My “Fascination” with Greeks (Response)

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My “Fascination” with Greeks (Response)

Earlier today I was introduced to an article written in Blacklisted Magazine (http://www.blacklistedmagazine.org) discussing one woman’s opinions on Black Greek Lettered Organizations at the University of Florida. She later responded to my posting of her article with this comment, “Please keep in mind that the critique in this article, is specific to my University– and I did that mindful of the fact that I couldn’t speak for every cluster of BGLO’s. (I’d be willing to wager that some of the same critiques ring true, however).”

Unlike the typical reply to such an article that looks to minimize the efforts and necessity for members of Black Greek Lettered Organizations and defame this young lady as a possible “reject”, or “hater”, I wish to engage her in an intellectual discourse surrounding her topic of choice. Initially her article looks to speak to the efforts or lack thereof of the National Pan Hellenic Council members at the University of Florida, and having attended Temple University in Philadelphia; I have a very limited view of the dealings at the University of Florida. However her response on my blog attempted to over-generalize these views and place them upon the many members of these organizations throughout the world.

I have several issues with this article that I will address throughout this response; first and foremost I have an issue anytime someone presents us with a problem, however is not kind enough to afford their readers or the audience that they wish to engage with any type of solutions. We all know the saying, “if you are not a part of the solution than you are a part of the problem”. Secondly, I find the tone of this article to be divisive and condescending to not only members of these organizations, but also the black students of the University of Florida as a whole. Lastly, I wish to present a record of current achievements and community service that members of these organizations have engaged themselves in and highlight their social activism, which was grossly neglected in the previous article.

I do not wish to rebut every element of this crafty article, for that would be asinine for her article represents her experiences. I do however find her male on male sexual harassment, and hazing assaults to reek of ignorance to a system she clearly has no direct dealings with. I would only ask that as a journalist, writers take a more objective role in the information that they put forth, both informing their public and stating the issue they wish to address and not presenting a highly biased work of literature.

I.
Throughout the article “My “fascination” with Greeks”, the young lady presents many issues that she finds with the caliber of undergraduate members of bglo’s at the University of Florida. She finds that these young individuals lack a consciousness or awareness surrounding different issues that affect people of color. Ms. Albert contends that these circumstances should have warranted support from the Greeks to collectively enjoin the student body in fighting these issues as well as bring attention to the school’s administration about such situations. Having not been a member of the student body at this institution, I will take her account of such a lack of response from the Black Greeks as fact.

However, nowhere in her response do I see that she attempted to address this issue with the Greeks and possibly gain their support in these battles of social activism at the University. Nor do I see this article creating a healthy dialogue between herself and these organizations on this campus to promote future support of such issues. So here we have a well-defined problem with no solutions, this is problematic for many reasons. It is clear that people are disappointed by the lack of support from the Black Greeks on this campus. However, by looking to “blast” them and their feeble efforts rather than engage them this article stands to do less good for the overall community who could benefit from a healthier discussion that creates an alliance rather than dissention.

II.

“Did they starve the consciousness out of you during hazing?” I have never seen a conversation be productive when you start the dialogue attacking the person you are hopefully seeking to come to some sort of common ground with. Bro. Dr. Cornell West said it best when he said that we as black people “must engage in a love language”. Meaning, we can no longer condemn each other and speak harshly towards one another and expect to affect real change within the communities in which we live.

Not only did the writer call the Black Greek members “shallow and self- serving”, she extended this assault to the entire community of black students as a whole, calling them “shallow and disengaged”. Such rhetoric only furthers the divide between our people and does little to combat the ills that plague communities of color.

I am confused by such verbal assaults, because as she invokes the need for activism and awareness amongst people of color at the University, I see this writer more so utilizing the ways of the oppressive media to effectively get her points across. To simply gloss over those who are making a difference, those who are engaged, and hone in on those who are not is no better than when people make pre-determined judgments about our people as a whole based on the actions of the “few”. Is there anything different when someone assumes that a young black woman is a promiscuous, gold-digging, uneducated woman simply because these are the common stereotypes and sometimes actions of young women of color? While I am sure that this intelligent young lady is none of the above, she has to understand that her assertions and generalizations on members of these organizations and black people as a whole is a microcosm for how blacks are treated and misrepresented in this very country that we live in.

“BGLO’s, like other university organizations, will be judged as a whole, not just the sum of its more progressive parts.” Do we like when we as young black students are striving for more progressive ways to better our communities but we are wrongly compared to those who sell drugs, prostitute and wish to further degrade our communities? This is not only unfair, it is unimaginable coming from a woman of color who daily has to face these types of discrimination not based on her own actions but the actions of others. Let us be more objective in our opinions and remember in order to engage those members of her campus it would beseech her to engage in healthy discourse with solutions rather than adding insult to injury.

III.

Lastly, as a member of a BGLO in the Philadelphia area, I will gladly enlighten you as to whether or not these assertions that you have made about Black Greek Life ring true in my experiences. While I would be lying to say that none of these organizations have members who are more concerned with the social and less of the community service and scholarship that they were founded upon. This is not the rule; it is more the exceptions that we unfortunately allow to slip through. We like to call them “shirt wearer’s”. No, actually my experience has been one of watching the women of Delta Sigma Theta garner upwards of $7,500 in monies raised for Sickle Cell Anemia alone, which we all know is a disease that affects the black community at a rapid pace. I have watched the men of Phi Beta Sigma host an annual Ms. Ebony Temple Pageant, where the contestants win scholarship money to help finance their education and many of the proceeds go to local churches and charities that the young ladies find to be beneficial for the betterment of the black community. A member of Zeta Phi Beta from Temple recently started her own magazine, Avenue Report, in which she caters to young professional men of color, educating us about financial literacy and health issues amongst a host of other topics.

We can’t escape the good old stepping stigma, so the Greeks of Temple mentor and help the students of the Young Scholar’s Charter School learn the art of stepping while stressing the importance of higher education, we simply call it Project G.R.E.E.K. The men of Kappa Alpha Psi and Omega Psi Phi also engage the young students of North Philadelphia, a highly impoverished area, with scholastic support and mentorship. The ladies of Sigma Gamma Rho are staunch fundraisers for breast cancer and although this is not their national program, they revolve many of their events, banquets and fundraising around building awareness to this topic. Social activism, the young women of Alpha Kappa Alpha are looking to follow their illustrious leader Barbara McKinzie in attacking issues of social injustice including but not limited to the Jena 6 incident, the Don Imus incident, and issues surrounding misogyny in hip hop. Not only has their national President condemned defamatory statements and social injustices in the media, they recently gave Howard University $1 million dollars toward restoring some of the University’s facilities. While also encouraging their members to utilize their spending habits to fight racial discrimination and the disrespect of black women. These young ladies continue to represent the standard of what it is to be a lady, while selflessly raising funds and awareness for issues endemic to women of color.

Lastly but certainly not least, the men of Alpha Phi Alpha are continuously engaged in providing service to the local community members of North Philadelphia. Along with the members of Omega Psi Phi, these young gentlemen brought awareness to the Millions More Movement and mobilized students to this historic event. Weekly, the men of Alpha Phi Alpha can be seen mentoring the inner city youth at the Y Achievers program. Darryl Matthews, General President of Alpha Phi Alpha, was one of the many black leaders on hand the day of the Jena 6 protest and rallied the people to fight such acts of discrimination. At Temple we do not currently have any men of Iota Phi Theta, however I have worked with members of their alumni chapter and I felt their strong commitment to the upward mobility of people of color as well.

Members of BGLO’s are often very involved in service, however our commitment to our communities is something that is within our hearts. Such service is not always blasted around campus to receive accolades but more so heavily concentrated in neighborhoods where our existence is vital to the successes of our youth. While the article I am responding to may be completely factual, I pray that you will take a different approach so that we may move forward together rather than apart. Please continue to allow your voice to be heard for there are many issues in our communities that I believe we can address as whole rather than separate entities. Peace and Love!

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5 Responses to “My “Fascination” with Greeks (Response)”

  1. H. Albert Says:

    Whew, expansive response– and I do want to engage your mind for a little bit, but I’m a little pressed for time. I will say a few things though:

    a) I’m not a journalist– and that wasn’t supposed to be an objective column. It was an op-ed– based heavily in fact.

    b) It was biting– purposefully, because I find that, in my experience, the African-Americans at my institution only respond and engage when they feel that they have been victimized.

    c) I was VERY liberal in mentioning hazing and sexual harassment because our staff did research at the Dean of Students Office and we have documents and statements attesting to every accusation that I made.

    d) I KNOW that the chapters of BGLOs on my campus have been bitten by the apathy bug and the complacency bug. I won’t lie– the cluster at your university seems fantastic and I’m not surprised because I’m well aware of the rich history/potential of these organizations.

    e) No, I’m no “reject” or “hater” ( although, I love the way you said it without really saying it– it was artful, really)– lol– I’m just a black woman with a penchant for social activism, who cringes every time I think of the dormant power of these organizations. They could accomplish in a few months what takes smaller, less established organizations years. I have a deep respect for BGLOs– as potential partners in an all-too-real struggle. Unfortunately, I seem to have landed in a cluster whose minds are still colonized.

    f) With regards to engaging the Greeks in dialogue–you’re absolutely right– I never gave these organizations the benefit of the doubt. Rather, I took the word of the more progressive members therein and figured that If they wouldn’t listen to a brother/sister– an outsider had absolutely no clout. That might have been shortsighted– we’ll see.
    Also, I didn’t see it as my responsibility to tell them to turn on the news and pay attention to the development of the world around them– that seemed like common sense to me. I was wrong?

    Well, this response was a bit longer than I expected–lol– and I’m not sure I covered all of my bases, but it will do for now.

    A question for you– in the vast expanse that is Black Greekdom in American– would you wager that clusters of BGLOs– like the ones you’ve described at Temple are the exception or the norm? Truthfully.

  2. Brandi Hill Says:

    Oh, how I wish you could experience one day on this campus- I think it would help you better digest Albert’s article. I won’t go into some of the atrocities that have occurred on this campus/community while people organized/attended club events. Also, as a disclaimer please don’t bring up the common practice of black-hate (aka hazing). This practice in which I was relatively naïve to before this article can be backed by an incredible amount of judicial records and not to mention BLATANT public participation which would embarrass anyone willing to question its validity at this campus- quite embarrassing to say the least.

    I think in all fairness this argument could be taken out of the context of “UF” to a national level- to better incorporate you in the dialogue.

    Please better explain the numbers of alumni in the organizations on a national level and their tremendous potential:

    1. Social and political mobility (I HAVE SEEN STADIUMS FILLED TO MAXIMUM CAPACITY in the name of brother/sisterhood)

    2. Financial capabilities: Let us NOT forget the crops of all these smart and talented NPHC graduates: Can you better correlate these resources with the current state of black people as whole? (ex. Influx of NPHC membership thus income, in relation to the influx of black male incarceration rates) Please explain how such power of some can overlook the stripping of power from another – has the old phrase “AS the rich get richer….” Peeped itself into the black community?

    Like I stated in a past posting (which was directed to a respondant, not yourself, sorry I knew that couldn’t possibly have been your response:) Please explain the perceived inability for Greek Organizations to get past their mere existence as being this great feat! Yeah, 30 years ago such orgs were unattainable but today they are common. So while vital to appreciate your predecessors, your mere organizations existence is no longer worth celebrating to such magnitude. INSTEAD I would like to see movements similar to your past members? REAL MOVEMENTS! We are 40 years over-due and we need to stop talking about past success stories and create our own. What better people to start such movement than the heavily equipped NPHC—–and on a grassroots level UF chapters…

  3. nativenotes Says:

    Brandi, check out some of the other pieces on the board, like say hello and letter to a young black female. and u might also want to check out the avenue report magazine flyer which under it has the beginning of “start snitching”.

  4. CLC Says:

    i.) Nativenotes let me say first, you are a much better person than I’ll ever be. After having read the article, your response to the article, the author’s response to your response, then Brandi’s (her sight is nice, isn’t it?), well…I am not so sure I would have taken the time to outline the work of each organization. That was the responsibility of the author of the article to explore our work on the local, national, and international levels. Had she taken the time to do so at the onset of her assignment, she would already know the answer to her question: “would you wager that clusters of BGLOs– like the ones you’ve described at Temple are the exception or the norm? Truthfully.” Having researched different chapters of different BGLOs in different regions would have afforded her a much broader perspective, as well as, ammunition for a conversation to engage the chapters at UF in a healthy discussion about the apathy of chapters on her campus. If nothing else, we’re pretty competitive and you and I both know something as simple as, “the North Atlantic Region has done…” would have a lit fire under some. As well, I see you read that “shallow and self-serving” comment the way I did.

    ii) Consider this: maybe it better at this time to be judged by the actions of the few. Not those few on the campus of UF, but the few of us who make service and action a priority, because it was those few who were sought out to perpetuate the legacies of these organizations. The shirt wearers have indeed slipped through on misguided intentions, as well as, some others on privilege.

    iii.) Service, like charitable donations, often loses its sincerity when spread across the front pages of the newspaper and on-line. So, I am pleased at the manner in which you addressed that aspect in which some of us hold dear within our hearts. If an individual wasn’t an integral part of their community prior to their initiation, the occasional Saturday is about all that’s to be expected. The ugly truth.

    iv.) Ms. Albert, I am also curious about the progressive Greeks you did engage. To date, have they responded since the release of the article? I take issue with you referring to them as “progressive” if they still have not offered up some sort response. You doubted your ability to effectively communicate your issue with the group. Please don’t do that again. It’s clear you have the power to initiate such conversations. As a member of a BGLO I will not take responsibility for a chapter of which I am not a part. However, I would (as a Greek) expect that any member of a chapter would take your concerns back to their chapter for a tete a tete and offer up a response on behalf of their respective chapter. Or nativenotes, am I asking too much? And no, Ms. Albert, it was not your responsibility to have them turn on their television, your responsibility [(refer to section i.)] As an educated group of people it is expected they be aware of the world in which they live. Again, there is no excuse for complacency.

    v.) Having said that, some of those responses delivered at that forum beg me to ask, “Who were those people?” No, really. Who were those people? I’ll never ask you to understand the very thing which I abhor – ignorance. Because to understand, you have to know. And there’s no need to know ignorance.

    vi) I’ll spare you the typical response of you have to be an insider to understand. Simply put: if two people know a secret, one of them is dead. So, there are no secrets, just privileged information. And well, if you’re privileged to know it, so be it. The organizational woes that BGLOs face are not a far cry from those that most organizations face. I think it’s the “fascination” people have with BGLOs that make them appear different. Looks can be deceiving. Didn’t expect me to go there, now did you?

    vi.) Brandi, please don’t ever wish that sort of experience on anyone. Not good, not good at all. At least not the experience you speak of. LOL.

    vii.) Hazing. Good opener. You got our attention, did you not? LOL! It’s illegal. Therefore, it’s not up for discussion. At least not with me.

    I think you all have done well to open the floor up for some real discussion. It’s unfortunate the Greeks on the campus of UF have yet to weigh in on it. Ms. Albert, your article was a tad bit biting. I usually don’t spend time blogging, but your article warranted a response. And your questions were real. As people continue to respond I hope you gain the answers you are in search of.

    As a whole, BGLOs do have a lot of power. How about taking the negative stigmas out of the step shows and partner with the organizations to have one. Use the ticket money as a means to raise funds. Let your Student Government weigh in on the action by hailing it as a campus wide event. Then, you don’t have to pay for the promotion. And if UF’s Student Government operates the way Temple does, they’ll even give you a little money to get you off the ground and running. Have those “urban” radio stations in your area sponsor your grass roots event. Invite each member of the NPHC to set up a booth for a week and target those issues you deem in need of special attention. As BGLOs we have platforms, so there is a way to make the partnership work. Have your BTMM majors use their clout as interns to get the bug out on a local level. If you make it great, some Greek on some national level will put a bug in someone’s ear. LOL! I jest, but I’m really not kidding. Fill your campuses stadium, then start by making sure very there is registered to vote. We all know the voting issues in Florida. Hmph! Have a debate about the issues plaguing the black community. Let the BSU on your campus use their ability to socialize as a means of spreading the word. You have to start somewhere. Might as well start at home. It doesn’t have to end at the end of the week. Let your “fascination” be your motivation for change. Be the opening line in the conversation with the Greeks on your campus. Initiate the MOVEMENT.

    I will leave you all to discuss this on a national level. I think that’s where you all are headed. Commence and do not be alarmed by further lack of response on my part. Howevr, I do look forward to reading about the solutions you all come up with.

  5. Brandi Hill Says:

    CLC- I have experienced similar observations of northern and southern members. Maybe catching the southern counterparts up to the proper level of consciousness could be the next national service project? Lol…. However, hazing occurs nationwide/ which is one of the most confusing aspects of this entire culture? (but that’s another conversation:)
    I want Greeks to recognize that aside from the black church the Black Greek Community (especially, the alumni) could potentially be the largest most influential group of black individuals in this country.
    I am starting to wonder if I should give up on this idea though?
    If I have learned one thing about this entire interaction (at UF) is that these organizations themselves are lacking unity. There is so MUCH political back and forthness and almost an ignorant level of PRIDE between the individual org’s members. This prevents these organizations from UNITING locally and therefore, nationally. I know this must be frustrating to members such as yourself. Think of the NPHC’s numbers—these people have the potential to create MASSIVE change. The internal problems of the NPHC such as the inability to organize, monitor recruitment, maintain uniform standards etc are preventing it from prevailing to its maximum potential.
    However, I can agree that this can also be said for such organizations that were originally intended for such mobilization. Such as the NAACP, which has, if you ask me, actually evolved into the very same institution that it was originally created to defeat in the first place! Has the same thing happened to the NPHC? From what I see, yes? And truthfully, I’m beginning to 2nd guess my thoughts in that these organizations have what it takes to bring on such change? While numbers are impressive, apathetic numbers are useless and maybe even damaging……

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