My first experience with black Greek organizations dates back to Spring 2012, my senior year of high school. I was visiting Howard University for their Accepted Students’ Day and while touring the campus I saw a huge crowd gathered on “The Yard.” I went to see what all the hype was about and saw a group of young men all lined up wearing blue masks. I later found out that I was at a probate witnessing these young men cross into Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. The excitement that surrounded me was contagious. For these young men standing in the line and the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. that surrounded them, this was a an important and celebratory moment. Fast forward almost 4 years later and I am now a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (AKA). I was inducted in Fall 2013, but my entrance into Greek life started with that moment of excitement and community on The Yard.
Growing up, I had limited exposure to Greek life and didn’t really understand it until I went to college. Although I didn’t end up going to Howard University, that experience when I visited made a lasting impression on me and put the prospect of joining a sorority on my radar. It’s ironic how my interest in Greek life started in the same place my sorority was founded back in 1908. In fact, 5 of the 9 fraternities and sororities nicknamed the “Divine Nine” were founded at Howard University along with the National Pan Hellenic Council (NPHC), which was also founded there in 1930. Although the members of these organizations are now widespread and there are chapters at schools all over the country at both PWIs and MSIs alike, I think it’s safe to say that without HBCUs’ cultivation of black Greek life, the constituents under the NPHC would not be as relevant or have as much prestige as they have today worldwide.
Given this history, I would argue that members of a black Greek organization at any institution should advocate for HBCUs, especially if that organization was originally founded on an HBCU campus. As a member of AKA, I really appreciate my organization’s current program target titled, “Think HBCU.” Alpha Kappa Alpha launched this national campaign in 2014 to ensure that we give priority to recognizing HBCUs’ contributions to the sorority and to society. Through fundraising, education, engagement, and advocacy for HBCUs, the sorority plans to showcase HBCUs as a “critical venue for moving students to and through college.”
Typically, HBCU alumni are the main donors when it comes to giving back to HBCUs. But what if members of black Greek organizations made a concerted effort to support HBCUs even though they may not have been directly affiliated with them? I am willing to bet that Greeks who know their organization’s history recognize the value of HBCUs both historically and today. There are numerous ways to support HBCUs, not only financially but also by advocating for them on an individual level or through larger organizations, such as through Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Think HBCU. Such advocacy doesn’t always have to be national, either: members of the black Greek community can advocate for HBCUs in casual conversations with friends and family and keep others apprised of the various organizations that support them. All in all, as a proud member of a black Greek organization, I wouldn’t hesitate to support HBCUs and I think others should do the same.
Faith Dawson is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania and the Social Media Specialist for the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions. She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.