Written by Emma Robinson.
Graphic by Peyton Cabaniss.
The spring 2019 semester ushered the creation of the Onyx Honor Society. The all-Black honors society formed at UT with the objectives of “the advancement and inclusivity of the black community through academic excellence, leadership, and community engagement.” The founders of Onyx are President Dayjah Harris and Internal Vice President Adriant Bereal. Harris is a senior marketing major who has helped organize New Black Student Weekend, Black Homecoming, Umoja, and Black Graduation Committee. Bereal is a junior design major who is a member of the African American Culture Committee, the Tejas Club, and Student Government. These two individuals were inspired to create Onyx when they realized the lack of organizations on campus that specifically recognize students of color.
The newly accepted spring 2019 class consists of 9 members, composed of a diverse range of majors representing seven different colleges. For an honors society, the application process for Onyx is particularly unique in that grade point average (GPA) does not play a huge role in how applicants are chosen. Although an honors society, GPAs of the applicants are not taken into heavy consideration because the Onyx Executive Board feels that a GPA may solely represent a numerical evaluation of each candidate. Instead, the “honor” in the title was re-appropriated to represent a more holistic evaluation of each applicant’s strengths, such as their leadership experience and how they contribute to their own communities.
According to Dayjah Harris, the Onyx Honors Society hopes to provide two benefits to each members. The first being Onyx’s mission to give Black students at UT a place to engage in productive and meaningful conversations. Harris and Bereal hoped to create a student organization that would be responsible for creating safe discussion spaces that often have trouble forming naturally. For example, the Onyx Honor Society hosted a Black Caucus this part February, which was the first official public event for the organization. The event was a chance for the Black community at UT to gather and discuss problems that Black people face on campus and in society, more generally.
The second idea behind the creation of Onyx was fueled by the desire to give its future members something to be proud of. This is not a shameful or boastful motive, but rather, a necessary objective for a university that especially lacks the appreciation of Black intellect. Constituting 4% of the student body, Black people at UT are in no way the main focus nor the priority of the Austin community. Therefore, this organization is designed to create a space to recognize and appreciate the work and accomplishments of Black UT students, without having their success and/or accomplishments compared to other races.