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Joining a Black fraternity or sorority is a daunting task but there are multiple ways to prepare for your interview that can help you win the chapter over immensely. One of these things is quite simple: Figure out which tangible skills you have and find out how you can use them to directly help the chapter.

Tangible skills or “hard skills” are specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured. Simply put, these are things that you can do to actually help the chapter. By contrast, “soft skills” are less tangible and harder to quantify, such as etiquette, being likable, getting along with others, listening and engaging in small talk.

Yes, Black fraternity/sorority chapters are brotherhoods/sisterhoods, but don’t get it twisted, if you ask anyone in an alumni or undergrad chapter what it is like to be greek, they will most likely say that it is a lot of work.

By keeping this in mind, when you are trying to get noticed by a chapter as a potential candidate or have been given the honor of getting a membership interview, the best strategy is to show the chapter which tangible skills you bring to the table that will relieve the chapter of its workload, drop its costs, increase its profits, and be more successful in the future.

What does this mean? It means that you need to take a step back and figure out which skills you can bring to the table to help the chapter. A chapter is much like a business, why would a business hire someone who is simply likeable when there is work to be done? A successful business wants someone who can get the job done and help them succeed.  If you were a coach or a player on a football team would you want to add players who will sit on the bench or players who score, get interceptions and make plays?  You want to win, so you bring on people who can help you win because of their skillsets.

We at Watch The Yard have talked to numerous greeks around the country about this and have come up with the most valued tangible skills for 2017. This is a list of skills that you either should highlight to the chapter you want to join or if you don’t have them right now, you can focus on practicing and learning these skills for the future. Trust us, even if you don’t make it into the chapter, in the long run, these skills will help you in your career and will open many new doors and opportunities for you.

Accounting

Every chapter has a bank account and every chapter has someone who deals with the finances. Someone who can make sure that the books are balanced and that the finances are in order is very valuable to the chapter and its financial success. This is something that is important in both grad and undergraduate chapters and if you are able to highlight this skill to the chapter, you will improve your chances of getting in immensely. In most cases, there is someone in the chapter who has been doing the books for years, and having someone who they can train and trust to smoothly take over their position when they want to leave it can be a godsend. If you are an accountant, deal with finances, can work an Excel sheet like a boss, or are studying business, this is the perfect thing to highlight in your application.

If you are interested in learning to pick up this skill, find some finance books, take a class, ask someone who knows, and check out some blogs on bookkeeping. This skill will DEFINITELY help you in the future.

Web Design

Every chapter has a website and because many chapters do not have a web designer within their ranks, being able to build websites can be extremely valuable to both undergrad and alumni chapters. To add to this, the cost of building websites can be daunting to many chapters and even after the initial building of the website, if they do not know how to update it, hiring someone outside of the chapter is something that can put a whole in the chapter’s bank account.

If you are someone who can build websites, whether it be through writing code or working with WordPress or even Squarespace, you need to highlight this to chapter members. A simple discreet, “Hey I’m interested in learning more about your chapter, I went to your website to do more research and I have some tips on how you can fix some things on it/improve its SEO” can go an extremely long way for someone who is trying to get noticed if said correctly to the right person.

If you are interested in picking this skill up, start by learning WordPress or try out Squarespace. You can start by building yourself a personal website and once you have that skill, you should be able to apply that to anything. Even if greekdom does not work out for you, knowing some web design will help you advance yourself professionally and make money in the future.

Securing Sponsorships/ Grant Writing

This one needs very little explaining. For a chapter to pull off large events, it needs to find ways to do this and spend the least amount of its own money while doing it. If you are someone who knows how to write grant proposals or create sponsorship opportunities for a chapter, you will be a golden child for the organization.

If you work in a profession in which grant writing or sponsorship deals are something that you do, make sure to highlight this to the chapter and give actual examples of the amount of money you have secured for other companies, organizations, or projects in the past.

If you’re an undergrad and want to learn how to do this, start by joining another student group and put yourself in a position where you are in charge of securing grants for a student event, fashion show, party, or public service event. This will give you the tangible skills to prove that you can do it for the chapter in the future if you’re accepted as a member.

Graphic Design

When chapters need to throw events they either need to have someone in-house make the flyers and event graphics or they have to pay someone to do this for them. Depending on the event, the amount of times that the details of the event change and the amount of various graphics that need to be made, this can start to get very expensive for a chapter if they have to hire someone. If you can show that you have the skillset to offset this cost by doing the graphics yourself, you can prove that you are a valuable potential asset to the chapter.

If you do graphic design, take some time to show the people in the chapter your work before the interview and let them know discreetly that you think you could really help them in the future.

If you don’t know how to do this yet but are interested in learning it, find a way to get ahold of Photoshop. Once you have it, you can literally teach yourself everything you need to know for free using YouTube tutorials. Trust us, this skill is a very handy one to have, it will help you go far in your career and give you an extra edge.

Videography

Much like graphic design, being able to help the chapter by shooting and editing event promos, advertisements, recap videos and everything else that needs to be recorded will go a long way and will give you an edge.

To be featured on Watch The Yard, and thus highlighted in front of the rest of Black greekdom on a national level, shooting and editing high-quality video it the best way to make it happen. In 2017, it didn’t happen if there is not video of it and thus it is very important to have someone in each chapter who can shoot and edit video.

If you are good at this, make sure to highlight it to the chapter. If you’re interested in picking up this skill, download a video editing program and learn to use a camera. With the advancement of cell phones over the last two years, you can now shoot full quality video with good lighting, sound and a cell phone. Play around with some equipment and teach yourself to edit using YouTube tutorials.

Public Relations

Chapters want to see their events get covered in local news, radio and on digital platforms. If you have experience putting together and writing press releases, you can really help a chapter out. Let them know that you have this skill and give them examples of the work that you have done in the past.

If you’ve, never done this before, go check out some blogs on PR and hit up the library or Amazon and get some books on the subject. Once you’ve learned hot to do it, reach out to local non-profit or student group and ask them if you can do some free PR for them to build your portfolio. Once you land a couple of stories/coverage, highlight this to the chapter.

Event Planning

Chapters need to throw events and thus people who are good at putting events together are always seen as great additions. If you have thrown successful events of any kind in the past, let the chapter know about what you did and your role in making it happen. Better yet, invite members of the chapter to one of your events so that they can see for themselves how good you are.

If you have never thrown an event before but want to get into it, ask someone who is good at throwing events if you can work with them on their next event. Use this as a way to gain experience and then try to throw your own. You don’t have to throw a giant event to start, you can start by organizing a volunteer event or mixer. Once you have this experience and have thrown multiple events let the chapter know discreetly that you are interested in learning more about joining and that you think you could bring value to them by creating events for them.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, this is about showing that you have a skill that can add value to the organization. If you can show that you can add value to others, you will go far in life and this does not just apply to trying to join a Black greek letter organization.

Black greekdom is about training for leadership and helping members improve themselves and the experiences of others. You don’t need to be the best web designer, grant writer, or videographer, you just need to be able to show that you know what you are doing, can add value with this skill and are taking the initiative all by yourself to improve upon this skill.

Remember: When reaching out to fraternity and sorority members make sure to be discreet and humble. Not everyone needs to know that you are interested in joining. Don’t be loud about wanting to join, that’s not how Black greekdom works.

We hope this helps, if you are greek already feel free to share this article on your chapter pages so that possible recruits can read this.

If you have any other tangible skills that you think are important/valuable in 2017 that we missed, let us know in the comment section below.

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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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