WACO, Texas — A Baylor University fraternity was excited to participate in Baylor University’s “After Dark” variety show. However, their excitement quickly turned to disappointment when they learned all Black Lives Matter elements of their performance had to be removed. Now, the group is doing what they can to make a difference on campus.
PJ Williams is one of the members pushing for change. For the chemistry major, choosing Baylor was an easy decision.
"I came to Baylor and I just really loved it," said Williams.
About six percent of Baylor students are African American, followed by just over 14 percent Hispanic and more than 60 percent white.
“It can be intimidating mostly because like you walk into, almost every class you walk into, you barely see people that look like you," said Williams.
When the Nu Zeta Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. was invited to participate in the Baylor After Dark virtual program, they felt it was a good opportunity to express themselves.
“When we saw George Floyd get killed and then another person get killed, we all got kind of mad about it and we wanted to do something on campus and make change," said fraternity member Dylan Dauphiney.
However, just days before the show, they learned in order to be included in the program, they had to remove all mention of Black Lives Matter from their performance. That version of their performance aired on the Baylor Student Life virtual platform and had just over 300 views.
"When we were recording the original video, they [Baylor staff] were in the room watching us as well. Like so, they pretty much like proctored over us, so it's not like they didn't see the original video," said Williams.
We received a statement from Baylor which says in part “We felt that it should be elevated as a stand-alone performance and not simply embedded as one of several acts in a variety show.”
"I was definitely frustrated," said fraternity member Sam Onilenla.
The school did decide to run the original performance less than a week later during a panel discussion on racial justice.
"This summer when we wanted Baylor to take a stand and say 'Black Lives Matter' and even just say George Floyd's name, NAACP as an organization had to come together and create a letter with ask and demands," explained Lexy Bogney with Baylor NAACP. "You know asking for Baylor to say, just say 'Black Lives Matter.’ That's all we want from you, and it took a couple days."
The "THIS MATTERS: Racial Justice and Healing" panel had a significantly smaller audience than the variety show when it first aired on the same student life platform. It received just over 100 views.
"It was just like ‘Let's brush it off to a little event,’“ said Onilenla.
Following the event, leaders from the Baylor Sigmas say they met with University President Linda Lvingstone after Onilenla submitted a request and he even helped lead a unity walk with other groups on campus.
"Felt like it was more so they were reacting to what, kind of, what the students have kind of already put on or what they've gone through, instead of them being proactive and taking a more forward approach," said Williams.
Williams believes while these are steps in the right direction, he hopes more will be done to support minority groups at Baylor.