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[This piece was written by WatchTheYard.com guest writer Alexzandria Chill | UNT Graduate. Marketing Freak. Frankie Bev Fanatic. Adamant Knowledge Seeker. Lady of ZPHIB (Pearl Clu5). Founder of Blog: @DPTaughtMe]

We know that you’re in planning mode for the upcoming semester and we want to make sure your year is as amazing as possible. One of the best ways to serve as a catalyst for change on your campus is to become a mentor. January is National Mentoring Month and yall know we are all about personal and professional development! So this month, we’ll be focusing on the power of Greek mentorship, tips on how to use your letters to become influential forces in your peer’s lives, and challenging the perception of generational mentorship within Greekdom.

So, let’s talk Prophytes. Older Greeks from different organizations are constantly having conversations with each other, voicing their distress concerning the caliber of undergrad Greeks and the dearth of knowledge, deference and gumption they seem to display. Though various factors play into the success or failure of individual chapters, it’s an ever present fear that the lack of efficient and innovative leadership and peer mentorship may play a major role in how well we prepare our incoming Greeks to carry on our legacy.

Rather than ranting and raving about why new lines need to do better, how they need to learn this, that and the other and boring you with “Back in my day” stories, here are some easy ways Prophytes can combat the problem with these 3 Proactive Prophyte Mentoring Tools.

I. Play Match Maker

Step 1: Fill In the Blank

Preferably before intake, chapter exec board members should take inventory of four primary variables concerning their members: academic standing, anticipated graduation, community influence, and member talents/skill sets. These determining factors will help you strategically identify what voids your chapter needs to fill and who they can fill it with. Say, you have 3 people graduating with high gpa’s next semester. You need to make sure that you try to fill all three of those seats with high performing students. If you’re currently lacking a mover and shaker in your chapter, jot down non-Greek students who are making progressive moves and how they’re going about doing them. If paying for flyers or videography is hurting your chapter’s budget, look for aspirants who have an artistic capability who might be able to create material for free as a means to contribute to the chapter. As people head out, take note of who needs to come in. And when they do,  Step 2 comes into play.

Step 2: Match Up

Match new members up with current Prophytes that have similar interest, skill sets, majors and/or aspirations as each other. This will serve as the Neo’s initial mentor(s). As the semester goes on, your chapter members will develop a relationship with their respective Prophyte(s). Big Brothers/Big Sister will take them under their wing and teach them the ropes about how to run an efficient organization. Keep in mind the voids that need to filled in the future and train  younger members on what to do and how to go about doing it the proper way. Investing in each other is the best way to maintain and build legacy. Allowing chapter members to nurture relationships built on mutual interest and personalities will not only help the bond develop organically, but it will help newer members understand the value they bring to the table and how to implement it long after their Prophytes have graduated.

II. Check Ins

College students are already juggling a lot. Classes. Jobs. Organizational obligations. Social events. Community service. Financial struggles. You know… adulting. However, as the old adage goes “ You make time for what you want.” When it comes to the stability and integrity of our organizations, it’s also dire that we make time for what we need. What we need is consistent student development via peer mentorship. Prophytes and mentees should set up consistent check-ins with each other to track the progression of their transition into Greek Life. Now, each check-in doesn’t always have to be uber serious. That aint fun. Let the time frame and topics range. Maybe once a month, you meet up for 45 minutes to talk about chapter business, answering any dangling questions and helping the mentee understand certain challenges Greek Life brings. Twice a month, you can do 15 minute phone calls just to see how he/she is doing. It doesn’t take much. Just make sure the check-ins are practical to your schedule, manageable for all persons involved, and most importantly – personable.

III.Quarterly Chapter Development Camps

Piggy backing off the previous statement, it is important that the chapter as a whole maintains its relevance and integrity by investing in student development. Another way to achieve this is to have chapter development camps every quarter (or every three months). Make it a mini-working retreat. Each meeting should be focused on the four factors listed earlier: academic standing, anticipated graduation, community influence and member talents/skill sets. Periodically, use a chapter meeting as a time to identify and discuss developmental progress, areas of improvement and solutions for those specific factors. Keep track of everything discussed so the exec board can reference the trends and places of improvement for the upcoming year. Also, use this time as a means to work things out. Have mini-workshops where members are allowed to brainstorm plans, solutions and initiatives that will help propel the chapter and the organization forward. Encourage groups to present to the chapter and take votes on which plans, solutions and initiatives they think would be beneficial to implement going forward. These exercises will help members think outside of themselves and help them focus on the purpose and vision our Founders initially set for our organizations.

If these tidbits were helpful to you, let us know! Share, Tweet or IG me at @DPTaughtMe or comment below. I would love to hear your feedback. Here’s to another successful semester! Be easy Fam!

chapter leadership

4 Actions Black Greeks Must Take Before Joining A Graduate Chapter

Photo Credit: @TheArtHype

Outside of crossing the burning sands, joining a grad chapter could be the second most important decision you could make in regards to showing your commitment to your Black Greek Fraternity or Sorority. But, like with choosing an undergrad chapter, you can’t join any chapter all willy nilly.

Just because your prophytes are in a certain chapter doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for you. Nor should you gravitate towards a chapter because they the one that throws the livest happy hours. And most certainly, don’t feel pressured to join for fear of being labeled “Unfinancial”. Rededicating your life, time, energy and resources to a grad chapter is a BIG yet worthy responsibility and you should treat it as such.

If you’re thinking about joining a grad chapter, here are 4 Things You MUST do. Also, just for the record – this isn’t only for current Greeks. For those of you seeking to Greekdom via a Grad Chapter, this goes for you too.

4) DO A TEST RUN

Sampling grad chapters ahead of time will help you get an overall feel for the ideal chapter you want to join. As with undergrad chapters, each grad chapter has it’s own style, culture, personality and customs. Look up all the grad chapters in your area. Take into consideration the distance it takes to get to the meetings, how often they meet, chapter size, how long it’s been established and specific causes that chapter champions.

Then – shop around. Attend a few chapter meetings. Get a feel for their operations and their members. Ask about the committees you’d be most interested in. Join their email list so you can stay in the loop about upcoming events. After all this, do a best fit comparison test based on the top 3 things that you look for in a chapter.

Also, just to be courteous, if the information is available – let the Membership Director know you’re planning to visit their chapter meeting and/or event. You never know if they’ll be discussing sensitive information or if the event is for paid/financial members only.

 

3) CONDUCT AN INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW

If you’re not familiar with informational interviews, think of them as traditional job interviews – but in reverse. Informational interviews allow you to get a sneak peak into the culture and expectations of an organization before you decide to proceed with them. This is one of the best strategies you can implement.

Visit the chapter’s website for the Membership Director  or exchange cards with a frat or soror at their next social event or meeting. Then, take some time to jot down your most pressing questions about joining grad. Narrow your questions down to at least three inquiries and contact the member of your choice. See if he/she has time for a 30-minute call or a quick coffee meeting to discuss what’s on your mind. This will give you a glimpse of what you have to expect coming in.

2) ASK ABOUT A PAYMENT PLAN

The price is the second biggest concern for people attempting to join grad chapter. If you thought undergrad pinched your pockets, you ain’t ready for the grad chapter. Being “Financial” comes with a hefty price tag. HOWEVER, it doesn’t have to be as daunting as it may seem.

Ask the Membership Director about a payment plan, their current dues schedule and any discount incentives they might have. If you’re a fairly new graduate, usually grad chapters offer discounted dues to incentivize younger members to join a grad chapter early. Also, if you’ve been “gone” for an ample amount of time, there might be a Reclamation Campaign discount to encourage “lost” fraters and sorors to come back home.

You’ll also want to ask questions about the average expenses it requires to be in the organization: events, cause based contributions, social outings, galas, savings for chapter trips, anniversaries, fees for acknowledgments and special recognition, etc.

All those things start to add up. Depending on your income, some of these expenses could break the bank if they’re competing with personal expenses like student loans, car notes, insurance bills, etc. Knowing your financial feasibility will dictate certain privileges you’ll have access to throughout the fiscal year. With that being said, ONLY start asking these questions once you are seriously considering joining. If you don’t have the dedicated funds at this time, no worries. Ask your Membership Director what you can do in the meantime to make up where your money can’t – time, advanced volunteerism, etc.

1) MAP OUT YOUR COMMITMENT- REALISTICALLY

For the love of your Founders, be realistic with your calendar. You thought you were busy in undergrad. TUH! Try having a full time job, paying bills, taking care of a family, paying more bills, savings, planning possible vacations, etc. The point is, you have way more on your plate than you ever did before. You have to factor all of these things into your commitment calendar.

The best way to ensure your long-term commitment is to find a tangible cause and/or role you can be dedicated to. Evaluate what you’re passionate about and align your skill set to areas where you could be of service. Start going to chapter meetings on a regular basis. Narrow down your ideal committees. Let the head of the committee know how and when you can contribute to the chapter. Make your commitments feasible.

Granted these are the end all-be all tips for joining a grad chapter, but it’s a great way to make an informed decision before you reconnect and re-engage in a deeper and meaningful way. And if you can’t join grad chapter right now, don’t sweat it. You have the rest of your life to jump back into the swing of things. Find your groove and then jump in the game.  If you thought this was helpful, let us know. Tweet us at @dptaugthme or drop us a line in the comment section. We’d like to hear your feedback. Until next time fam. Be easy!

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[This piece was written by WatchTheYard.com guest writer Alexzandria Chill | UNT Graduate. Marketing Freak. Frankie Bev Fanatic. Lady of Z-PHI-B and Founder of Blog: @DPTaughtMe]

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Why You Should Treat Your Black Fraternity/Sorority Chapter Like a Pot of Gumbo

The following was written by Eddie Francis, a public speaker who was initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha at Loyola University New Orleans in 1989.

I love to cook and I love it when a dish comes together. Born in New Orleans, I grew up in the Tremé neighborhood (like the HBO show) where my life was surrounded by brass band music and the aroma of delicious Creole cuisine. When my father and brother—both musicians—taught me to cook, I gained an appreciation for how herbs, spices and fresh chopped vegetables create compositions of flavor. I was throwing together a nice pot of Gumbo one day when it occurred to me that fraternity and sorority chapters can perform better if members understood how to make the ingredients work together.

On both the college and alumni levels, I served as a chapter president. Both chapters experienced growth but I always imagine how much more we could have accomplished if I understood how to manage diverse personalities. It made me think about a conversation I had with an old co-worker, J.P. who once told me in his cool Cajun accent, “Eddie, cookin’ takes love.” Mind explosion. When I think of leadership in terms of cooking, I expected to get a great dish without figuring out how each ingredient contributed to the final product.

That’s how I came up with “The Gumbo Theory,” the most popular segment of the Black Greek Success Program. I do the program on college campuses to help students understand how their Greek life experiences translate into important leadership skills. As a professional and former student leader, I want to show college Greeks and those interested in joining our fraternities and sororities how to use those skills to create true impact in their communities.

So, what are these difference-making ingredients?

WATER

Water represents the fraternity or sorority. This is especially important for folks who believe their chapters are bigger than their organizations. Just like water is an existing element, your fraternity or sorority is the foundational existing element. Without the fraternity or sorority, you don’t have a chapter.

 

MEAT AND SEAFOOD

Fans of Gumbo probably enjoy the meat and seafood more than anything else. Can you blame them? Getting a nice ladle full of Creole hot sausage, shrimp, andouille sausage, chicken, beef or crab is like finding prizes. When that good stuff gets into your system, it just fills you up!

There are frat or sorors who fill the chapter up with their actions. They are first to arrive and last to leave for almost everything—parties, service projects, student organization fairs, inter-organizational events, etc. Because of their work, your chapter gets respect. They give the chapter substance just like meat and seafood give the Gumbo substance.

 

SPICES

One of the secrets of Louisiana cooking is how we use herbs and spices. This the fun part of eating Gumbo. You do that child-like butt dance at the table with each spoonful of spicy goodness.

Spicy members bring a different kind of substance. They are flashy, outspoken, energetic, and fun. On a more serious note, they are the communicators who put critical issues that need to be resolved on the table. Because these members have so much personality, leaders must be especially skilled at managing group dynamics just like the person cooking the Gumbo must manage the spices. Too much overpowers the dish and not enough lets everybody down.

 

THE ROUX

The roux is the thickener that creates the broth for the Gumbo. Everyone who cooks Gumbo will tell you that if you mess up the roux, you’ve messed up the Gumbo. The roux is your chapter’s leadership.

The leadership—as in ALL the officers—sets the tone for how the chapter performs. Negative attitudes create a negative vibe and positive attitudes create a positive vibe—simple. I warn students, however, that no one has to be Greek to recognize the effects of certain types of leaders. Chapter leaders must ultimately understand that they accept the responsibility of praise and criticism along with the titles and attention.

Being able to understand the diverse personalities—the ingredients—in your chapter is a great lesson in leadership. You learn the role of character on a team, how to manage pettiness (which is not unique to Black Greek life), and even how to identify key prospects for your team. And if you really pay attention, you understand the importance of your identity and the value you add to any community.

Remember that making ingredients work together is a skill, and skills are learned. My first pot of Gumbo wasn’t nearly as delicious as the last pot I made because of the learning curve. It has been that love of cooking, however, that has helped me improve. Use the love for your fraternity or sorority to learn and develop your leadership skills.

Watch The Gumbo Theory being explained in the video below.

About the Author:

Eddie Francis is a speaker and talent acquisition professional who was initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha in 1989 at Loyola University New Orleans. He publishes the Black Greek Success blog and has written about Greek life for HBCU Lifestyle, the Huffington Post, LinkedIn, the H.O.P.E. Scholarship, and the Greek Ladders. He has also provided commentary about Greek life for the HBCU Nation Radio Show, the HBCU Lifestyle Podcast, Al Jazeera America, and College Summit. Eddie is active in the Rho Nu Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha where he is chair of the public relations committee, and he is pursuing his master’s degree in Strategic Leadership from Tennessee State University. Eddie is the proud husband of Halima Leak Francis, a member of Zeta Phi Beta, and the proud father of Stevie. You can learn more at EddieFrancis.com.

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The Man Who Wrote the Much-Recited Poem “If” Also Wrote One of the Most Racist Poems of All Time

British colonist being carried by African men
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With the decision by Kappa Alpha Psi’s Colin Kaepernick to boycott the National Anthem, our nation has started to question and discuss the meaning of other symbols and practices that seem every day to us.

In an effort to keep the conversation going, we at WatchTheYard.com think that it is time that we as Black Greeks take a look at the much-recited poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling. While we strongly all agree that this is one of the best poems that new members and interests of Black fraternities and sororities in certain regions of the United States are asked to learn, it is the writer and not the poem that we find problematic and controversial.

For those who don’t know it, “IF” goes as follows:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.

Sounds great right? There is a reason that many members of Black fraternities and sororities know this poem by heart, it’s about controlling one’s destiny, being able to lose everthing and start from scratch, be able to converse with important people but not forget where you came from and how to talk to “the little guy.” Its about giving your all, pushing through and being a hard-working exceptional human being.

While all of this is great, it turns out that British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, the writer of “IF” and the Jungle Book also wrote the famous poem “The White Man’s Burden” that just so happens to be one of the most racist poems you will ever read. If “the man” had a favorite poem, this would be his ISH.

The poem proposes that white men have a “moral obligation to rule the non-white peoples of the Earth, whilst encouraging their economic, cultural, and social progress through colonialism until they can independently manage their own affairs.” It literally encourages white men to go out and subjugate and rule non-whites because it is their duty.

Here is the poem:

Take up the White Man’s burden, Send forth the best ye breed

  Go bind your sons to exile, to serve your captives’ need;

To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild—

  Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man’s burden, In patience to abide,

  To veil the threat of terror And check the show of pride;

By open speech and simple, An hundred times made plain

  To seek another’s profit, And work another’s gain.

Take up the White Man’s burden, The savage wars of peace—

  Fill full the mouth of Famine And bid the sickness cease;

And when your goal is nearest The end for others sought,

  Watch sloth and heathen Folly Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man’s burden, No tawdry rule of kings,

  But toil of serf and sweeper, The tale of common things.

The ports ye shall not enter, The roads ye shall not tread,

  Go make them with your living, And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man’s burden And reap his old reward:

  The blame of those ye better, The hate of those ye guard—

The cry of hosts ye humour (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:—

  “Why brought he us from bondage, Our loved Egyptian night?”

Take up the White Man’s burden, Ye dare not stoop to less—

  Nor call too loud on Freedom To cloak your weariness;

By all ye cry or whisper, By all ye leave or do,

  The silent, sullen peoples Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man’s burden, Have done with childish days—

  The lightly proferred laurel, The easy, ungrudged praise.

Comes now, to search your manhood, through all the thankless years

  Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom, The judgment of your peers!

…yeah…that was pretty racist right? Before we got out of the first stanza it referred to non-whites as the white man’s “new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.” The rest gets even worse.

A 1920s map of the global distribution of the races who are "the white man's burden".

A 1920s map of the global distribution of the races who are “the white man’s burden”.

Let’s leave it at this, there is no doubt in our mind that “IF” is an amazing poem, it actually happens to be one of the favorite poems the brother who is writing this article learned while crossing. We just want you to know the history behind it.

To some people, this is important information that might cause their chapter to rethink if having initiates in their Black fraternity learn the words to a poem written by a guy who advocated for oppressing no-whites. Other people can argue that the words and meaning of the poem are bigger than their writer.

What you do with this knowledge is really up to you.

Please leave a comment with any alternatives to this poem that get the same message across.

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