Want Respect in Black Greek Life? Be Unique.

Last Updated on June 2, 2016

Be Unique - Black Greek Life: Members of Omicron Psi Omega, Inc. pose together.
Members of Omicron Psi Omega, Inc.

It was one of the most humbling experiences of my short Greek life. The first Greek show routine I did included ribbing and it didn’t end well for my chapter. I could even hear people in the audience snickering while we were stepping! After the show, a friend of mine from another fraternity came to me and said, “Hey man, be yourselves. What you tried to do in there wasn’t you.” I didn't like what he said but dude was right. My chapter was just over a year old at the time and we weren’t exactly known as a formidable crew. From there, we focused on what made us unique and our routines got better.

The Black Greek life community has been abuzz about Omicron Psi Omega. The group, a self-described “Bruh-therhood,” was founded in 2000 with a focus on bringing LGBT women together. They recently made news when images of them popped up displaying characteristics similar to those of “Que Dogs.” That, my friends, is where the controversy is.

Let me get one thing straight before anyone jumps to conclusions. I am not about to bash Omicron Psi Omega or go on some homophobic rant. Know that when I see heterosexual male groups copying attributes of Alphas, Omegas, Kappas, Sigmas, or Iotas, I have the exact same opinion. I’m rooting for Omicron Psi Omega to continue growing and providing a space for its members to flourish. More than that, I’m rooting for these women to be uniquely them.

There is a tremendous amount of power in expressing that which makes a group unique and I learned this all too well when I was a public relations director. While at Southern University at New Orleans, I fought to add resilience as a core value to the university’s strategic plan. After several years of speaking to SUNO students, alumni, and faculty, I found that resilience was unique to the university’s story. We were a group that had survived Hurricane Katrina and a merger controversy while serving a population of students who showed a dogged determination to succeed against all odds with the support of faculty and staff who fought hard to help their students earn their degrees. While others on SUNO's strategic planning committee were focused on “strong words,” I persistently made a case for a value unique to the university. Resilience may not be a unique value but it is a value that makes SUNO unique on the higher education landscape.

Remember this. A group builds strength on qualities that enable others to connect with their uniqueness even though those qualities may not be unique. In the words of Heavy D, “Don’t be with anybody, let them all be down with you.”  

Despite how things may look on the surface, Black Greek life invites uniqueness. I remember when folks, present company included, said there would never be an addition to the “Great Eight.” Next thing you know, Iota Phi Theta kicked the door down and made us the “Divine Nine.” They came into the game openly challenging what they felt was the norm in Black Greek life. As a result, the Iotas proudly own a unique presence among us. Because of that, I give those brothers a ton of respect.

Respect is not earned through a hand sign, pose, sound, or hashtag. Respect is earned through unique qualities that tell a group's story.

When I think about what my boy told me that night after the Greek show, I still want to cuss him out (truth be known *smile*). But my chapter's step routines afterward represented what made us unique–quirkiness, energy, and sometimes humor. You want folks to “put some ‘respeck' on it” when your fraternity or sorority's neophytes come out? Give them something unique.

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