WARNING: All opinions stated in this think piece are subject to the writer and not BLAVITY. The purpose of this piece is to facilitate meaningful conversation. 

Gamma Mu Ivy Leaf Pledge club of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., 1961.

Photo: watchtheyard.com

Growing up as a little black girl living in Memphis, TN, there were three things I knew about my future: I was going to be a successful business woman, I would attend either Howard University or Spelman College for my undergraduate program and most importantly, I knew I was going to pledge one of the historically black Greek organizations. Trust me when I tell you, these goals weren't up for debate. I thought that movies like Stomp the Yard and School Daze were the truest representation of black college life. I just knew that I was Meagan Good and I would meet my Columbus Short through pledging. The shiny jacket, the strolling, the popularity, I wanted it all. Not to neglect the fact that I would be apart of a legacy and heritage much bigger than me.

To follow in the footsteps of some of my (s)heros such as Coretta Scott King, Phylicia Rashad and MLK Jr. would be the greatest of honors. Who knew that this dream of class, social status, and sisterhood would be a dream deferred. Little did I know, this similar “life goal” was shared by countless others. Little girls and boys that would grow up with the same good intentions but end up sucked into organizations that leave them questioning why they ever pledged in the first place.

Photo: Giphy

 Now I know, every black greek experience is different so this may not apply to everyone, but I promise I sincerely love being a part of the Divine 9. The culture of huge community service events, step shows with BBQ and our beloved probates…I love it all. I’m truly infatuated with the idea of organizations founded and cultivated for the sole purpose of scholarship, sisterhood and brotherhood and the advancement of my people. These organizations were founded in the early 1900s by daughters and sons of slaves who had little to no physical possessions but kept a sense of pride and brilliance. Every single detail of the line process was strategically chosen to create a sense of discipline and community which ultimately built our broken families and helped to bridge the gap. This bridge is a continuous cycle of pledges and prophytes, but when the cycle is broken, the very purpose of our organizations are shattered.

Image result for top black greek photos step show

Photo: Ksrcollege.com

"Greek life is just not the same…"

Before I embarked on my greek journey, I made sure to talk to any “oldheads” in order to get myself prepared. Each of them told me the same thing, “Greek life is just not the same anymore. Stay true to yourself.” Naïve to my own preconceived notions, I didn't believe them at all. I just knew Greek life was for me and no one could tell me any different. Now that I've been a member of greek life for years, I can say that my experience was very different than what I thought it would be. And I know, you have to take the good with the bad but recently black greek organizations have been receiving flak from all angles. As a loyalist, I always shoot down any negativity when it comes to my PHam but, I have some questions. There are few elephants in our room my fellow greeks, and I’m just here to point them out.

After I crossed the burning sands, I was told by my grands, pros, and grad chapter advisers that "Greek life is a business” and I understood that in its entirety. In order to run a business, there must be laws in place that I will never understand but I still have unanswered questions. Let me preface this by saying that am not writing these questions about a single organization but more so for the entire Divine 9 community, because after compiling statements and research from members of black greek organizations all over the country, I have realized that there are some reoccurring concerns that most members feel but never speak on. 

Alpha Nu chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, death marching on the campus of NC A&T. (Spring 1988)

PHOTO: Watchtheyard.com

Has the business overtaken the bond?

If we look back just 10 years ago, most if not all of the prominent African Americans we members of the NPHC such as Jesse Jackson, Roland Martin and Dr. Maya Angelou. Around the 80s there was an influx of black greek participation but if we fast forward to present day, little to none of the influential black leaders are greek. What happened and why don't people take black greeks seriously anymore? It used to be an honor to be greek but now its just seems like a fad. Now as a member of a greek organization, I totally understand that a lot of the processes are out of our control due to rules and regulations but I will never understand lines of pledges that are composed of over 20 to 30 people. I cannot wrap my mind around the idea of 50+ people getting to know the inner workings of a secret bond, while simultaneously building life-long friendships in a short period time (and that timetable is a soap box that I will refrain from hopping on). Now everyone didn’t go through the same process, but if there is any weak link in the chain, doesn’t that weaken the organization as a whole? To solve this problem, I propose that we take a serious look at the pledging process. Start new with a process that will enable deserving pledges to learn everything they need to know in order to be a leader in the community and pass down the heritage to their neos. This will help to reinstate a sense of prestige when they receive your letters and it won't be taken as lightly.

Image result for black greek sororitiesPhoto: Prettygirlsweat.com

Colorism in the Divine 9

Colorism is something that the black community struggles with as a whole and arguably will always deal with. To be a member of a BGO you must first be deemed a leader on campus and in the community and it has nothing to do with the color of your skin. Ultimately, the majority of us are black and brown so why is this ignorant stereotype being perpetuated in our community. To this day, I still get comments regarding my skin tone and what I chose to pledge—or what chose me, moreover. Other black people will say things like “You’re too dark skin to be an AKA? What are you really?” These comments aren’t only foolish and hurtful but they show a major disconnect in what GDI’s perceive as the very reason someone would pledge in the first place. I think it hurts even more when fellow greek members say ignorant things like this and pass is down to their pledges. How can we be the leaders in our community if we don't set an example? My question is, how can we reverse this programmed way of thinking and eradicate it once and for all? I propose that educate our neos on social-cultural issues such as colorism, classism and sexism in greek organizations. Addressing the issue up front so they are brought to the light early. Colorism and other forms of micro-aggression should just as bad as hazing because they ultimately can be just as damaging.

Photo: Prettygirlsweat.com

Financial investment or pyramid scheme?

This section may strike a nerve or two but I had to bring it up. Frankly, we raise money to be circulated in these organizations for the betterment of the community or school we are serving. In these crazy times people, especially minority college students, need every single dime they earn. These co-initiates are paying thousands of dollars in fees that they may not have. There are countless fundraisers, fees, and dues taken up in greek life. Where does the money go? Now on the flipside, I know of many chapters that uphold the standard of the Divine 9 and make sure to put the community first, but if this is not publicized in the same way that parties and stroll-offs are, how will people know what we are about? There have simply been too many nationally broadcasted money laundering scandals but I won't call anyone out. How will we hold the leaders accountable for the money that goes into our organizations? There has to be a more transparency with the finances of all organizations. This will help to clear the air and redeem the name of so many of our Greek members. An open door policy is the key! 

I could honestly go on and on with my grievances regarding black Greek organizations but instead, I want to be proactive. I am frankly tired of people who are not Greek making movies, starting forums and criticizing our beloved bonds, but if we do not address these issues, the legacy that was created with sweat and tears by our founders will be obliterated. Please, let me know what you think below and let's start the conversation off right. *Cues set it off* 😉