[This opinion piece was written by WatchTheYard.com Guest Writer Alexzandria Chill of Zeta Phi Beta and originally published on June 30, 2015 after the SCOTUS legalized same-sex marriage]
In lieu of the SCOTUS’ (Supreme Court of The United States) historic ruling in favor of same-sex marriage for the LGBTQ community, I found my Facebook newsfeed inundated with so many bright colors, you’d think Christmas lights were wrapped around my computer screen. Scrolling down my page, I saw a gumbo of celebratory updates, religiously charged shade, and a plethora of “Jesus is Love” reminders that will last me throughout the weekend.
As I read the comments, my mind wondered about how this day would affect some of my friends and family. I won’t go into my personal beliefs about the concept of marriage, because it is not relevant to the purpose of this particular blog. However, this new civil rights victory did make me think about what it means to be acknowledged as a human being.
Homophobia is a fear that lingers in the bloodline of America. Over the last few decades, we have observed America’s love/hate relationship with the LGBTQ community blossom into a discombobulated mess of confusion. Certain aspects of the culture people want to use because it’s “cool” (slang, cross dressing, etc), and while other aspects are completely shunned into the darkness. The line has always been blurred.
But when it comes to Black community in particular, that line is not so much blurred, it’s definitive and written in permanent marker.
On several occasions, whether it is on a national platform or within the four walls of our homes, the mere THOUGHT of being identified as a LGBTQ member in the Black community is silenced. Our clergy and grandparents try to pray “it” off. Our parents ignore the signs and discount them as a “phases”. Siblings and cousins are left yearning to offer hugs of comfort, but afraid that if they do, the hovering adults will shame them for advocating “such a sin”. The NPHC community is not exempt from these acts.
At any given step show, probate or Greek party, you are sure to hear jokes insinuating that a shimmy equates to an open invitation to free-for-all sausage fest. Or if a soror dresses in men’s clothes, she’s surely going to hit on you at some point in time. We hear and see these things ALL THE TIME. We laugh and jeer all while charging it to the “Greek Game”. What we fail to realize is that those jokes are a small reflection of a bigger unspoken rule that often polarizes legitimate prospects, current members and our organizations.
Dangers of Discretion: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Many prospects and current members take a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to avoid uncomfortable discussion and the looks all together. In an interview with HBCU Digest, current members explained how isolation serves as a solace of protection and a jail cell simultaneously.
“Disclosing can be somewhat self-threatening,” a member of one fraternity describes. He goes on to describe how once his sexuality was “exposed”, there was an immediate correlation between his sexuality and his competency to contribute to his organization. “Immediately after I crossed, my prophytes’ perspective on sexuality was that I wasn’t able to uphold their standard of masculinity and what it means to be a [Insert Org] Man.”
One Doctor made an interesting point stating that ” for some LGBT people, becoming a member of these historic and illustrious organizations is used as a defense mechanism – a way to join a group that reinforces traditional gender roles.”
If prospects and members choose not to share their LGBTQ identity, it shouldn’t be because they feel the organization provides the pressure of judgment. Nor should all the great attributes they bring to the table be disqualified because of who they choose to love or have relations with. Our LGBTQ prospects and members want to be seen as great contributors to society and not as a walking mattress full of gayare all multifaceted beings with various characteristics that define who we are. No one should be condemned, rejected and publicly (or privately) persecuted because of one trait. It’s limiting. It’s insulting. It’s close minded. It’s ignorant. It’s hurtful.
Common Culprits That Cross the Burning Sands
Here are 3 common misconceptions that some of our members hold against the LGBTQ community that prevent us from truly demonstrating unconditional brotherly/ sisterly love as a council:
TURN UP, TURN OWT: If you accept a person who identifies as LGBTQ, they will come on to you and try to “turn” you gay.
One common misconception about members of the LGBTQ community is that if you befriend or accept someone into your organization, they will try to come on to you and “turn you out”. If this is your train of thought:
- Not even heterosexuals are checking for you boo. Let’s turn that ego down a notch.
- Your sexuality insecurities are showing. No one can “MAKE” you turn into anything you’re not willing to give into freely. You have your own free will to choose how you engage with people. If you’re a guy that likes girls, more likely than not, when that new member comes in…you’re still gonna like girls. Same goes for you ladies. If you’ve liked sausage for a while now, no new soror is going to come in as a hypnotist and be like “ohhh all of a sudden you like peaches. FORGET SAUSAGE! ” and you start like vag. That’s not how it works.
IS THAT YOU?: If you accept a person who identifies as LGBTQ, you are gay by association.
Another misconception about members of the LGBTQ community is that if you befriend or accept someone into your organization, you are gay by association. Going back to the interview discussed earlier, a member of APhiA describes these situations perfectly:
“I don’t think it’s so much bothers people that I’m gay. What bothers them is that, for most people, when you’re friends with someone gay, you’re gay by association. That’s the real issue – people don’t want their fraternity or sorority associated with a certain type of man or woman, from a gender perspective, because they think it reflects back on them and why they joined. It’s moreso the perceptions of what people think gayness, manhood, womanhood is and what it’s not. ”
- Polarizing Prospects: Honestly, people are afraid their organizations are going to turn into the MIKAS. Some people think, well “if we invite one then all of them are going to want to come in!” If they help elevate the mission, the passions and actions of the organization, what’s stopping you from at least giving them a try? Yes, you have an image and a standard to live up to. I understand that. Just make sure that your decisions to accept/reject someone is not JUST due to the fact that they are of the LGBTQ community. Langston Hughes, Zora Kneale Hurston and Wanda Sykes have made great contributions to our culture as well as our NPHC organizations. I can’t count the many times I’ve sat in/heard about selection processes where people have overlooked amazing prospects just because “NAHHH FOOL…HE GAY” or ” Girl…no. We’re not tryna have people out here thinking we like girls. Nope.” It always saddened and disappointed me. Seeing those individuals excel now makes me wonder what they COULD have been doing to further our cause, but instead they are our lost opportunity.
- Polarizing Members: I’m blessed to say for some of my friends, for the most part, they’ve found brothers or sisters in their chapter that encourage them to be themselves. But, unfortunately, that is not the case for everyone. Most of the time, chapter contributions aren’t the issue. It’s not being invited to certain communal kickbacks, being the butt of chapter and council jokes, and uncomfortable body language that can make our members feel like they are “lesser than”. That should not be the case. Brotherly and sisterly love should not and does not come with stipulations. This leads to my last point.
WE’RE A CHRISTIAN BASED ORGANIZATION: If you accept a person who identifies as LGBTQ, you are advocating non-Godly acts. Acceptance = Advocacy
This one is a classic scapegoat. If you befriend or accept someone of the LGBTQ into your “Christian based”organization, everyone will look at you as if your an abomination to the Christian walk because you accepted and advocate such a sinful lifestyle.
- Acceptance does not mean advocacy. If that was the case then you must also take note of the frat brother or sorority sister (s) who partake in debauchery at their every whim. Getting pissy drunk off of oil, piss and other kind of juice at every function, yeah. That’s a sin. Or being known as the NPHC sorority toss due to your “extracurricular activities” with other frat members. Yep. That’s a sin. Putting your allegiance to the organization before the love of God or showing the love of God to others is also looked down upon. It’s a form of idolatry. Getting in unnecessary fights and or gossiping about other organizations off the strength of ancient beef can also be considered a sin. I could go on…but you get the picture. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way judging. You do you boo. It’s your life. But let it be known that these too are detailed in the Bible as sins and these sins are weighed equally. The point is, if you’re going to play the Jesus card, know how to play what’s in your hand or someone just might call your bluff.
- Jesus rolled with some gangstas in his day. Well, reformed gangstas. But he also chopped it up with the “untouchables” of the world; thieves, prostitutes, lepers, liars, etc. However, even though he could have easily been “associated” with these people who were at the bottom of the religious totem pole, Jesus still showed them unprecedented, untainted, unadulterated love above all else. That doesn’t mean that he still didn’t teach the gospel. In fact, he amplified the word by his actions. Jesus displayed love (and continues to display DESPITE our sin nature we hold within us. The Bible says to love each other deeply, for it covers a multitude of sins. It covers all offenses. Love isn’t rude, degrading or demeaning. As members of our respective organizations, we are called to show brotherly and sisterly love. This is our greatest commandment. And if you display Christ’s love, then what does that say about your Christian walk? You do not have to be in agreeance with the lifestyle. To make it personal, I am not in agreeance with the lifestyle. BUT. That does not prevent me from showing decency and respect to my fellow human beings. We are to show love in all we do. Love is the anchor to respect, good character, wisdom and understanding. You many not understand your brother or sister, just as they might not understand your life decisions. But they will love you through them. That’s what we’re charged to do as a council and as a human being.
And in the end, if we adopt this mentality, no matter how harsh the experiences the world brings to you and your organization, #lovewins and makes us a stronger, productive and more influential council because of it. Ya’ll be blessed.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
3 Ways to Share Our Stepping & Strolling Traditions Without Giving Away Our Culture
[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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