the very very opposite.”
Although the Black Menaces cover sensitive topics, none of their conversations have led to confrontation.
Member of SF State’s Black Menaces chapter Simone Brown described an interaction she had with a white student about wearing box braids – a hairstyle that originates from African culture. Initially, the student believed that it was “just a hairstyle,” but Brown brought perspective and explained the history of box braids.
“I think that’s why what we do is so important,” Brown said. “It’s to start conversations that wouldn’t be had outside what we do and to properly inform the community about our culture.”
The Black Menaces started at BYU, a predominantly Mormon college in Utah, where Black students make up less than 1% of the student population.
According to the Black Menaces’ website, their mission is to “reform systems that oppress anyone that is ‘othered’ for just being themselves.”
The BYU team consists of five members: Kennethia Dorsey, Nathanael Byrd, Sebastian Stewart-Johnson, Kylee Shepherd and Rachel Weaver.
The coalition has since expanded as new chapters popped up at other colleges across the nation. Currently, there are five official Black Menaces chapters with over 50 chapters in development.
The SF State chapter is currently composed of five members: Adokor Swaniker, Simone Brown, Dae Philpot, Myra Odendina and Thembi Nkosi. They are in communication with the original collective and are not in direct association with the university.
Swaniker launched the local chapter in May after expressing interest in the main organization.
“I strongly believe that there’s more of a voice for Black people when people understand different cultures and not make fun of one thing,” Brown said. “I feel like it’s just appreciating learning about other people’s cultures.”
SF State Nursing major Michele Sharp thinks the Black Menaces are essential because they shed light on the experience of a variety of communities.
“The Black Menaces shine a light on what people in marginalized communities deal with on a daily basis,” Sharp said. “The questions they ask make people think about their own opinions and what biases they might have toward different communities.”