There was nothing like the first time I heard “Soror” in front of my name. Many Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) recently had their new member presentations/reveals for Fall 2018, but many people remain unaware that BGLOs exist at the graduate/alumni level. So, when photos of my induction into Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated were revealed on social media, people were excited and shocked, but also really happy for me.
Because the truth is, I’ve wanted to be Greek all my life. Growing up, I had mentors who were members of black sororities—and as our seasoned sorors say, I did my research. I examined each sorority and their principles. I studied the history of all of the BGLO’s because I wanted to know more about why the women I knew chose the organizations they did.
Still, it took me years to get to a place where I was ready to engage in this lifelong sisterhood—and I became even more hesitant after entering my 40s. I didn’t know any women my age who pledged sororities. And though most days I feel like I’m in my 20s, I’m still a grown woman with a lot on my plate.
But as I closely examined the history of Zeta Phi Beta and met the “Finer Women” I now call my sorors, I knew I’d found my true home. They were always kind, always welcoming, always sisterly. They embraced every part of who I am. They were (and are) interested in the work and knowledge that I bring to the table. I was drawn to Zeta Phi Beta because I believe that their principles of Scholarship, Service, Sisterhood, and Finer Womanhood summed up my journey to womanhood. So, with the encouragement of my best friend and fellow Zeta woman, I made my interest known; and last week, I officially became a Zeta myself.
People do wonder: Why now? Honestly, I think the biggest benefit to joining at the graduate level is that I’m settled in my career, I’m financially stable, and I have the time management skills to navigate the time commitment the organization requires of its members. And while 2018 is winding down, as our more seasoned sorors say, “The work is just beginning.” Though I’m a very new member and have lots to learn and experience, for those of us in Greek life, this is a perfect time to remind ourselves why we joined and how to navigate the next part of our journeys. Here are a few of the things I’m already observing and learning.
All four Black sororities in the Divine Nine were formed for very different and unique reasons. We chose to pursue our different organizations because of the distinct nature of the people, missions and principles, but we all have some things in common, including our commitment to sisterhood and service. We wanted to be in community with the women in our organizations, and service is our way of extending that sisterhood to others.
So now that I’m sporting my letters, I’m constantly reminded that we are those letters. My fellow sorors and extended Greek family, our goal is to live up to the best of our principles, and the way we do that is to be open and available to those interested in who we are and pursuing membership. How we behave with non-Greeks and prospective pledges alike can shine either a negative or positive light on our organizations. Remember why you pursued membership and move in that purpose!
One of the pieces of advice that YouTube vlogger and Divine Nine expert Corey Jones gives to new members like me is that because service is at the core of our organizations, we need to start finding out how we can contribute to our chapters right away.
I also personally believe black sorority women need to think about how we can create service projects that address issues affecting Black people today. For example, in Zeta Phi Beta, we have the Get Engaged™ program, which allows us to take our social action initiatives to the next level by engaging elected officials and community members to make systematic changes which can alter the course of our communities in radical and deeply transformative ways—which speaks to my interest in social justice. But as you jump in, also continue to pursue other service opportunities outside of your chapter. Just remember to always show your BGLO affiliation, so people can know who you are and who you represent.
As black women, we are often told very early on that we cannot trust other black women. Some of us perpetuate that mistrust because we’re taught to be in competition with one another for the attention and love of black men. No matter the reason, when we join a sorority, we gain sisters from all over the world; this is a blessing and a challenge.
Just like in the world outside of BGLOs, every black woman in our organizations does not have our best interests at heart. But we have to remind ourselves that black women need each other for our survival. You can be sisterly even in the midst of experiencing unsisterly behavior. You can love folks from afar. And you can lovingly call in—rather than call out—your sorors when they are messing up. Just a reminder that the Black family—in all its iterations—is complex, sometimes troubled, and often heartwarming.
Outside of its principles and national service projects, I was also drawn to Zeta Phi Beta because of the deep sisterhood and constitutional bond with the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. I have been a member for little over a week and that family love has been shown to me in epic proportions. We have also gained an even larger family: the Divine Nine. It’s not just our own sorors that we need to look out for; it’s all of us. We can joke and tease and play the dozens, but we are family. And with that comes holding one another accountable and to the highest standards.
Much of what is said in the family stays in the family, but we can’t allow the festering homophobia, misogynoir, bigoted, dangerous behavior and ideas of some of our sisters and brothers to continue behind closed doors. Most of our organizations are close to celebrating or have long since celebrated our centennials—and all around us, organizations have sprouted who are promoting progressive ideals and beliefs that at times make our organizations feel like dinosaurs. But we are the templates on which most of these organizations are built; why not continue to be the leaders our radical, progressive, empowering founders were?
If you’re a new member, I’m sure you have had your social media flooded with friend requests and adds. It’s been amazing for me to see women all over the country reaching out and congratulating us and welcoming us into the fold. As one of my sorors said the other day, “Be a new member, have fun, and enjoy the attention; you only get this once.” She’s right. We have to enjoy this moment. For many of us, we have been dreaming of this since the moment we heard about BGLOs.
If you’re an introvert like me, then you’ll likely feel a little overwhelmed by the love—I liken being a new member to the first 100 days of a presidency: people are excited to meet you and connect. You have the ear of your chapter; use it. Sit down with older sorors, because our elders hold so much knowledge. Plan for your state/regional meetings and any leadership trainings you can get to this year. And don’t forget: while we work hard, we also play hard. So wear your gear, stroll, step, hang out, laugh, love and enjoy yourself.
From soror to soror, we have a lot of work to do. Our organizations have produced some of the most brilliant minds in the world (including my now-soror, The Root’s editor-in-chief, Danielle Belton). We are the carriers of significant legacies. If we want our organizations to make it to our bicentennials, we need to put in the work to be just as dynamic and forward-thinking as our founders were. We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to our communities!