For over 100 years, Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLO’s) have revolutionized the college experience for African-American students through substantial traditions of brotherhood and sisterhood, civic action and numerous amounts of community service and philanthropy. However, these commendable achievements often go unnoticed due to the stereotypes and misconceptions of these fraternities and sororities.
“It is important for others to see personal testimonies of Greek life,” said Lauren Taylor, member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. With the media focusing on the social lives of fraternities and sororities, the purpose of these organizations is often hidden. Some people may say they associate Greek life with hazing and extreme partying. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, hazing is defined as the practice of harassment through unnecessary, disagreeable, or difficult tasks or tricks.
There are positive things associated with joining a fraternity or sorority. Attributes such as character building and expansion in career networking are important components of modern day Greek life.
“We have established years worth of history and connections,” said Mark “Star” McCaw, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. Founded December 4th, 1906, at Cornell University in New York, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated was the first Black Greek Letter Organization. The seven founders, also known as the “Seven Jewels” recognized a need for Black brotherhood and support. Their motto, “First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All,” helped lay the foundation for an organization that enhanced scholarship, fellowship and humanity.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, founded January 15th, 1908 at Howard University was the first collegiate sorority for women of color. The Kappa Phi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated was charted on May 29th, 1976, and was the first Black Greek Letter Organization at Hofstra University. Developing in a time prior to racial equality served as a motivator for these organizations to cultivate.
Members of BGLO’s often say that the persistence and dedication of these organizations attributed to their success and expansion.
“It is very important to eliminate stereotypes and bias because people can lose out on a positive life changing experience,” said Jashaun Roebuck, member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated, founded January 5th, 1911, at Indiana University. He explained how joining this organization taught him to be a leader and to be responsible.
“I witnessed the young women make a statement on campus,” said Diomara Delvalle, member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated founded in 1922. “This organization had a history like no other and I was inspired.” Despite being a part of a predominately white community at Butler University in Indiana, the seven founders of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated concentrated on their goal to develop a sisterhood focused on “Greater Service, Greater Progress.” This was not only its goal, it is its motto.
All BGLO’s are required by national headquarters, to perform certain tasks including hosting programs and community service outreach. These programs encourage various principles of development through secondary education, voter registration, and community health. “We bring awareness and raise money as we aim to leave a long lasting impression,” said Kyle Jones, President of the Xi Psi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated.
“We are a network of millions of people of color that all have a goal to uplift the community,” said Taylor. The success of these organizations has allowed them to expand and create chapters internationally. Since networking has become essential to the development of one’s career, these organizations pride themselves on passing the torch of success. Members note how joining their perspective organization has provided them with many networking and career opportunities.
“Do your research and educate yourself on the organization,” said Ricardo Percy, Secretary of the Xi Psi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. Becoming familiar with the perspective organization and its members is crucial to the application process. Deion Toppin, Vice President of the Xi Psi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, emphasized the importance of campus and community involvement when showing interest in these organizations. Joining a Black Greek Letter Organization is a lifetime commitment that comes with extensive rewards.
“These organizations have been around for over 75 years,” said Roebuck. “To let us die is disrespect.” Despite popular stereotypes and misjudgments, Black Greek Letter Organizations use the power of brotherhood and sisterhood to uplift communities and continue to leave an influential legacy.
-Camille J. Cruz