Scholarship is an integral part of the Black sorority experience. This time of year, we celebrate the scholarly accomplishments of college students graduating all over the country. Included in that group are many brilliant Black women attaining doctorates, master’s degrees, professional degrees, and bachelor’s degrees. Undoubtedly, a number of members of Black sororities are among the ranks. In accordance, numerous commencement speakers are giving their seemingly invaluable words of encouragement and challenge to graduating students. Keeping in spirit, I would like to share my own words of congratulations and encouragement. To all of my sister greeks who are donning caps, gowns, and stoles adorned with the letters and colors we all hold dear to our hearts, I want to put forth the challenge to not just love the legacy of your great sorority, but to live it.
Many of you hold the characteristics and personality traits that already identify us as strong, smart, savvy women. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. You wouldn’t be members of your sorority if you didn’t. However, though there is something inside of each one of you that motivates you to do great things, to be great, to chase after greatness it is apparent that there is also something that realizes the greatness in collective work and you found yourself in a sorority. Maybe you were searching for another space to exhibit leadership. Maybe you were searching for like-minded, service oriented women. Maybe you were in search of sisterhood. Maybe you were in search of free food and accidentally ended up at an amazing event (it happens). Whatever the inspiration, you saw a light and that light led you to a place called sorority. It was in this space you found acceptance, love, challenge, protection, encouragement, fun, laughter, warm hearts, outstretched arms, and support. You learned how to serve better, how to lead better, and how to be better. You learned about the great legacies of the founders, of your sorority, the great legacies of sorors that came before you, and the great legacy of your respective chapters. You embraced that legacy. You loved that legacy. You wore it and continue to wear it with beaming pride, even on today. So, now that you are moving and transitioning to the next phase of your lives and careers what will you make of all that you have learned? How will you build upon the great legacies you have been given?
There are so many opportunities waiting for you on the other side of your campus gates and classrooms. In a world where we must not only assert that Black lives matter and even moreso that the lives of Black women and girls matter, your voice, your brilliance, and your presence is needed. We have communities that find themselves at the hands of unfair justice systems, corrupt political structures, and economic matrices that make many of the already vulnerable even moreso. We have educational systems that are ill equipped and under resourced to provide our children with a competitive education despite the extraordinary efforts of underpaid teachers. These are just a few of the numerous social ills that we face every day. The bad news is that these ills exist and persist. The good news is that you have been equipped to handle the challenge. You are not equipped simply from your coursework, or internships, or networks. You are equipped from the lessons you learned in your beloved sisterhoods and equipped from the legacies those sisterhoods placed in your hands, in your hearts, and on your shoulders.
Our founders, our ancestors, our sorors used their education, financial resources, places of privilege, political positioning, and collective power to address the problems and issues that plagued society in general, and their communities in specific. While you are moving forward, achieving, and accomplishing do not limit your legacies to line jackets and epic strolls. Do not limit your legacies to the great social gatherings that were planned and experienced. Do not limit your legacies to the awesome and bonding traditions you were able to establish and share. Don’t get me wrong, all of these things are wonderful and important parts to your sorority experience. Treasure them. Keep them close to your heart. But, do not let your legacies end there. Rather, live your legacies to their fullest potential. Push yourselves to keep the legacies of the sororities you joined alive through your work in your communities, through the impact of your careers, and through the support of your respective sorority’s initiatives. Continue to mentor, push the organizing of your community stakeholders, attend and be vocal at school board meetings, join a graduate chapter and connect with like-minded sorors, and if you have not been active in your organization reclaim and reignite the fire you once held. Speak out against injustice, challenge the existence of double standards and bigotry, and address the prejudices present, even if they reside within yourself. Blaze trails, shatter glass ceilings, change the world. Be the women that the legacies of our organizations demands us to be.
For all of the wonderful Black Greek women who have and will cross stages and complete degrees, you are already exemplifying the legacy of the women who founded our great sororities. You have already proven the naysayers wrong. You have already exhibited the beautiful brilliance of Black women. And yet, there is more to do. The legacy, our legacies, cannot be laid down with our regalia. The legacy, our legacies, must continue and do so with the bold, audacious, yet humble spirit with which they began. The legacy must continue. The legacy must live. And the lives that must serve as vessels belong to you and I. To my graduating sistergreeks, you have already conquered so much. Go forth, and show the world that you have only just begun. You are the legacy. Live the legacy. And one day, you will leave the legacy for some young soror to take up and carry on. Congratulations!