Collegiate life was a different experience for me as my formal education began at South Carolina State University at the age of 5. My family lived on the campus and my parents both taught in the science department. Both first-generation college students, Carl Clark, and Barbara Randall met on the campus of Morgan State University. This southern girl (hailing from Macon, GA) and the northern guy (growing up in Baltimore, MD) were exposed to Greek Life in the mid-fifties. My mother pledged the Alpha Gamma Chapter and in the fall of 1956 became a Delta. My father was on the Sphinx Line of the Beta Alpha Chapter in the same year. I heard stories of their year-long process and consistently saw my parents serve the campus and the community of Orangeburg as a part of Greek Life. We traveled to many conferences and events nationwide and witnessed first hand the deeper bonds of friendship and service that developed from the lifelong kinship with their line brothers and sisters. I saw this for myself, in my own pledge process.
I have significant memories being initiated in the Alpha Xi Chapter of South Carolina State University in the spring of 1988. Crossing the burning sands at that time, the condensed membership intake process we know today had not yet implemented. The fellowship and deeply significant bond that develops while you are online are only known by few. This connection nurtures, helps, supports, sustains and commits you to a higher purpose. Now don’t get me wrong, pledging during the 80s was a glorious journey. To say we had a magnificent time would most certainly be an understatement. There were all kinds of parties and fun to be had. I am often thankful that social media didn’t exist then because we definitely had a lot of fun. What I think truly separates black collegiate Greek life from any other collegiate Greek experience is that our commitment is lifelong.
After graduation, my career allowed me a great deal of flexibility and transition. Traveling all over the world and often settling for larger amounts of time in cities across this nation gave me a diverse perspective. I gained incredible insight to how my sorority conducts the business of Delta. Each member organization of the National Panhellenic Council has service initiatives which focus on the concerns and needs of our communities. There used to be a distinct difference and unspoken rivalry on a collegiate level, but once you graduate you quickly realize that none of our service success is possible without each other. The Divine 9 connection unites our call to service. We must support each other’s events and activities with a combined effort; simply because there is strength in numbers. The more we come together, the more effective we can be in making lasting strategic change. It is more relevant now than ever as some of this country, our country, has begun to show they care less and less about what we do and more about what we look like. Whether you wear blue and white or black and gold, it doesn’t prevent you from being harassed while black. Just the other day, I was playing the game Taboo with my family. My cousin said, “a black man walking can get…” and almost in unison my family shouted, “Arrested.”
I am so blessed to be able to celebrate my 30th “Deltaversary” this year as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Entering a new chapter in my life has brought some monumental changes. However, along with those changes, I have gained the opportunity to reconnect with my own sorority’s purpose. As I step into a significant leadership role with my current graduate chapter affiliation, I am reminded of the core principles I swore to uphold as a new initiate.
Sometimes we get so busy living life that we forget that service to others is the cornerstone of Black Greek Letter organizations. It is our responsibility to refine our intake process to a lasting foundation of service and rejuvenate that spirit in our current membership.
The mission of our collective organizations has to change. It has to grow and embrace one another as we recommit to our communities regardless of membership. This must be the evolution of Black Greek Life. It is only through that evolution that we, cooperatively, can show future generations that it’s not about what color separates us, but about what service connects us all.