I’ve had multiple conversations over the last couple of weeks with various students, volunteers, alumni, headquarters staff and campus professionals – all centered on the responses from our various headquarters and/or campuses. However the conversations that have given me the most cause for pause have been with students and alumni of fraternities and sororities that feel their headquarters’ statement in “solidarity” of the Black Lives Matter movement has been left wanting.
And after an incredible conversation with a newly hired headquarters consultant, I thought I would provide five very easy (and FREE) ways that headquarters could make a statement that would be more than words that make no real change.
1) Listening Sessions
The greatest give we can give someone is our time. Virtual technologies like Zoom are not new to society, but are gaining exponentially more traction. A technology that’s been around for much longer is the device most of us carry all the time: our phones. What if headquarters staff and national volunteers conducted listening sessions for our members who identify as BIPOC? Literally, just sit and listen to the stories of our members’ and their experiences. Listen to their truth, not in an effort to solve or fix, but to better understand. Only by listening and sharing stories do we feel more connected as human beings. Phone calls and virtual listening sessions cost nothing but time and an open mind.
2) Acknowledgement of Our History
I recently entered into an online ‘discussion’ with alumni of my own fraternity regarding the “Caucasian Clause” that used to exist in our membership selection (on the national level). Granted that clause was removed from our international rules in the mid-1950’s, but the fact that countless alumni never even heard of that clause astounded me. They didn’t know because it was never taught. All NIC-based and NPC organizations had somewhat similar clauses, and if it wasn’t written, it was practiced. We need to acknowledge our past in order to grow from it.
3) Education for Members (Undergraduate and Alumni)
Once we acknowledge our own past, then we can move forward with education. How can headquarters infuse DEI curriculum and resources into the general education of our membership? With most conventions or summer education sessions cancelled due to The Rona, what other methods could we utilize? Are there workshops, modules, e-learning courses, reflection questions, etc that could be provided to chapters? Perhaps part of your future convention curriculum includes a track to address DEI in our membership? Perhaps intentional partnerships with campus-based offices that work directly with BIPOC could be encouraged – as opposed to making it a box to check for national awards. We have the opportunity to be more than a social club with a fraternity/sorority problem. We have the chance to be the activists and change agents that our Founders were.
4) Create Scholarships for BIPOC
What if there were a fund to support members who are going through a hard time or don’t have the socioeconomic means to join or stay members of our organizations? By creating a simple drop down link on our various donor pages that specifically goes to support BIPOC members or new members, we’re literally putting our money where our mouth is.
5) Simply state Black Lives Matter
Three simple words to show we care. I was shocked more organizations didn’t include this in their initial statements. Not surprised, but certainly disappointed. Were organizations concerned the ‘old guard’ would be upset and want to state that all lives matter? If that was the case then refer to #3 above – take this chance to educate that all lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter. All lives can’t matter until LGBTQ+ Lives Matter (I haven’t seen many statements of solidarity during Pride Month yet). To be in solidarity is to state, without reservation, that Black Lives Matter.
This is our chance to be on the right side of history and truly show support for this world and all of our members that inhabit it. My hope is that these five simple (and free) things can help advance our fraternal movement and truly be the brotherhood/sisterhood that we say we are. If you’d like to talk about ways to do any of these items, ways to engage with your membership or ideas on partnerships with campus offices, I’d be more than happy to talk with you, all you have to do is reach out.