The #dearcarjie series answers tough questions about student life for minorities. Students are encouraged to join the debate and request topics to discuss. Email me to get involved.
by Carjamin Scott on June 4, 2018, at 8:17 p.m. CST
Last week, I asked readers to answer this question, “What is the significance of the Black Greek Letter Organization?” Here is what one reader wrote. Below are other responses, some facts about Greek Letter Organizations, and my final thought.
“As a member of the Delta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi at Meharry Medical College, I have been challenged to become a better healthcare professional. The men of this chapter are concerned with the development of character and spiritual growth. Our fraternity is a place where lifelong bonds across industries are solidified. ” – Chris B., Omega Psi Phi
“A Black fraternity symbolizes an organization that fosters growth, international engagement, professional networking, and political involvement for the betterment of society. I decided to join a fraternity because I believe that having access to individuals that share the same determination to not only excel personally but to impact the world is impressive. Joining a fraternity is much more than “a college days experience” it’s a lifetime of service and mentorship that I wanted to participate in.” – Preston H., Alpha Phi Alpha
“In the early 1900s, when a majority of the BGLOs were founded, policies were in place that allowed for the segregation of lunch counters, workplaces, and bathrooms. The founders of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., risked their few liberties and lives to become social activists and fight against the social injustices. Even today, BGLOs continue the legacy of their beloved founders. BGLOs promote scholastic excellence, civic engagement, and community service.” – Sasha C., Delta Sigma Theta
BGLOs promote scholastic excellence, civic engagement, and community service.
“I think BGLOs are very important. They may not be at the forefront of all civil rights issues, as they were in the Civil Rights Movement but they still play a huge part in our communities, churches, and colleges. Nearly all of the Divine Nine BGLOs have numerous community service programs tackling voter registration, youth programs such as The Boy Scouts of America, and teen pregnancy prevention/education among others.
“There’s strength in numbers and the organizations are only as strong as its’ members. Even today, older members of these organization will take the younger members under their wing and mentor them during and after they graduate from college. With 70% of African American males in America growing up in single-parent households, a valuable mentor is a priceless treasure. They provide guidance, advice, job networking opportunities and much more which never ends even after a member graduates college. It’s a bond that literally lasts a lifetime.
While contemplating if being a member of a fraternity has impacted me, I would say it has. My brothers have shaped me into becoming a better man. I have grown in my whit, confidence, endurance, and have accomplished things I never thought I could accomplish which has afforded me both a sense of humility and gratitude. The bridges formed during networking pays for itself. It’s like having access to a secret library, instant access on advice from doctors to lawyers to dentists, recommendation letters, homeowner advice, financial consultants, you name it. I’ve learned that nothing worth having comes easy but with solid preparation, big dreams are more attainable!” – Austin H., Alpha Phi Alpha
They provide guidance, advice, job networking opportunities and much more which never ends even after a member graduates college. It’s a bond that literally lasts a lifetime.
Facts about BGLOs
Considering the response from last week and the above responses, I would like to discuss, “The majority of people in the black community now only see BGLOs as high-snobby, elitist organizations that scratch each other’s backs and stroke each other egos.” Before I address this with a response, I should mention that I’m a member of the Black community and I’m non-Greek.
Let’s start with some background knowledge in regards to the membership selection process. When members are inducted, it is understood that their membership will last a lifetime.
Membership is selective, like most highly regarded networking organizations. However, any college educated student, no matter their race or socioeconomic status, who matches with the core values of a BGLO is eligible to join. Ultimately, the organization makes the acceptance decision.
Here is a list of influential members from each BGLO.
- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Leader, Alpha Phi Alpha
- Kamala Harris, first African-American and South Asian attorney general of California, Alpha Kappa Alpha
- Emmett Ashford, first Black Umpire in Major League Baseball, Kappa Alpha Psi
- Benjamin Hooks, Lawyer, Minister, and Tennessee’s first African-American criminal judge, as well as the first African-American commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, Omega Psi Phi
- Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman member of the U.S. Congress, was the first African-American and first woman to run as a major party candidate for the presidency of the United States Delta Sigma Theta
- Kwame Nkrumah, first president of the Republic of Ghana Phi Beta Sigma
- Zora Neal Hurston, Author and Anthropologist Zeta Phi Beta
- Carolyn Tyler Guidry, One of the first female Bishops of the AME church Sigma Gamma Rho
- Bobby Rush, United States Congressman, D-Illinois Iota Phi Theta
The above list represents only one pioneer member from each of the Divine Nine BGLOs. There are countless other members who have served as change agents and advocates for everyone – not just Blacks and not just individuals who belong to a BGLO.
Do Blacks who are non-Greek view Black Greeks as snobby?
Ok, here’s my answer: I assume that the majority of us (non-Greeks in the Black community) do not see BGLO members as snobby. How can we? Although membership is selective, the values of the organization and the community service projects completed are for the benefit of everyone. Instead, I see Black Greeks as individuals who have chosen to continue the legacy of their founding members.
Although membership is selective, the values of the organization and the community service projects completed are for the benefit of everyone.
Final Thought on BGLO Significance
From speaking with many BGLO members, it appears that these organizations are relevant because undergrad college students are looking for opportunities to lead and feel included on college campuses. Graduate students join to mentor undergrads and preserve the legacy of the organization. Like all organized groups, there is always room for improvement. Regardless of your stance on the matter, it appears that these organizations are still serving the community and adding members. So they must be significant.
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Carjamin Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on twitter @scottcarjie.