Since their founding, Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) have been a presence on the campuses of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Although the first BGLOs were not founded on HBCU campuses, they have and continue to hold a special place and purpose in this academic setting. These organizations promote a sense of sisterhood and brotherhood among the members and reinforce a commitment to community. This commitment can be seen through the numerous acts of public service local chapters provide across the globe year after year. This is true not only at HBCUs, but internationally through collegiate and alumni/alumnae chapters.
BGLOs often find themselves pigeon holed into the purveyors of party strolls or step competitions. Often, the purpose of the organizations are challenged with the question “What are BGLOs doing to make a difference?” The difficulty comes when individuals look for major contributions from the national offices of these organizations. The reality is there is a tremendous amount of work done in communities around the globe by local chapters. This is no exception on the campuses of HBCUs. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.’s members implement A Voteless People is a Hopeless People®, a national program that was initiated in the 1930’s and continues today. Chapters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. collect warm clothing and accessories for families in need through the Family Seasonal WrapsSM program. Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.’s Kappa League, under the Guide Right National Service Program, provides guidance and mentoring for male high school students. Established in 1980, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. chapters execute the Assault on Illiteracy Program aimed at eradicating illiteracy through reading tutorial programs. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.’s Financial Fortitude initiative encourages members to provide financial education through creative programming to their local service communities. The men’s health initiative carried out by chapters of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Sigma Wellness, addresses five health issues impacting men of color. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.’s Zeta Prematurity Awareness Program, or ZPAP, is the umbrella for many local programs that raise money and community consciousness around prematurity and infant mortality. Operation BigBookBag is a Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. International Project that supplies children with essential school supplies. Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. chapters fundraise annually for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. These are only a handful of programs and initiatives that are carried out on campuses each year. To see the impact of these organizations, one must look to the local chapter who is the backbone of services provided by these international organizations. Often, these acts of service go unnoticed by the majority but this has never impacted their will to serve.
While many only see the glitz and the glamour characterized by the social interactions of these organizations, one common theme remains. Each of the Divine Nine have a focus and commitment to service through their local chapters. When the excitement of new initiate presentations, step shows and homecoming reunions fade away, their dedication to uplifting the local and global community remain steadfast. National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) organizations continue to unite students at HBCUs for a common cause and those members provide much needed services to their campuses and surrounding areas. Not only do these young collegians deliver impactful programs and initiatives individually, they often partner with other NPHC organizations or local alumni/alumnae chapters to extend their service footprint. A presence on HBCU campuses since 1907, BGLOs are more than meets the eye.