African American Greek Life shows presence on Hawk Hill
Saint Joseph’s University’s Black Student Union (BSU) hosted its second annual Meet the Greeks and Welcome Back Cookout at the Campion Courtyard on Sept. 29.
Organized by BSU members and the Office of Inclusion and Diversity (CID), this event introduced African American fraternities and sororities in Philadelphia, showcasing their traditions to students in attendance.
The first Meet the Greeks was held in November 2016 and was organized by Brittany Stokes ’16 as work study project with a goal of relating the mission of Student Inclusion and Diversity to something that she was personally interested in, which in this case was Greek Life.
“The original goals for this event remain the same – to expose SJU students to NPHC [National Pan-Hellenic Council] organizations and increase the diverse representation in Greek Life at SJU,” said Natalie Walker-Brown M.S., director of Student Inclusion and Diversity.
The BSU’s new co-presidents Alexis Wilson ’19 and Milan Morris ’19 were happy with how the event turned out compared to last year. Morris was happy to see people interested in the African American Greek Life.
“[Our goal is] to see that our first event is flourishing and that there are people willing to back us up but also for people to be able to join and get information about the citywide Greek Life,” Morris said. “Hopefully people will be interested in them, and will sign up for those organizations so they can maybe bring them to campus.”
According to Wilson, the BSU’s mission is about making everyone feel included while also serving a wider purpose of giving back to the community.
“BSU was a group created under the Office of Inclusion and Diversity, and it provides a safe space for minority students on campus, but particularly black students,” said Wilson. “We’re looking to get involved in service and also provide opportunities to learn and connect with others here on campus.”
The highlight of the event included dance performances by fraternity and sorority members representing their respective organizations. Each of the fraternities and sororities have unique routines, derived from the tradition of “stepping” which are presented as dance rituals.
Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, and Sigma Gamma Rho were the sororities represented at the event. Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, and Alpha Phi Alpha were the fraternities. Each organization introduced their chapters to benefit not only themselves, but also the surrounding community.
Alpha Phi Alpha is the fraternity that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was part of as a student at Boston University in 1952. A moment of pride for King was when he received the Alpha Award of Honor at the 50th Anniversary Convention of Alpha Phi Alpha.
Alpha Phi Alpha’s mission is to develop leaders, promote brotherhood and academic excellence, while providing service and advocacy for our communities. Their motto is “First of all, Servants of all, We shall transcend all.”
Kelvin Amartey ’20 credited three members of Alpha Phi Alpha that have inspired him to pledge this year.
“In high school, three of my teachers were all Alphas and they really inspired me throughout school and kinda shaped me into the man that I am today, instilling morals in me and just trying to keep that path going basically,” Amartey said. “The brotherhood, new take on life, sense of community, being helpful to people, a lot of stuff, it is a journey and I’m willing to take that journey.”
Aliyah Stokes ’20 was interested in being a part of Black Greek letter organizations because she sees the potential benefits of being a member.
“Once you graduate, you have connections and just a lot of opportunities and doors open for you,” Stokes said. “Being a part of The Divine Nine [the nine historically Black Greek letter organizations] is something really interesting and I just felt like the type of brotherhood or sisterhood I’m looking for I would find better on an off-campus sorority.”
According to Walker-Brown, one challenge for the BSU and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is to make sure that students know that Black Greek letter organizations (BGLOs) exist and that city chapters are an option for them to join.
“There are many dedicated people working hard to move SJU forward in the areas of diversity and inclusion, however, it’s important to recognize that some students may feel a sense of isolation and ‘otherness’ when it comes to engagement on campus, or are looking for diverse and/or culturally based membership,” Walker-Brown said. “For that reason, BGLO’s provide alternatives for those interested in Greek Life.”