The Basics of Black Greek Life

By Ashley Fortune, CollegeFindme Intern

Let’s get one thing straight, Black Greek life isn’t the stereotypical sororities or fraternities you see on television. You know what I mean, those loud frat parties with even louder beer drinkers. Those are way too stuck up preppy girls who have those horrible hazing “initiations” and they seem to be all wearing the same clothes and have the same high pitched voices. Black Greek life is founded off of eternal brotherhoods and sisterhoods that aren’t afraid to rep their letters loud and proud but also give back to their communities at all costs. Read below for more!

What are BGLO’s?

The Black Greek letter organization, (BGLO’s), was created to bring together African-American men and women together with common identities and principals, while also combating against their extremely exclusive white Greek letter counterparts. The nine Black Greek letter organization, better known as the “Divine Nine”, make up the National Pan Hellenic Council, which was founded at Howard University in 1930. The Divine Nine consists of the following fraternities: Alpha Phi Alpha Inc, Iota Phi Theta Inc, Kappa Alpha Psi Inc, Omega Psi Phi Inc, and the Phi Beta Sigma Inc. Oh, most importantly, our ladies of the Divine Nine consist of Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc, Delta Sigma Theta Inc, Sigma Gamma Rho Inc, and the Zeta Phi Beta Inc. Although Greek life is largely popular in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, HBCUs, or at colleges and universities in the southern regions, there are still chapters present in almost every part of the country.

Why Do They Exist?

We all know large universities tend to be overwhelming and it often times makes it hard for minority students to find their place when the predominant race isn’t their own. Black Greek life is that beacon for many students, offering a sense of comfort and familiarity amidst a group who came from similar backgrounds.  Many BGLO’s focus on providing aid for each other to ensure success in their college paths, whether it be at a predominately white institution, PWI, or an HBCU. These students, especially in their PWI, are able to reach beyond their skill development and use BLGO’s to help with their personal growths.

Traditions

The most popular aspect of becoming a member of any of the BLGO is their strolls and their stepping. Stepping originated from African foot dances, Gumboot, from miners in South Africa, whereas, strolling consists of an organized moving “line dance” that are spiced up with hopping, shimmying and body rolls that represent the unity of the group. Every so often in a year, the “Divine Nine” all come together to hold a huge performance for the BLGO community to represent their letters loud and proud. During these events, respective organization leaders recruit new members. The event is truly empowering: all of the brotherhoods and sisterhoods coming on stage, holding their lines strong, wearing their colors while also holding up their signs to let the crowd know who they are.

Another tradition is Founder’s Day. Held once a year, sororities and fraternities host many celebrations and parties to celebrate the day their organization was created. The aim is to host the best party out of them all, and there are a series of games and competitions among sororities and fraternities to determine who the best BGLO.

Price?

All of this sounds too good to be true, huh? Well, Black Greek Life Organizations tend to have an expensive price tag on them, especially in initiation fees. But believe me when I say this, for over a hundred years these organizations have been a part of the black culture and its history.

Final Thoughts: Empowerment!

Black Greek life created a strong network among the black community in a vast spectrum of careers, such as teachers to doctors. Even, famous celebrities such as Steve Harvey, Phylicia Rashad and even civil rights activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King, were all apart of Black Greek life! Plus, members of these fraternities and sororities are centered on giving back to their communities in any way possible. You could find these members at food banks, starting clothing drives and volunteering at their local Boys and Girls club.

So, whether you find yourself at a very large diverse school or even a well known predominantly white school, there’s always a brotherhood or sisterhood waiting to greet you with open arms.

Consider joining a BGLO!