By Tekita Bankhead
I recognize that writing about anything related to Black Greek Lettered Organizations (BGLOs) can be…touchy. The reputations of BGLOs are constantly plagued with negative stereotypes, hazing scandals, and scholarly critiques concerning their legacy, legitimacy, and longevity. So let’s get a few things out of the way before we get to the nitty gritty, shall we?
To be clear, this is NOT a BGLO-bashing thinkpiece in any way, shape, or form. I am a proud financial member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. and have consistently served my sorority for nearly 10 years. My love for my DST runs deep and has afforded some of the best experiences of my life. I’m often referred to as an “old head” from time to time, but I rebuke that title…until I try to hop my happy tail in a stroll line. Yep, my duck-walking glory days are officially over. Ya’ll got it, young Sawrahz. I’ll keep living my best alumnae chapter life.
Black Greek college students have a special place in my lil’ old Delta heart. I am a higher education professional so I see firsthand how BGLOs are changing rapidly on campuses across the nation and breathing a new life into our organizations. Our collegiate BGLO sororities utilize social media, innovative service projects, and outstanding scholastic programs to attract the best and the brightest while fulfilling the supreme call to serve. I’ve seen young women enter chapters as novices and emerge with the business acumen of the next generation of trailblazers. What’s not so refreshing is the apparent increase in petty beef resulting in talented and competent women being denied access to a life-changing experience. The not-so-friendly rivalries with untraceable origins that eventually spin out of control at step shows, after-parties, the internet, and beyond. Perhaps the most detrimental is the unhealthy membership intake behaviors that are manifesting as a growing disconnect between the true tenets of sisterhood, what EVERY BGLO sorority holds as a core value. Many of our sororities may struggle with cohesion because our once fortified foundation of sisterhood is cracking. Ask yourself, “When people see my organization, my chapter, my line, my ship, do they see true sisters or just a group of color-coordinated women?” You can have a sisterhood without a sorority, but you absolutely cannot have a sorority without a sisterhood. It’s time we do a personal assessment of how each of us is embodying what sisterhood is really about:
Sisterhood is a choice. Membership in a BGLO does not automatically equal sisterhood. Sisterhood is an active practice that requires intentional and continuous love. As with family members, we celebrate with them, we share special moments, and we exchange our deepest thoughts. Sometimes we get hurt or frustrated, but dissolving the bond entirely is simply not an option. With chosen sisters, we make the decision over and over to salvage and protect our bonds…only if we think it’s worth it.
Sisterhood requires patience, grace, and forgiveness. Whenever there is a group of phenomenal and educated Black women, not only is conflict inevitable but also healthy if managed appropriately. A commitment to sisterhood requires healthy communication, especially when a sister may feel that she has been hurt. I see many women pledge a lifetime commitment to our sororities but frivolously dismiss those with the same shared commitment over minuscule matters. To effectively practice sisterhood, we must approach our sisters in a spirit of love, understanding, and support.
The gift of sisterhood is not exclusive to your Sorors. During my membership intake process, I was often advised that “I was a woman first.” Though that advice initially spoke to the prioritization of my identity, I now see value in its connection to my allegiance to other Black women. Some of my best friends in the world are in each of the BGLO sororities. Yes, Deltas and AKAs can be best friends or roommates turned life-long friends. Yes, Deltas and Zetas can edify and uplift each other. Yes, Deltas and SGRhos can provide mentoring and professional guidance to one another. Sisterhood doesn’t stop at the doors of your chapter meetings. We are all wonderful women who serve a tremendous benefit to each other.
Sisterhood transcends hierarchy and policy.Our organizations have become very focused on running as businesses and understandably so. However, in my opinion, sometimes our sorority policies don’t operate on the central concepts of care and well-being of our sisters. I have seen Sorors use poor judgment and be swiftly reprimanded with more concern for liability than restoration. This is not to suggest that accountability is not also an integral component of sisterhood; however, restoration, holistic development, and loving guidance is just as essential.
Sisterhood is not earned; it’s owed. Every Soror deserves sisterhood. Regardless of her flaws. Regardless of if she’s “paper” or “made.” Regardless of her popularity or reputation. To take it one step further, every Black woman deserves sisterhood. No one sees the brilliance of our gifts as clearly as we see them in each other. We owe that clarity and validation to the only other women who share our struggles and triumphs.
True sisterhood bears good fruit in the form of positive membership experiences, the security of worldwide support, and an inexplicable connection that brings a Soror some of the greatest pride of her life. In celebration of National Sisterhood Month, I challenge us all to be better sisters to each other. I especially challenge my BGLO sisters to reflect on any areas of their sisterhood that can be revitalized so that we can continue to push our communities forward together. Revisit what sisterhood means to you, and determine if your actions are in alignment. We are not required to be perfect, but we are required to keep growing. That’s the true lifetime commitment.