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The Response To Madame Noire’s ”Pledging A BGLO Gave Me PTSD” Article That Every Black Greek Should Read

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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]

So this morning, as with most mornings, I woke up, said my prayers and reached for my phone to check my social media. Among the break of dawn Bible scriptures, “Black Girls Slay” photos and hilarious skits from my favorite IG comedians, I saw a small post from a Greek Instagram account nestled awkwardly in my newsfeed. It was screenshot of an article written by Jasmine Osby of Madame Noire entitled Pledging A Black Greek- Letter Organization Gave Me PTSD”. Under the photo layed the caption “#ReadArticle then leave comment after. #ShareYourThoughts #RP”. And that’s when all hell broke loose.

Normally, before I scan the comment section, I read the article to understand the matter at hand. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, it goes like this:

  •  Aspiring college student attends university to pursue dreams as a world renowned journalist
  • Becomes memorized with Black Greek Life
  • Attends interest meeting
  • Accepts invitation, process begins
  • Commences good times with her future LS’s
  • 3 weeks in, starts official “Pledging Process”
  • Set nights continue; experiences become so bad that student develops immense amounts of stress and anxiety
  • After 5 months, she drops
  • She becomes a “pariah” of the Black Student Body
  • Student develops PTSD

After delving into her recaps, I made my way back to the Instagram account to browse the comment section. I also pull up the Madame Noire’s Facebook page to see what discussions were taking place there. As I reviewed the article and the responses, my emotions went from 0 – 100, homie, real quick.

What People Were Saying:

Many readers offerend their 2 cents about Ms. Osby and her pledging experience. As I rummaged through the feedback, I noticed three main assesments people were making:

1) She knew what she was getting into.

  • None one forced her to pledge.
  • If she didn’t like the pledging process, why did she stay so long? She’s a grown woman.
  • She should have left earlier. Then she wouldn’t have to deal with the “PTSD”.

2) She’s exaggerating. I pledged. It stressed me out, and I didn’t get PTSD. 

  • I know others that pledged, as well as myself. We went through way worse and turned out okay.
  • It wasn’t military traumantic, so this can’t be PTSD.

3) She couldn’t handle it, that’s life. What is she complaining about?    

  • She’s soft. She needs to toughen up. So what she dropped?
  • What you dealt with was peanuts. It’s not that serious.
  • “But did you die?”

So here’s my take (on the reponses, not the article):

“She KNEW what she was getting into.”

Let’s be real. I don’t care HOW many people you ask about the Greek pledging process, nothing is ever 100% full disclosure. Until you are in the situation, you NEVER really know what you’re getting into. The overall premise of pledging is a huge mind game to see what you can endure and how much you can endure. Things come up left and right at random. How in the hell did she KNOW what she was getting into?

Some readers suggested that she should have talked to someone and asked them what to expect? Bruh. Questions like that go against the Greek G.Code…aka Discretion. As an aspiriant, you’re not supposed to ask those questions. Whether you’re asking at random, or if you’re asking someone who you’re extremely tight with, those kind of questions can get you blacklisted in Greek Life. You can be an informant for all we know. But I digress. Point is, no one is ever sure.

And YES, she could have stopped at anytime. And she did. At 5 damn months. She was in a “Catch 22” type of situation. She was damned if she stayed, and damned if she left. Yes, she wanted to stay on line to tough it out with her “sisters”. She wanted a chance to show loyalty to her future beloved organization. She gave into the pressure of staying in a situation that wasn’t conducive to her physical or mental health in order to avoid the stigma of being “weak”. That is, until she said enough was enough.

How long do we stay in situations that drain us physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually all for the mere hope that things will turn out for the best? It happens to the best of us. It’s like people who are in disharmonious relationships. Why would you stay in a relationship that doesn’t feel right for the hope of it getting better once you marry? Greek life is like a marriage. We make a life-long commitment. When we’re dating (checking out the Greek scene), everyone is on their best behavior. But it isn’t until we start to date (pledging) that we truly evaluate ourselves and our decision to go all the way. Some of the relationships are as great as they seem. Other times, they’re about as triflin as Badu’s boyfriend in Tyrone. But we don’t absolutely know until we’re in it. This situation isn’t any different.

>GALLERY: 28 Rare Pictures Of What Pledging A Black Greek Org Looked Like Back In The Day<

Everyone has been tempted to drop. EVERYONE. And if you say that you haven’t, you’re a bold face lie. And MOST of us were all “grown ass adults” when we made the commitment to pledge. Some adults chose to walk away. It wasn’t for them. And that’s fine. Others decided to stay and endure, regardless of  warranted or ruthlessly pointless actions. You made your decision. And that’s fine. We all justify our decisions differently. It’s our right to do so. However, it is not okay to ostrasize someone for making a decision they felt was best for them at the time. For those of you who have had people drop, didn’t you still make it? Yes, you did. Was it harder? Yes. But you still made it, and that’s ALL that matters. Your will power to prevail is not contingent upon if a person leaves or not, in Greek life and in the “Real World”.  So let’s stop framing it as such. Respect their decision, finish your process and let those individuals live in peace.

“She’s exaggerating. I pledged. It stressed me out, and I didn’t get PTSD.”

Ahem…excuse me…excuse me? Are you a certified doctor? Are you absolutely certain this young lady indeed DOES NOT have PTSD? Oh you don’t? Well, then you can kindly have several seats. Thank you!

The key word people fail to acknowledge in this story is that little possessive pronoun “MY“. Not your’s. Not your Dean’s. Not your sandz. It was HERexperience. No one cares about how you were brought in in 1987. No one cares that you were on line until Leap Year came around twice. NO-ONE-CARES. No one cares if you were on for 3 weeks but got your ass beat to a pulp. No one cares how many late night runs you made for a Prophyte you didn’t even like even though you had a 8am midterm for a class you were barely passing. NO-ONE-CARES. No more “Well, when I was ….” SHHHHHH. SHHH. SHH. This ain’t about you. It was HER experience.

And another thing. This young lady says she was on line for 5 months. Do you really think she had time to rehash all 5 months of hell, just for you? She only recapped 2 events out of several. Therefore, you have no room to make conclusions about how hard or lax her pledging process was. You don’t know the account of the events. You just don’t. Whether she refrained to explain them due to time, painful recollection or to protect the organization by practicing discernment, it doesn’t matter. You don’t know much, so stop comparing.

So many times, we get caught in these “Set Matches” were we compare our pledge experiences to the next person in hopes to prove how MADE we are. And for what?! For bravado respect? We should respect each other for knowing where we’re from BUT also for what we have and are doing to progress the organization forward. Some of these stories are fabricated anyway. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is, what really matters is what you are doing for your organization RIGHT NOW! Stop living in your so-called glory days. If you’re not using what you learned in Set to help a young brotha or sistah out, shut up.

AND ANOTHER THING, quit comparing this woman’s experience to military PTSD. PTSD can be caused by a wide range of events. Hundreds of people experience PTSD and they have never been in the military. Men and women who are verbally and physically abused have experience PTSD. Sometimes, our process is just that, but we fail to acknowledge it as so. We make the conscious decision to justify the actions.

>Steven A Smith Confronts People Who Call Him Out For Being An Honorary Omega<

I’ve gone down Memory Lane with so many people. After each conversation, it always ends with “It’s the worst fun you’ll never want to have again.” Countless times, people have told me about overzealous prophytes who went ham in Set just because. Folks have given reasons why they would never wish their process on ANYBODY. Some members don’t even talk to certain frat or sorors because of the senseless things they inflicted upon them during Set. Others continue to have bad dreams, anxiety attacks, and even mid-day flashbacks when they come across something or somebody that even slightly reminds them of what they endured during their pledging process. We talk about this stuff ALL the time. That isn’t JUST stress. I believe majority of Greeks in BGLOs have experienced some level of PTSD at some point in time. Small & short-lived or significant & prolonged, depending on your process, you know what it feels like. If you turned out fine, you’re blessed. For others, it’s not so easy. It doesn’t mean they’re necessarily “soft”. It means they process and deal with things differently. Rather than chastizing someone for their coping method, be of service. Tell them what worked for you. Offer practical advice to move ahead.

“She couldn’t handle it, that’s life. What is she complaining about?”  

We all know life can be a bish. That’s a given. However, we also know that life is way better when we have people in our corner . All the people who told this young lady to “suck it up”, “deal with it” and “it’s not that bad”, you are a part of a problem that’s becoming growing epidemic. Mental health in the Black community has always been a taboo topic, especially when it comes to matters such as depression, PTSD and suicide. Whether they’re small signs or loud gestures, mental illness is nothing to belittle. When you’re dealing with adverse thoughts of yourself and sharing your experience with others as a form of self-healing, comments like:

 ” (I have) no remorse for her dumbass.” or “But, did you die?”

don’t help anything. Too many people HAVE died in pursuit of our shields. Families have lost fatally lost sons and daughters because their babies simply couldn’t “make the cut”. When someone drops, the backlash from our student bodies can be so harsh, it would make anyone go into hiding. People are taunted because they wanted to be happy and safe. They’re being publically humiliated at probates for the sake of a laugh. This, dear friends, is what we call bullying. These actions isolates people and imparts shame. This is why we shell out thousands of dollars for lawsuits, miss out on potential monies from once hopeful aspirants and fail to retain members post graduation because they take their dollars elsewhere. We are perpetuating a huge problem, and majority of the readers failed to see it. We are missing the point of pledging.

Too often, our chapters mistake pledging for hazing. Pledging is when we undergo a trial period before our formal initiation. That trial period consists of series of tests that are meant to teach us: 

  • history
  • character building
  • strengthening of will power
  • personal growth
  • creativity & problem solving
  • brotherhood/sisterhood
  • teamwork
  • loyalty

Deans are supposed to instill these jewels into every person on line. Each Prophyte present is supposed to assist the Dean in performing that act. When these young men and women can not explain to you why these “tests” were important, they have no testament to tell. Their process was pointless. They were hazed; they weren’t pledged, and therefore you are not MADE.

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Our chapters continue to crank out generations of people who pledge their allegiance to power rather than to progress. And is THAT what brotherhood and sisterhood are about? As Christian based, non-profit, community-oriented establishments, we are required to offer dedication, love, respect, honor and assistance to those around us. We are required to display empathy not apathy; encouragement not estrangement.

If we truly aspire to lead like our Founders intended us to, we must remind ourselves why we were created. We must practice the purpose behind our pledge. It’s then, that our aspirant’s allegiance, as well as ours, will mean something.

 

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Jasmine Osby

    August 28, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Hey this is Jasmine Osby. Thanks for reading the article and helping continue a dialogue about mental health in the black community as well as the the hazing issue. I do want to make clear that I did not state that I was on line for 5 months. I was on line maybe 2 or 3 of the eight weeks. The 5 months was between the informational and the upcoming school year.

    • Alexzandria Chill

      August 28, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      Hi Jasmine. Thanks for the clarification. I apologize for miscommunicating the time frame. Thanks for taking the time to read my reponse article as well and I wish you the best going forward!

    • watchtheyard

      August 29, 2015 at 10:53 am

      Thanks for responding to the article!

  2. CM Thomas

    August 29, 2015 at 7:07 am

    I, too, applaud you for talking about mental health (and mental abuse, much?) as well as stressing the importance of *purposeful* experiences during the trial period. I have no problem with putting people through hard trials – except for when you’re making people just for the sake of making them suffer. Ick

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Four Things To Do Before Making It Known You’re Interested In Joining A Black Fraternity Or Sorority

[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]

It’s fair to say, we all know the nervousness of going on a job interview or the anxiety of showing up to a family function when we know only one person. Trying to join a fraternity or sorority is sort of a combination of both of those situations.

If you’re an aspirant, you always hear the same ol, same ol rules about how to express your interest to the organization you wish to join. Be discrete. Do your research. Watch your GPA. Come to the events. While all of these to-dos are important, there are other factors to take into consideration before pledging your loyalty to a particular fraternity or sorority. Trying to get in can be a little intimidating. BUT, intimidation is only a state of mind.

1) Before You Research, Soul Search

Before you get into any deep Greek research, take some time to “Soul Search”. Define what values are important to you. What makes you tick? What inspires you? What things drive you to be your best? Once you nail those down, do the research. See if those values align with the organization you’re seeking to join. When you’re clear in who you are and exactly what you stand for, it’s easier to see if the essence of the organization you wish to be apart of is parallel to your standards.

2) Be Present – In Places Other Than Greek Events

Being active in other student organizations not only helps refine your career experience, but it also shows us that you’re multifaceted. It means that you can serve as an asset to our organization through your unique talents, your connections, and your leadership capabilities. All these things help advance the cause and presence of an organization. Plus, it shows you’re not waiting on Greek life to make a name for you. You’re making a name for yourself!

3) Put Greeks on Probation

Just like in dating, everyone is not deserving of your time. Therefore, you need to be observant to see which organization is truly worthy of your time, effort and talents. Take note of different chapters. Look at their events, their member’s behavior, campus involvement, work ethic, even rewards. If it doesn’t align to what you expected, you can 1) look for an organization that does 2) find ways you can help improve and add value to the chapter.

4) Know Your Worth

As aspirants, Greeks automatically pose the question, ” What does this person bring the table?”. You need to ask the same thing. How will being involved in this organization enhance or improve your life? If you can’t think of anything that is worth while, maybe Greek life isn’t for you…and that’s okay. But if you do, meditate on the different things that make this organization uniquely beneficial to you and go for it!

If you are greek, feel free to share this on Facebook with people who may be interested. If you are not greek, be discreet and share this article with someone who is interested in joining via text, email or Facebook messenger.

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60 Rules for my Unborn Son.

These were inspired by the Tumblr page Rules For My Unborn Son as well as other father-son advice quotes we found across the internet.

Enjoy!

60 Rules for my Unborn Son:

Treat women with the utmost respect.

Never shake a man’s hand sitting down.

If she asks for your help opening a jar, you better damn well open it.

In a negotiation, never make the first offer.

Stand up for the little guy.

Open doors for EVERYONE.

Act like you’ve been there before. Especially in the end zone.

If you are blessed with the ability to wink, use it.

Drink water.

Request the late check-out.

When entrusted with a secret, keep it.

If you’re going to drive a hard bargain, you better have exact change.

Don’t let the pictures become the event.

Be subtle. She sees you.

“Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” -Babe Ruth

Dress for the job you want, not for the one you have.

Be optimistic. Always pack a bathing suit.

Hold your heroes to a higher standard.

Good clothes open all doors.

Give credit. Take the blame.

Every hat should serve a purpose. That purpose ceases when you step inside.

Return a borrowed car with a full tank of gas.

Never cheat on your barber.

Never give an order that can’t be obeyed.

Don’t fill up on bread.

Eat fewer ingredients.

When shaking hands, grip firmly and look him in the eye.

A handshake beats an autograph.

If the enemy is in range, so are you.

Don’t let a wishbone grow where a backbone should be.

Don’t miss the team photo.

If you need music on the beach, you’re missing the point.

You marry the girl, you marry her whole family.

Be like a duck. Remain calm on the surface and paddle like crazy underneath.

Experience the serenity of traveling alone.

Never turn down a breath mint.

Never be afraid to ask out the best looking girl in the room.

Take a vacation from the Internet.

Return a lost wallet.

In a game of HORSE, sometimes a simple free throw will get ’em.

A sport coat is worth 1000 words.

Keep a picture of your first fish, first car, and first girlfriend.

Try writing your own eulogy. Never stop revising.

Attend the funerals of great men.

If you want to know what makes you unique, sit for a caricature.

Eat lunch with the new kid.

More times than not, you will be judged by your shoes.

After writing an angry email, read it carefully. Then delete it.

Don’t play the ace if you can win with the king.

Ask your mom to play. She won’t let you win.

Don’t get drunker than the boss.

Give credit. Take the blame.

Forget the present. Write dad a letter.

Write down your dreams.

There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The stairs ain’t one.

College does not count unless you graduate.

Don’t burn bridges.

Share on Facebook if you agree with these life rules

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3 Ways to Share Our Stepping & Strolling Traditions Without Giving Away Our Culture

Photo Cred: Jarrad Henderson

[This opinion piece was written by guest writer Aleidra Allen for WatchTheYard.com in 2016]

Some of you may have seen the video of incoming University of Louisville freshmen (predominately white and non-Greek) performing what appears to be a stroll, a long standing tradition within Black Greek-letter organization (BGLO) culture, and more recently, Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) culture, at their orientation (while strolling was originally a BGLO tradition, MGC organizations have created their own tradition of strolling, similar in the linear structure but including movements from their respective cultures). A quick glance at the 600+ comments will make it clear that some BGLO members feel it is no big deal while others are outraged and say it’s cultural appropriation.

I understand both of these perspectives. As a member of a BGLO and a Greek Life advisor, countless times, I have seen the teaching of strolls and steps used for community building between MGC and BGLOs and Panhellenic Conference and Interfraternity Council (historically white) organizations. On the other hand, I’ve also attended stroll competitions where I could barely stay in my seat because the appropriation was so real.

The main thing that this situation reveals is a disconnect within our BGLO community on if we should or should not teach white, non-BGLO people how to stroll and step. Because the fact of the matter is that they’re not learning this on their own; our BGLO members are teaching them (which is a main reason why some do not agree that it is cultural appropriation, being that permission is given). Whether you like it or not, this has become a popular collegiate norm. If we want to see change, this internal dissonance must be addressed; I encourage all of our organizations to create space in chapter and council meetings, regional conferences, and international conferences for this topic to be discussed.

Hear each other out. Listen to why some of us feel there’s no issue, and listen to why some of us believe the tradition needs to be held in high regard and reserved for BGLO members only. Maybe then we will be able to collectively decide one way or the other.

But I know that’s wishful thinking. It will be extremely difficult to come to a true consensus or for everyone to be willing to compromise. So while I acknowledge and understand the perspective that this is cultural appropriation and that some BGLO members feel it should be eliminated completely, I also acknowledge that some of y’all will continue to teach non-BGLO, white people how to stroll and step (and I understand that, too). And for you, here are 3 ways to do so in a constructive and meaningful way, moving away from outright cultural appropriation and disrespect.

 

1. Only allow strolling and stepping by non-BGLO people to occur at BGLO-sponsored events.

Strolling and stepping are our traditions. Period. Limiting strolling and stepping by non-BGLO members to the annual non-BGLO stroll competition or fundraiser that is hosted by us gives us the opportunity to control how this goes. We get to set boundaries and parameters. Let the non-BGLO participants know that this is a unique occasion and that it would be inappropriate for them to stroll at a social event or continue on as a step/stroll team outside of this event.

If a Panhellenic or IFC organization, or any non-BGLO entity (the orientation department in the University of Louisville case), ever takes it in their own hands and is creating strolls or making strolling a part of their sponsored events, I highly encourage you to have a conversation with them about why that is inappropriate, and also contact your Greek Life advisor to address this, as well. Never feel that as a BGLO member/student, you have to participate or accept a request to teach strolling/stepping to non-BGLO members. If we are going to share our culture, it should be on our own terms, in our own way, and at our own events.

 

2. ALWAYS provide a history of stepping and strolling.

Before you teach them anything, give them a history lesson. They want to partake in our culture? They need to learn about and understand it first. Talk about when and how strolling and stepping became a part of BGLO culture. Explain how important it is to us. Talk about the rules and protocol of stepping and strolling, and how y’all don’t even let your LS (line sister) and LB (line brother) who is rhythmically challenged get in the line or the show. In all seriousness, all this information will help the non-BGLO people understand the value of these traditions. Even though they are being given an opportunity to engage in the experience, they will now have context and an appreciation and respect for the tradition, and are less likely to take the culture on for themselves outside of this specific occasion. A history lesson should also be given at your event before the competition or performances begin to ensure that the audience is also educated. Contrary to cultural appropriation, cultural appreciation includes learning about and listening to people of the culture. Providing history will help you achieve that.

 

3. Don’t give them EVERYTHING.

It is very possible for us to share the traditions of stepping and strolling without giving away every single aspect that is near and dear to our hearts. However, some of us struggle to see that fine line. Unfortunately, I have attended stroll and step competitions that included non-BGLO people and have been absolutely mortified by seeing them link up and death march, sing All of My Love, shimmy, and more.

Y’all. We don’t have to give them everything. These are our traditions. It’s our history. Only we can truly understand the meaning and importance of these movements and songs. We can teach others how to step and stroll without handing them everything that we had to work hard to have the privilege to do. Put them in a line, incorporate some popular dances, teach them some steps from your middle school step team, and call it a day. That’s all they need.

I know this is an ongoing discussion topic and I’m sure some of you already have your rebuttals; and that’s okay. Let’s have the conversation; it’s needed. I hope this provides a new perspective to some, challenges you to think, and helps us to better understand each other.

Aleidra Allen is a program coordinator for multicultural education at Saint Louis University. In this role, she serves as the advisor to Black Greek-letter organizations in St. Louis. To learn more about Aleidra’s work, visit aleidraallen.com.

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