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Experiences of Black Greek Fraternities at Predominantly White Institutions

History of Black Greek Lettered Organizations

In this paper, I will discuss the experiences of black Greek fraternities on the campus of predominantly white institutions.

Greek life has been in existence for almost two and half centuries, but has then since transformed into what is often referred to as social clubs. These clubs were where like-minded individuals would study together and perhaps discuss literature to a place of acceptance based off of financial status, background, race, social economic status, as well as many other components. The first Greek-letter organization, Phi Beta Kappa, was founded on the campus of William and Mary College by five white men (Brubacher and Rudy, 1997). The formation of this organization gave birth to numerous of other fraternities at other institutions.

Although fraternities were flourishing on the campus of Public White Institutions (PWIs), due to the era of segregation and racism there were no opportunities for people of color to join these said organizations. This led to the formation of Black Greek-lettered organizations. The first Black-Greek Lettered fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., was founded on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, on December 4, 1906 by seven black men (Wesley, 2012). This organization was formed to level the playing field when it came to student involvement for students of color on their respective campuses as well as being a beacon of hope for the racial and social injustices within their communities.

This study is essential to the field of higher education as it opens the door of opportunity to examine the relevancy and influence that Black Greek lettered organizations were to African American students at predominantly white institutions. However, Black Greek fraternities seem to be always associated with being gang affiliated or somewhat of a cult or highlighted when it comes to hazing.

Becoming a part of a fraternity or sorority provides one with opportunities to get involved in community service and develop into global citizens (Banks & Archibald, 2020). Although being involved in a Black Greek fraternity has its advantages with establishing the sense of belongingness as well as leadership development, it also comes with the misinterpreted territory of black Greek fraternities automatically being associated with hazing to include: alcohol consumption, and drug use, but those said organizations were far more effective then what they were given credit for.

Black Fraternities were founded at both Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). Often referred to as The Divine Nine: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. (founded in 1906), Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. (founded in 1908), Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. (founded in 1911), Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. (Founded in 1911), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. (founded in 1913), Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.(founded in 1914), Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.(founded in 1920), Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.(founded in 1922), and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc. (founded in 1963) The forefathers of these fraternities withstood a lot of trials and tribulations because of the eras they were in. In admiration of the fraternities founded at PWIs, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. at Cornell University in 1906 and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. at Indiana University in 1911, black students encountered increased isolation, racism, and hardships when trying to develop and create organizations that were explicitly designed for and tailored to black students (Ross, 2001; Parks, 2008).

Challenges Faced by Black Students in PWIs

After the founding of the first fraternity, it stemmed a mass assembly of other Greek lettered-organizations as well. Whipple and Sullivan, (1998) noted that the first black Greek fraternity did not come in existence until the early 20th century; before long, Phi Beta Kappa, the first fraternity founded at the College of William and Mary, had been in existence for 130 years.  Amongst those other Greek organizations African American males that attended predominantly white institutions sought membership of the organizations and were denied because of racism and segregation. Brown et al., (2005); Miller and Bryan, (2020) agree that the formation of Black Greek organizations was established during one of the most crucial eras of United States history—the Civil Rights movement.

It is important to understand that the Greek system was never intended for people of color in anyway. As the twentieth century shifted, black students had the concept and the courage to form organizations for their mutual support and for the uplift of the African American people (Johnson et al., 2008, p.454). Parks & Hughey (2020) explained that Historically White fraternities and sororities excluded students of color from their membership, and, consequently, the founders of Black Greek fraternities sought to create organizations for themselves that would provide community, a familial atmosphere, and a way to foster a collective identity in an often-hostile environment. For Banks and Archibald (2020), Race and discrimination amongst Black students at PWIs with the inclusion of Black-face costumes, ritual songs, chants using the “n-word”, and confederate flag parties exhibited by white fraternities were far more harmful to black students than being excluded from white fraternities.

Hazing (2020)  is defined as any activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers them, regardless of a person’s willingness to participate. Researchers have linked Black fraternity hazing to the hazing of freshman that was practiced at many PWIs (Kimbrough, 2009; Mckenzie, 1986). Kimbrough (2009) believed that the hazing practices developed differently amongst black fraternities aside from the white fraternities; for example, Black pledges were made to stand in single file lines, dress alike, and march in groups around campus. Joyce (2018) notes that hazing practices include: binge drinking, ridicule, isolation, sleep deprivation, paddling, beating, physical exhaustion, and other acts.

Lamar (2020) says that black student sense of belonging and level of involvement is a critical element in the Black student experience at PWIs. African American males wanted to find some sense of brotherhood and support which lacked on the campus of PWIs. Miller and Bryan (2020) focused on the concept of otherbrothering and how black male students knew that they to create Black fraternities to fight and address social and racial isolation, provide academic and financial support for Black students. Strayhorn (2012) mentions that students who feel they belong enjoy increased growth and happiness while in college.

Hazing Practices in Black Fraternities

Other authors have identified the level of involvement amongst black Greek-lettered organizations. Taylor and Howard-Hamilton (1995) discovered that African American male undergraduate students who were involved in Black fraternities were more established within their racial identity as well as having better sense of pride about themselves aside from those who were not involved. Black students did not make up a large part of the student population at these institutions at the time, nor do they today (Ross, 2001; Parks, 2008). Black fraternities stands as a link to African American students feeling a part of the campus. Martens (2016) states that students being involved within Greek organizations help foster a sense of belonging and establish a community on college campuses.

Black greek fraternities have a history of producing great leaders. Gunn (2015) notes that there are some students who join Black greek organizations possess leadership skills already, while other individuals develop leadership through membership. Goode (2020) notes that leadership was encouraged by Black Greek organizations and students gained the knowledge on what it truly meant to be a leader. Other authors agree that Black Greek letter organizations play an important role in offering a protective and nurturing environment for ambitious and desired black leaders (Whipple, Baiere, & Grady, 1991).

It is to be understood that Black Greek fraternities were a beacon of hope for Black students on PWI campuses. Because of the foul features of racism and segregation, Black students were not allowed to seek membership in white Greek fraternities because it was never designed for them. The establishing of Black Greek fraternities have the advantages of bridging the gap of belongingness amongst Black male students, especially on PWI campus. Unfortunately, the practices of hazing and its violent results have caused these fraternities to be viewed negatively by administrative officials on PWI campuses. However, the presence of Black Greek fraternities allow black students to develop their leadership skills as well as finding their voice and getting involved with other organizations on campus.

I need a powerpoint presentation or prezi as well as an infographic based off of the rough draft that I have completed. It will be very nice to have an assistance with the addition of a discussion and implications section. Presentations must be no longer than 25 minutes. Multimedia use or a learning activity is encouraged to make your presentation more engaging. Be sure to use APA Style Guide formatting (in-text and on your Reference page.)

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