When I was 15, my high school counselor told me I needed community service to get into a good college. A few weeks later, a friend of mine asked me about joining the Jackson, Mississippi chapter of the Sigma Beta Club to get some community service hours. I didn’t know much about what those words meant, but I needed those service hours.
Sitting in that first meeting in the Northside YMCA, I learned that the Sigma Beta Club is a mentorship program in which members and alumni of Phi Beta Sigma, one of the “Divine Nine” Black fraternities and sororities, work with kids to get involved with their communities. I spent the next two years of high school around kind, patient, inspirational Black men — men I grew to admire, men who poured positivity into me. Men who took time out of their own lives to change mine.
When I got to college, I wanted to pay those two years of love forward. So in 2005, I pledged Phi Beta Sigma. I cherish my decision, the friends I’ve made, and the ways I’ve been able to touch lives through that organization. My reasons for joining, and the experiences that came after, are dear to me.
Are you going to choke someone out at Pier 1 Imports because they’re wearing your letters? These can’t be the aspirations of organizations based on being college-educated and service-oriented, right? What are we even doing here?
I get it; Greek Letter Organizations aren’t for everyone. “Every time I almost joined a fraternity,” my uncle used to say, “I’d remember that I can get girls and I have friends on my own.” I’d laugh, just like I laugh when I see that sentiment repeated on Twitter. Just like I spent all day Thursday laughing my entire ass off because Baton Rouge’s own Boosie Badazz went to some mall in Atlanta, bought himself a Kappa Alpha Psi shirt (another Divine Nine fraternity), and wore it courtside at an Atlanta Hawks game.
Forthose who don’t know but can probably guess, wearing a Black fraternity or sorority’s letters is reserved for the actual members of those organizations. If you’re caught on a college campus wearing the paraphernalia without having pledged, then someone is going to approach you (probably aggressively). It’s one of those things we’re supposed to take seriously — but man, how can you see Boosie in that red shirt and not get some jokes off? Sure, easy for me to say; he didn’t wear the letters from my organization. But I’d laugh just as hard if he wore a blue-and-white Phi Beta Sigma shirt. And I think a good number of other Black Greeks are finding the comedy in this, too.
But then there’s the internet. And the internet has a way of amplifying the loudest people with the most outrageous opinions.