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The Secret of Gumbo

I’ll never forget the words of an old radio colleague, a very cool Cajun man named J.P., who said in a classic South Louisiana dialect, “Eddie, cookin’ takes love.”

In the Black Greek Success Program, I tell my fellow Greeks that every chapter is like a bowl of Gumbo; you have to find a way to gather the ingredients, prep them, and get them to work together.

The mission of every fraternity or sorority chapter is to maintain a healthy family that will promote the mission of the organization. Creating a family is the easy part; the trick is to maintain that family. Here are seven things that fraternity and sorority members need to know.

  1. Identify your chapter. Determine the collective personality of your chapter and decide how it successfully promotes the mission of your organization. By knowing who you are as a family, you will have a better understanding of who belongs.

  2. Observe your prospects. Once you know who is interested in your organization, watch them from afar to assess whether or not they are serious about contributing to your fraternity or sorority.

  3. Identify how your prospects fit. Do you have a prospect who is a pure worker? Do you have a prospect whose strong personality will contribute to the chapter’s growth? Most importantly, do your prospects genuinely want to work for the betterment of your organization or do they simply want to be seen with a nice line jacket while they stroll at the next party?

  4. Appreciate the bigger family. One of the biggest problems we have in the Black Greek System is what I call “chapter delusion”. These are the chapters that seem to believe they are bigger than both the entire organization and even the college or university. Without your fraternity, sorority or your college/university, you wouldn’t be a member of “Elegant Epsilon Eta”, “Bold Beta Mu”, or “Chaotic Chi Xi”. The chapters that maintain a focus on contributing to the bigger families, especially financially, tend to be the most respected and critical players in the game.

  5. Know that the real work starts after initiation. Maintain the family. When you initiate your new line, impress upon them that the reason they have letters to wear is the work of those who came before them. Let them know that if they want to be associated with the notable members they brag about, it will take a commitment to service, education, and their lives.

  6. Manage your family. When you deal with people, problems almost never work themselves out. It takes strong, consistent leadership to steer diverse personalities in a positive direction. Take advantage of personality tests to identify your members and to figure out how their strengths contribute to the success of your chapter.

  7. Always seek wisdom. I always listen to those more experienced than I am, even people with whom I don’t agree. Every chapter member should have a mentor who both preaches the mission of the organization and has a productive life.

Our blood relatives aren’t perfect, therefore, expecting perfection among our frat brothers or sorors is unreasonable. That is why it is so important to understand the value of getting the personalities in a chapter to work together. To create the best gumbo, we need the right ingredients. With those ingredients, we should stir it with love.


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