Everyone (well, I hope everyone) is aware that today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. No, today is not his birthday. For those of you that didn’t know, his birthday was the 15th of January. His birthday is simply observed on the third Monday of January. This was a day that was not observed until 1986, 3 years after the holiday was signed into law. It wasn’t until 2000 that all 50 states decided to recognize MLK Day.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the first Black Greek Letter Organization established (at an Ivy League school, Cornell, no less). Those who know me well know that my allegiance to my fraternity (Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.) is strong. However, we all view him as a fraternity brother. Each fraternity and sorority has “distinguished members”, which are Greeks that have become famous for whatever reason. We are all expected to know our history and pay homage to our founders, brothers and sisters when given the chance.
Sometimes, things get a little testy. Be it at a step show, party, probate show…there is definitely animosity at times. And yet, at the end of the day, my motto is “Greek love”. You may be a member of a different fraternity and stand for something different from I, but when it’s all said and done, I have love for all of my Greek brothers and sisters. Black, White, Latino, Asian, African, European, it doesn’t matter to me as long as you do the best that you can to serve your community and represent your organization with pride and dignity.
I have been a witness to some of the chaos that is a step show, and have seen firsthand how Greeks can be at each other’s throats. I’ve also seen Greeks work to together towards a common cause. We’ve had the support of Kappas, Ques, Deltas, and AKAs when trying to raise money for diabetes awareness. My brothers and I have attended SGRho functions to simply show our support, and have worked with Iotas to help troubled young men in the state of Michigan.
Yes, one of the “perks” of belonging to a fraternity or sorority is an increase in social status on campus, but we also make sure that we put in work. We understand that we are an example to many, and that we have a reputation to uphold. If one of us does something ill-advised, it is not a reflection on that person, but on the Greek organization that he/she belongs to. We set out to make sure that our peers know that while we may technically belong to a private group, we are still very much a part of the campus community.
I believe the same attitude should apply to everyday society. You don’t need to be a member of a fraternity or sorority to get together with friends, or like-minded people, and do good for others. There’s no need to pledge if you want to mentor, or give your time to a cause, or help those in need. It’s unnecessary to own a shirt, sweater, or jacket with Greek letters embroidered on it to want to set a good example for those surrounding you.
I love my fraternity, but I will never let it define me, which I assume was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s way of thinking. I think of myself as a man that wants to do whatever he can to make the next person’s life a bit easier. I will not allow my race to limit me from learning as much as I can and interacting with others. I refuse to let differences have a negative effect on how I interact with those same people. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter that I’m a 24 year-old Black male from the south side of Chicago. I was raised to be an open-minded person, and that’s what I will continue to be until the day I die. At the end of each and every day, I just want to be a little bit better. I’m sure Martin Luther King, Jr. wouldn’t have wanted things any other way…
P.S. I miss Karen!!!
P.P.S. “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”–Martin Luther King, Jr.