I’m sure many students recall their first encounter with Black Greek Life as an undergraduate at a historically black college or university. These organizations have a long tradition of uniting college students committed to excellence together and they help uplift black Americans during an era where a racist, segregated climate still exist, but have they lost their relevance?
I remember my first week of school on the yard, it was a lot of things packed into one—nervousness, glee, optimism, and my mother crying as I finished packing my belongings into my resident hall. ‘Big Boy’ (my family nickname) was a big boy now, and he was on his own.
There was excitement radiating from each incoming freshmen face as we watched in awe over the finer things on the yard—like the talent show upperclassmen put on for our amusement, and those events during ‘Welcome Week’ that, for some reason, could not start on time. These are memories I will cherish long after graduating from my beloved institution, but I always reminisce over my first experience with Black Greek Lettered Organizations.
“Amazing, count me in.” It was as simple as that. After witnessing members of the ‘Divine 9’ stroll in the Sunken Garden during Welcome Week, I was swayed by the excitement members of these organization must have felt while strolling around and around in a circle, each having their own unique style, celebrating their ‘Greekness.’ And at that very moment, I became Greek, too.
Let’s be honest, we all have that moment when we picture ourselves wearing some letters, and happily mimicking Greek strolls—in the privacy of our dormitory room of course. Every colleague of mine in the course of my freshmen year wanted to become Greek, and surely it was, and still is, the “cool thing to do.” But now that I am Greek—a proud Brother of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., I’ve noticed that BGLO are not as effective as they once were.
Maybe it’s just the younger generation of BGLO, or maybe this is only occurring on my yard, but too often I find Black Greeks abusing their powers instead of using it to help teach, mature, and develop students (and too often I find students wanting to become Greek for all the wrong reasons).
I don’t know many Black Greek members who truly realize or understand how much influence they have not only on the yard, but in the black community and in humanity in general.
Seldom do I see Black Greeks promote brotherhood/sisterhood, leadership, and scholarship to students on the yard—features each BGLO represent, but hardly ever commit for themselves or for others. Modest things like campus clean-up initiatives and community service programs could easily sway even a greater audience interest in becoming Greek, but that isn’t being done either.
It’s true that there’s a social advantage to becoming Greek, and many students look up to Greeks as role models. On the other hand, the negative side that comes along with recognition disproportionately set off the original purpose of these historic organizations—service for humanity, especially for the black community.
Power comes in numbers, and more and more people will want to become involved with Black Greek Life when they witness a group of individuals working together for the common good of the community. This concept has kept the legacies of BGLO alive today and it is the responsibility of each BGLO member to start living up to, and exceeding their founders’ goal of bettering people.
Elder Brothers of Iota say that “It only takes a few weeks to pledge Iota, but it takes a Lifetime to be a Brother!” A form of this saying should remain evident in all BGLO, and its members must continue to embrace the history of these organizations—because the most important work lies ahead.