I have read on forums from greek members in the Western parts of the USA (namely, California) that Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) and Multi-Cultural greek letter organizations are vastly diverse; not conforming to their historical racial origins. However, historical traditions are held very closely in places in the southern states, like Alabama. There are many stories to hit mainstream media about young Black girls (or other minorities) being denied membership to NPC sororities, simply based on her ethnicity; despite having stellar grades and philanthropic accomplishments. There have even been unrest in the NPC greek community for unrealistic (and superficial) beauty standards for certain chapters.
Being a Black woman in society today has many parallels to how it was many years ago, post slavery. It’s honestly a shame how society has not changed that much. I’d like to think that Greek Life is different, but honestly it may not be depending on your geographical location and your university’s environment. For me, Greek Life has always been a unique experience from the ones I’ve heard others have. I think my university had a lot to do with that.
So now, what? My dream of joining a sorority seemed to have been foiled, or at least postponed for an entire year. That seemed to be a lot of time wasted, but it wasn’t. There is one thing I have learned about myself and that is, I am extremely persistent when there is a goal I want to reach. As it is with Greek Life.
My Freshman year 2010-2011 came and went. I enjoyed my classes; making my way into several different friend groups across campus. I loved my university and the unique opportunities it offered. By then, I’d become close friends with girls from my gen. ed. classes as well as religious groups. All of which who were interested in the black Greek Life experience. I shared with them the process I went through with NPC sororities and although they were relieved to hear it wasn’t a nightmare (for black girls) like they’d heard on TV and what happened in Alabama..they still were convinced that their place was in the Divine Nine. I supported their decisions 100%, but I had questions.
How do you join? Is our university even housing these organizations, because I did not see any presence of them at all! BGLOs always seemed to be a mysterious illusive group of organizations and it was about who you knew in order to become a member. Legacies, or sons/daughters/grandchildren of members was of importance as well. I didn’t have this connection, so I didn’t think seeking membership was going to happen. I also learned that only one out of the four BGLO sororities was present on our campus! Years ago, there were more but they disbanded due to low membership retention or were on permanent probation with chapter closure, due to poor behavior (yikes!)
So, it was by pure chance that this single Divine Nine sorority, held an informational booth on our campuses Welcome Back Day to recruit new members. I happened to be walking by with friends and we all jumped on the chance to learn more! We gained details for their Informational Meeting and went on from there.
Sadly, due to less than par grades from my two friends, they did not proceed with the process, but I did. I got to know the other four girls who decided to pursue this sorority. They all were kind; some who were graduate students with families, or just later in their college career than I was. I took to them quickly as they were sweet, down-to-Earth church raised girls; like me.
My learning experience of the sorority was..beautiful. It began to learn about the values of the sorority right away and my future sisters and I bonded over this. The sorority leadership shared stories with us over special teas planned just for us. We studied together and grew excited about initiation. However, these warm and fuzzy feelings only lasted for a week or so and then everything changed after passing our interviews.
The following 4-5 weeks were tough and I later found out what being on-line meant.
Being On Line: My Experience
- Staying out late for meetings, despite early morning classes and due assignments.
- Dance routine and step practices in unfit environments with zero air conditioning.
- Having to drop everything and be available, despite your schedule.
- Needing to be present at off campus locations with no transportation assistance.
- A fee for something is always due with vague explanation of what the money is for…
- A very Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde experience of friendship from those in leadership
- Verbal and emotional abuse with a God complex of the abuser(s).
- Constant sleep deprivation and fatigue.
Being on line, if you ask me, is a form of hazing and the ultimate peer pressure tactic for you to prove your loyalty and devotion to joining an organization. Just how much are you willing to put up with in hopes of membership? I honestly hope, that my experience is not like most, but I do know it has been worse for some. Ultimately, this wasn’t how I wanted to gain my sisterhood. This was not sisterhood. This was a shared experience of trauma that you bonded over. By now, I am 24 years old in college and far from a naive high schooler. I wasn’t going to allow myself to be taken advantage of and bullied for the sake of belonging. My last straw was having a girl, several years younger than me, constantly screaming in my face about XYZ. I had enough!
NOTE: I honestly don’t believe hazing takes place for all Black Greeks. I have two beautiful friends, (both, surprisingly, from the same organization but different chapters/states) who are in a Divine Nine organization and have shared nothing but wholesome stories of their experience! I’m happy for them that they found their Sisterhood!
I put up with it for so long, because I believed in the women I was on line with. We had grown so close. However, in the back of my mind, I didn’t want to be a part of an organization that did this to women. Not for the sake of membership. I also didn’t want to conduct myself like THIS when the next group of newcomers came along.
I decided to quit. I didn’t even care if they kept my money. I didn’t care if our initiation was almost a week away, with our Probate show being hosted at the organizations bicentennial event. I didn’t care if my (surprise) line jacket and line name had been chosen.
I did not care about any of that. This is not the sisterhood I signed up for. Period.
The organizations national president called me on the phone, pleading for me to reconsider. I didn’t.
Eventually, I got my money back. The university got wind of what happened and the new member intake process was halted. By then, the remaining girls had dwindled to nothing. The sorority got put on probation.
It was a sad situation, but one that I don’t regret happening. I was convinced that the sisterhood my heart was after was out there and I would give one last attempt at finding it.