Archive for the ‘Fraternities & Sororities’ Category

My “Fascination” with Greeks (Response)

April 2, 2008

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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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My “Fascination” With Greeks

April 1, 2008

As a member of a Black Greek Lettered Organization, I found the following article “interesting” to say the least. I will allow you the pleasure of reading these words and encourage you to engage in lofty discourse over the tone of this article. Please check back tomorrow where I will then post my response to this article. Enjoy!

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My “Fascination” With Greeks By Hananie Albert

By Hananie Albert, on 22-03-2008 20:39

Did they starve the consciousness out of you during hazing?

I have always been wary of those within the black community who pay a superficial homage to black history, only to turn and defecate on the legacies they pretend to uphold. Unfortunately this trait seems inherent to the black Greek system at this university—a cluster of complacent organizations who meander around issues of social justice and command respect because of the actions of their predecessors rather than their own commitments to equality, justice and progress. These groups only seem interested in the performative aspects of black culture and fail to reckon with the significance of their complacency, given their immense influence in the black community.

My time here at UF has been marked by crises that challenged the strength of the black community—from the bitingly ignorant Alligator cartoon, to the lack of funding for the African-American Studies Program to the controversy with the Jena 6. In these instances, individuals from Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) offered their support—but the Greek community at large stood idly by, seemingly ignorant of their power to galvanize the students and the administration to action. Oddly enough, they put this power to great use when it was time to raise awareness for a party or a step show. I began to wonder if these organizations felt at all ashamed to claim great Civil Rights leaders and political figures as alumnus, given the insignificance of their records of local social activism.

A recent forum titled “What’s your fascination with black Greeks?” promised to facilitate a dialogue between the Greek and non-Greek community, and I attended on my editor’s insistence. I was curious to see how the black Greek community would address the stark hypocrisies in their records—the fact that they had stopped earning the respect they demanded, the fact that “brotherhood” came to be marked by well documented instances of hazing and male on male sexual harassment, and the fact that they seemed to privilege mindless assimilation and social mobility over social justice.

The responses at the forum were as contrived and hollow as I had assumed BGLOs to be. When questioned about their failure to live up to their founding tenets, one Greek panelist responded that the public underestimated the efforts put into step shows; others insisted that Greeks were normal people and were unfairly put on a pedestal. Finally, one Greek responded with what seemed to be the default answer whenever a particularly tough question was posed: there was just so much that the public did not know. This implies that the public does not have the right to judge BGLOs because they are not privy to the same information. I doubt that adequate justification for black Greek complacency is somehow written into the founding principles that are beaten into them– or that one acquires intellectual infallibility by “crossing the burning sands.”

If the BGLOs at the University of Florida want to take the cowardly route favored by organizations such as the Black Student Union and respond to accusations of complacency by claiming that they are a “social” organization rather than a “political” one, they have every right. However, black Greeks must understand that they invoke a higher standard every time they mention alumnus like Huey P. Newton, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other prominent figures in black history who might very well be ashamed to have their names associated with the uninspired, unengaged morass that is black Greekdom at this university.

This is not an assault on individuals within the organization—I know several exceptional individuals that join these organizations and strive towards social equality and consciousness—unfortunately the overall character of these groups is impermeable to the progressive intentions of the individuals. BGLOs, like other university organizations, will be judged as a whole, not just the sum of its more progressive parts.

I must note, however, that if black Greek existence on this campus seems shallow and self-serving, it is because black Greek organizations are composed of and cater to a shallow and unengaged black community who love to point out the evils of discrimination but fail to meet these evils with intellectual resistance and social activism. So, critiquing black Greeks for thinking that uplifting the black community entials nothing more than wearing letters on Wednesdays, the occasional self-gratifying forum on Fridays and a routinized and thus hollow commitment to “community service” on Saturdays, is ultimately a critique of the black community as a whole. Assuming that new members have had the consciousness and social awareness beaten and starved from them during the hazing ignores the fact that that many of these new members may not have cared about these issues to begin with.

As an immigrant to this country, I was ignorant of the significance of black Greeks until I stepped foot onto Turlington Plaza. There, I was ushered out of the way in order to make room for the strolling Greeks; a friend even jokingly suggested that looking them in the eye was disrespectful. I didn’t understand how a group could command this amount of unquestioned respect.

After conducting some research, I began to believe that these students were respected because the letters stitched onto their jackets were a sacred covenant—a reminder of the great contributions of past members and a promise to continue while improving upon their auspicious legacies. I believed that the initiation process was well-reasoned and commendable for its commitment to restoring rites of passage, similar to those in tribal Africa.

After several years on this campus, I am starting to realize just how wrong I was.

http://www.blacklistedmagazine.org/