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When 'My Letters' Really Aren't Your Letters

Photo via Anissa Hidouk, Jackson State University

It’s our faaaaavorite time of the yeeeear–fall “probate” season!!! Campuses all over the country are abuzz with Black Greeks introducing their newest members. Even though the ol’ man (yours truly) has been Greek for over 27 years, I vividly remember being introduced to my peers as one of the newest members of my fraternity. Belting out chants and proudly sporting my letters, I nervously did my steps with my hands and knees shaking while wearing the classic Black Greek “grit” face. It was fun while it lasted because I learned quickly that it doesn’t take long to come back down to earth after the “big reveal.”

If you are new to the Black Greek family, you have probably already been introduced to “my letters,” words often uttered by those who are already members. It’s almost like when a professor says “my homework” as a way of taking ownership of class content or a service person’s using “my country” to take ownership of the lofty responsibility of protecting their country. We Black Greeks mean well when we say “my letters” but taking ownership of our letters means taking ownership of our missions. It certainly doesn’t mean doing what we want when we want.

Okay, neophyte, let’s look into the future and bestow upon you the great honor of serving as your fraternity’s or sorority’s international leader.If any living member has a right to utter the words “my letters,” the highest leader of the organization certainly does. Imagine becoming inundated one day with media coverage about a hazing incident or about members who rep your letters in “disgusting” fashion. As the person who is charged with leading thousands of men or women to uphold the aims and ideals of your organization, imagine one of these members telling you, “I’m just trying to rep ‘my letters.'”What would you think of that?

See, I know how this scenario plays out because I was the joker who had the unmitigated gall to talk about “my letters” when older and wiser brothers attempted to guide me.

Claim your letters but understand that ownership is about accountability. You are going to make mistakes; we all do. When that happens, apologize for your error, forgive yourself, and keep it moving righteously in the name of your fraternity or sorority. As you descend from the clouds of enjoying your coming-out party, consider these three thoughts to be that brother or soror who will do your letters proud.
You are a leader.

This is non-negotiable. You wanted the letters and you got them, so you now have the responsibility. There is no looking back. Even better, you earned those letters because your frat brothers or sorors saw, and still see, something special in you. Tap into the value you bring to the table and use your leadership skills to honor your fraternity’s or sorority’s mission.

Do it for your college or university, too.

Hey, don’t forget that the reason you had a fraternity or sorority to join is your institution provided the access. Your first responsibility is to be a great student at your college or university, so you rep them as much as you rep your fraternity or sorority. The coolest thing is when your peers from other campuses recognize your chapter’s greatness. It feels good to hear people say, “Those the _____’s from _____ are on it!”

Quality students are watching you.

Let’s be clear about the definition of a quality student. This is a student who is academically qualified for membership, socially responsible, and engaged in campus life.And, trust me, I am keenly aware of the importance of character. These students closely observe how you rep your letters. They may not say anything because they are more concerned with learning who you are than showing you who they are. By the way, if popularity is your only criterion for a quality prospect, that’s all yo’ boy or yo’ girl will bring to the chapter—popularity and nothing else. So, rep your letters to inspire students who can help your fraternity or sorority thrive for years to come on your campus.

As I always say, being Greek isn’t easy. It is work. Enjoy being a Black Greek by all means!Wear your letters proudly, step your heart out, party with your frat and/or sorors, and bask in the attention we Black Greeks get. But never forget that you are part of a lineage of greats who repped their letters by putting the mission first.


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