‘I Was Someone Before My Letters’

On innumerable college campuses there are Greek-letter fraternities and sororities. There is an assortment of non-Greek organizations and the most recognized which are the National Pan-Hellenic Council Greeks. 

Present on the campus of Grambling State University are Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho, Zeta Phi Beta, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Alpha Phi Alpha, Iota Phi Theta, and Phi Beta Sigma — all NPHC Greeks. 

United African American Men, Society of Distinguished Black Women, Kappa Kappa Psi, and Tao Beta Sigma are some of the well known non-NPHC Greeks around campus.

The organizations presented “I Was Someone Before My Letters” to talk about the advantages of being a Greek but that membership in a fraternity or sorority is not who they are.

Greek life is an amazing community to some and quite frightening to others. Attending a university, especially a historically black university, it is a phenomena that students began to wonder about instantly. These organizations were all founded at an HBCU; Howard University, the alma mater for Dr. Gernerique Stewart, a chemistry instructor who is also a brother of Omega (1995). 

“I knew I wanted to be a Greek before I even knew what they were or what they stood for,” said Stewart. “The most important thing about living Greek is to always be a leader. Set your own bar of leadership and exceed it.” 

These organizations are founded on principles such as scholarship, leadership, service, sisterhood, and brotherhood. 

“The brothers of Iota Phi Theta accepted me as a brother before I actually became a brother and being in a city where I had no family I felt at home,” said Steven Danridge, a graduate student majoring in sports administration. 

Most Greek organizations share some common elements: secrecy, single-sex membership, selection of new members via vetting, rushing and pledging, and the use of extremely complex identification symbols including but not limited to passwords, colors, flowers, grips, and Greek letters. 

“A certain level of maturity is needed in interaction with one another,” said Dr. David Ponton, the associate vice president of Student Affairs. “The process of pledging was tougher when I was in college and was necessary because many of these organizations were at the forefront of the civil rights movement.

“The resistance we learned throughout the pledging process is what taught many of us how to withstand during this chaotic time.” 

These Greek organizations host a plethora of community involvement and campus events. They also assist in creating networking opportunities. Essentially, everyone is someone before their letters but these letters tack on a new level of leadership. 

Greeks present stressed the importance of having integrity, selflessness, and the value of being hardworking and after 35 years in who would not take that advice.