This is an opinion piece written and submitted to WatchTheYard.com by Adrian Marcano
Recently, my friend and I were having a discussion on the benefits and the flaws in pledging and becoming a member of the Divine Nine. We, as members of this illustrious group of individuals, obviously would not have joined if we did not believe that there are great benefits to becoming a member of these organizations. However, my friend who is not a member of a Greek organization, obviously has different opinions and reservations about the Greek community. As the conversation dragged on, he told me about a lecture that he had in one of his Africana Studies classes about the Divine Nine. His professor and other individuals in the class shared a similar notion that Black Greeks were elitist and prove to be divisive in regards to establishing cohesiveness among the Black community. Interestingly enough, I also had a similar conversation with another friend of mine in which she questioned if the Greek system is merely a form of self-segregation in which we join these organizations simply to state that we are “the best of the best”. But, as a member, I know that this is not the case and I never had these notions of Greek life so why do so many others have these negative perceptions and what can we do to effectively combat these views?
According to the dictionary, elitist is defined as, “(of a person or class of persons) considered superior by others or by themselves, as in intellect, talent, power, wealth, or position in society”. By this definition of elitist, it is reasonable to see why some would assume that we are, but we did not bestow this classification on ourselves. Rather, it was given to us by others who saw the work that we did in the Black community and the members that happened to join the ranks. We all know the history of our individual organizations’ founders, many of whom, come from humble beginnings that would not readily classify them as elite by any stretch of the imagination. It is through myth and public opinion that we became to be known as the elite. Our codes, values, and most importantly, our secrecy is what gave us this title.
However, this elite status was not completely forced upon us by outside perception. We gladly accepted this belief that we somehow possess qualities or traits that make us greater than other members in our community. We did nothing to disprove that we were not and this is why the notion still carries on to this day. Some people seek membership because they want the title and the esteem that goes with the letters, not because of any philanthropic work or respect for the history of the organization. The individuals who puff out their chests and tote the organization as if it is something to be put on display is what creates this elitism. There is a fine line between being proud of the org and flaunting the org. Too many of us flaunt our orgs without recognizing the consequences of doing so. This, in turn, creates a stigma that we feel as if we are better than others when it should not be the case.
Our purpose is to help the Black community, not just ourselves.
This elitist ideology plays into W.E.B. DuBois’s idea of the Talented Tenth, which becomes extremely problematic when speaking about inclusiveness in the Black community. The Talented Tenth is the idea that the Black community is going to be “saved by its exceptional men”. He posits that we must develop the best of the race so that they may “guide the mass away from the contamination and death of the worst” of the race. DuBois creates this hierarchy among members of the Black community and creates an elitist system where Black people should only help a select number of people in order to better the race. When we adopt this idea, we effectively shun a whole host of others when we should be seeking to help them. Many of our founders were educators, philanthropists, and doctors. They sought to help all people, not just the select few within our organization. By only helping ourselves, we carry on this problematic notion as established by DuBois. We neglect the fact that not much separates us from the person who could not make into college or the person who did not have the funds or the opportunity to pledge. Furthermore, we neglect the humble beginnings of our founders and carry on a notion that I believe, they would not have approved of.
We have to find a better way of creating a more cohesive relationship between Black Greeks and the general community that destroys these negative perceptions. Although the process to make it into our organization may have been difficult, we must humble ourselves and understand that the process did not make us better than other people. We struggled because we believed that our organizations represent a higher ideal that we feel fits what we believe in. We make the organization, the organization does not make us. As such, we must be weary of how we carry ourselves so we do not tarnish the name of our organizations. Similarly to how our rules dictate that we carry ourselves with respect and honor, we should also treat those outside the Greek community with love and respect. We should not hesitate to help those who have received the same opportunities that we have received. We must understand that while we have worked hard to make it to where we are, we are also lucky. We should accept our position, but seek to not alienate others.
About The Author: Adrian Marcano is a Hamilton College grad from Brooklyn, NY. He is a Spring ’14 initiate of the Iota Phi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Now that his shoulders are retired, he is a culture writer at Inverse.com.
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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