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

I don’t know about yall, but when I think about the word “deference”, I immediately think of one thing: how many times I hear prophytes complaining about the lack of integrity and respect younger, unruly and hardheaded lines have for themselves and seasoned Greek members.  This came to me last week when I was penning 3 Ways Prophytes Can Be Better Mentors. Then, follow up questions slowly began to percolate: what caused the disintegration of deference? Why do you think this took place? And most importantly, what can we do to reverse the epidemic?

As I marinated on this notion, two things came to mind:

GENERATIONAL DIFFERENCES IN PRIORITIES

One of the problems that seems to be a reoccurring trend when it comes to “taming” younger members is the idea that they are “nonchalant” and would rather “play and party” instead of focusing on their academics, social influence and the impact they could have in the community. Now, let me just say this: every Greek generation has their “rebellious” successors that vary in style, personality and form. However, deeming them nonchalant might not be the right adjective to describe them.

Many of our seasoned fraternity and sorority members grew up in a time where “bigger picture thinking” was in the forefront of chapter activities.  Community-centric programs were set as organizational priorities as a means to combat the injustices that were taking place around college campuses. These priorities trickled down to regional and local levels as a way to stay cohesively grounded to serve as a source of inspiration, knowledge, and leadership when it came time to spear-head communal initiatives. In today’s time, blatant injustices have become more hidden, and younger members, somehow along the way, lost the essence of our mission. Rather than being labeled, “nonchalant” or “arrogant, the newer generation of Greeks might be responding to disengagement, sensing the lack of understanding or yearning for a need for unbiased and consistent guidance. Here are some ways to bring them back in the loop:

  • Set Clear Objectives But Keep Execution Open:  One of the best ways to keep your organization on track is to make sure the national, regional and local objectives are in the forefront of all activities. Explain what your organization is working towards and why. Give examples of what programs and initiatives are being rolled out for the year. Then help your chapter (undergrad or grad) identify ways in which they can individually and collectively contribute to the cause.
  • Don’t Dictate: Because more seasoned members are usually more knowledgeable about what’s going on, they sometimes have a tendency to try to dictate how things should be done rather than expressing what needs to be done. Be their guide. Engage in activities where they can see you as a mentor and a resource of knowledge and know. Keep the objectives definite, offer suggestions on execution, but ultimately ( as long as it abides by the by-laws) the carrying out of the plan should be up to the chapter. It gives members a sense of ownership and purpose. If they’re having a hard time thinking of ideas (or seem reluctant), give them an established program to rework or reinvent. This way, they don’t have to start from square one.
  • Be Present:  While we have some Prophytes who are over zealous about being hands on in everything, you can find just as many members who go ghost as soon as probate is over. Not because they’re busy with school, work, or relationships. They’re absent because there are new members on the yard mean vacation. All of sudden, the work is transferred from line to the other and responsibilities evaporate. Do you know how frustrating that is? That’s like going to basic orientation for a job, getting hired, and then your boss dropping 10 tons of work on your desk with no rhyme or reason as to how to get started and expecting you to succeed like yesterday! Prophytes need to be as present as possible. This is the training ground for your new line. If you’re chapter looks like crap, it’s a sign of your training or lack there of.  If there’s no time spent in developing your new initiates, then chapter and organizational progress is going to suffer. Don’t abandon your flock.
  • Remember, It’s Not About You: Nothing turns Youngins off more than hearing “Back in my day, we did things like…”. That’s talking from personal experience on both sides. There is nothing wrong with offering advice. However, you have to remember, you have to adjust to the times.  Their approach and mind frame won’t be the same as yours. If something is unclear, don’t chastise them because you can’t understand it. If they have a difficult time articulating it, walk them through the thought process. Help them align and refine their plans in a way that stays true to the current chapter culture, but still holds the integrity of national’s image. The campus and chapter climate and environment is completely different from when you started. You have to adjust, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely transform.

DILUTED IDEAS OF LEADERSHIP

Another trend that has caused deference to dissolve is the misconception and miscommunication of what a member of Greek life is supposed to look like, sound like, think like  and act like. As of late, it seems like it’s a little harder to do that. Here are some of the root causes why and how we can solve them:

  • No One Knows Your Role: One thing that Greek Life taught me about Corporate America is that if I don’t feel like I am of any significance or if I can’t add value to company, whether that feeling is self induced or not – I ain’t stayin. Or I’m not going to put that much effort into my job. The same goes for Greek Life. EVERYONE HAS A ROLE. EVERYONE! Just because you don’t have an exec board title or you’re not a committee chair doesn’t mean you aren’t a leader. How do you expect someone to respect your authority if you don’t even understand the authority and the responsibility you have? The misconception that titles define leadership often indirectly discourages members from being engaged.
    • Prophytes with no purpose tend to breed lines with less and less life in them aka Lame Lines. And they’re not like that because they necessarily choose to be. It’s because the ones before them either didn’t know how to lead or didn’t know their specific purpose. Thusly, they’re left floating through the chapter doing aimless and miscellaneous tasks without fervor or concept of how they’re contributing. They become place holders in the chapter because no one engaged them in leadership activities.
    • If this sounds like you (no judgement), know you have the power to change all dat! If your Prophytes lacked, that doesn’t mean you have to. Jot down things you would have liked to see them do. Then compare it to the things you wish to contribute.  After that, write down a few things you would like to teach your successor.  Be the Prophyte you aspire to meet. Or as Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And most importantly, find out how to implement  that change WITH the next generation.
    • Signifying one’s significance is imperative to creating a culture of excellence – let people know HOW and WHY they are important to the team and encourage them to contribute in their own unique way. When younger lines can see that 1) You have reserved a special place for them 2) See they have someone in their corner to help them build on their skill sets. This garners respect and reverence.
  • No One Is Setting a CONSISTENT Standard – Practice Show N’Tell: When I think of Greek Members that I admire, especially in Zeta, I can point out key characteristics that make them distinguishable and an inspiration. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a personal, professional, emotional, mental or spiritual tip, the point is – I know why I consider them a leader. I think it’s fair to say there are a handful of people where that can all apply, or else we wouldn’t have joined the organizations we rep for today.  Ideally, we should be able to look at every member and identify not only who that person is and why they are important to our organization and what they bring to the table. In every chapter, at ANY level, there should be a CLEAR concept (socially, academically and in civic terms) of the caliber man/woman should be. Remember – YOU have the responsibility to set the standard. While everyone has their own personalities and ways, newer generations are mimicking you and what they see. If they see excellence, they mimic excellence. If they see diligence, they mimic diligence. If they see lackadaisical leadership, they mimic lackadaisical leadership. Make your expectations and standards crystal clear – then mirror them.
    • Leadership is about setting the tone: Sometimes, people equate being powerful to being overly aggressive instead of confident and assertive. Micromanaging, being loud and short with people equates to prowess in your position. All these things negate the true perception of leadership. Leadership in itself is servitude at its best. Your job as a leader is to breed strong, capable and confident legacies. The way you lead sets the tone for the lines to come. So you need to listen to your followers and get feedback. Practice understanding and resolution rather than blame and strict restructuring. Brainstorm ways to reward and congratulate each other. Evaluate ways to increase productivity so when you leave, there are several people left to hold down the fort.

Deference only comes when respect is given: respect to the responsibility you hold, respect to the role you play in a new generation’s life, and respect to the idea of servitude. Again, be the Prophyte you wish someone was (or should have been) to you.

Now, if this seemed heavily charged at Prophytes, you’re right.  However, don’t worry. Neo’s are gettin it next week, so stay tuned. Comment below or hit me up on Twitter /Facebook to let me know what you think!

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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.

the_white_mans_burden-_judge_1899

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