The year of 2014 was one with many eventful moments for Black people. Conversely, it was also an eventful year for Black sororities. Black sororities saw moments of divided views and moments of dynamic unity. The year of 2015 is now upon us, and as we move forward here are my views on what the top five issues that Black sororities will need to think about and address as we move forward.
5. Bridging the Gap
One of the wonderful things about Black Greek Sororities is that they are for a lifetime. This allows for our ranks to be filled with collegiate members, young professionals, retirees, and seasoned sorors. This mix of women brings about a great pool of diverse thought, experiences, and information. However it also brings about generation gaps. Moving forward, if we want be stronger organizations we will have to begin to bridge the gap between our younger sorors and our more seasoned sorors. We have to develop a mutual respect, and not just for the older sorors from your chapter. With social media, technology, camera phones, YouTube and other outlets younger sorors are experiencing greek life on their campuses in ways that many older sorors cannot even fathom. Older sorors have lived through so many phases and challenges within our organizations that they are a treasured wealth of wisdom. We have to find a way to find value in all experiences so that we can be more unified. We must find a way to ensure that we are truly considering all of constituencies’ needs and not just those of a particular group when making decisions about the direction of our organizations. There is a quote from Grand Duke Friedrich von Baden that states, “Unity makes strength, and since we must be strong, we must also be one.” We cannot achieve this unity if we do not see or affirm value in our sorors’ voices. The more we can close these invisible lines of segregation the stronger we will be and the more we will accomplish.
4. Lawsuits, Lawsuits, Lawsuits
We live in a litigious society. It seems at every turn someone or some organization is being sued. Many of our organizations have had to worry about ensuring they are able to operate and be sustainable after dealing with numerous lawsuits. Some of these lawsuits we bring upon ourselves. Extreme hazing acts done, wrongfully in the name of our organizations, by members who have clearly put their personal values above that of the sorority. Yet there have also been lawsuits surrounding not being selected to pursue membership, or our daughters, nieces, and the like not getting the opportunity to be members. These lawsuits, fueled by what one can only perceive as entitlement issues, have so frivolously tied up the resources and time of our organizations. This climate has made our organizations’ leadership hyper aware as they protect our beloved sisterhoods. It is this climate that has made some of our sorors slightly paranoid of everything they say or do—affecting the ability to fully enjoy the sisterhood in sorority. We have to realize that our organizations are international organizations with much political and economic presence and power. This also makes us susceptible to those who like to see us weakened or even diminished. We have to be even more adamant in conducting ourselves and our business in ways that do not put us in harm’s way. We also must be more circumspect in those we allow into our sisterhoods and more insistent in creating an understanding that we are to protect our sisterhoods from hurt, harm, or danger. We must remind ourselves and prospective members that membership is a privilege, not a right. If we want to see our organizations continue to thrive and have impact in the next century, we must figure out a way to honor traditions while keeping our sororities out of the line of fire.
3. Black Lives Matter
These last few years the disregard for Black life by the justice system has come to a head. With the recent cases in Ferguson, MO and New York City have called to our attention for a concerted effort to address the injustice, abuse of power, and senseless killings of Black men and women across the nation. We cannot simply wait for the next episode which the media deems worth covering to respond to this issue. We must be proactive and be visible and effective in addressing the systematic and every day racism and oppression we are experiencing in our communities. Many of our organizations have begun the conversation and planning. We must keep our feet to the fire. This will be a long battle and we cannot get weary in well doing. Our very lives and the lives of our children are at stake, literally.
2. Respectability Politics
I know, many may be sick of what seems to be the new buzz words in discussions. Yet and still, we need to talk about these issues. Many of us describe ourselves as lovely, devastating, sophisticated, elegant, and more words of the sort. Every last one of those words applies. However, it may be time for us to finally have or in some cases revive the conversations around the classism and elitism that has been experienced inside of and from our organizations. There is nothing wrong with having standards, expectations, character traits of which we would desire potential members to possess. There is also nothing wrong with discussing the foundation or reasons behind the construction or desire for one to possess these traits. But, we must begin to discuss how these views may permeate their way past membership selection and create barriers for connecting with women in our communities who are not members. We must have honest discussions and reflections around these topics so our efforts to be excellent women and leaders are not defined in a way that creates chasms with those which we lead or for which we fight. Nor should we believe that we cannot learn lessons from our non-sorority sisters simply because their life choices, situations, and ideologies may be different from ours. There is the sisterhood of sorority and there is the greater sisterhood of life. We have much work to do and we have to ensure that while we desire respect, we do not let respectability politics pollute or diminish our work.
Last year I shared why Black sororities are still relevant. Black sororities are still relevant, but how are we currently walking out that relevance in the everyday? All Black sororities have fundamental beliefs that they stand upon. In this past year, all of our sisterhoods were pushed and challenged on what those beliefs were. Did our organizations indeed stand on our beliefs? It may be time for our organizations to reiterate to members their principles as well as how those principles can be lived. There were moments when the beliefs and principles of our organizations were confronted to put hands and feet to our esteemed values. Some felt our organizations succeeded. Others felt that our organizations failed. Whether these evaluations are true or not is unimportant. What is important is whether or not people in the communities that we serve feel that we are serving them or serving ourselves. As we move forward we have to ensure that we are not merely basking in our own legacies and warm enclaves of sisterhood. We must break new ground, effectively address current issues, and stay truly connected to the people who may or may not be our neighbors, and may not be members of our sororities. It is not impressive if we can express why we are relevant and those in our community are unable to do the same.