At an early age, my parents instilled in me the importance of being self-aware, appreciating my history, and acknowledging how it plays a role in the direction of my future. They were convinced that knowing where I came from would give me the proper propensity I needed to succeed and to succeed greatly. In order for me to grasp this concept, they immersed me in a culture of learning every chance they could. Seriously, while everyone was watching One Saturday Morning, Sweet Valley High and Nickelodeon, my mama made me watch the news or listen to books on tape like I was in the 1930s waiting for the Fireside Chats.
My dad flooded his living room with black literature, black art, a variety of black music (s/o to my late hubby Hendrix) and very black discussions. Yall, I had so much black stuff around me, I was literally SHOCKED when I found out Santa Clause and all my favorite story book characters WEREN’T black: all my book said otherwise (s/o to the Shrine of the Black Madonna) Anywho, I said all that to say this: I love history.
And we can’t talk about Black History Month without taking the time to talk about the amazing contributions of NPHC members. Many, if not majority, of the movers and shakers who lead several movements and made significant strides in their respective fields have been members of the Divine Nine. Whether they pledged into Greekdom or earned honorary recognition, I believe what kept (and keeps) those individuals going is their organization’s mantra/motto. Here are the 5 favorite lessons historical NPHC members have taught me about being legendary– via their national mottos.
5) crew cultivation is key
“Friendship is essential to the soul”- omega psi phi fraternity Inc.
Outside of God, one of my biggest blessings come is my extremely talented, astute, and ambitious squad. Whether it’s my brilliant family members, my audacious friends, or gifted colleagues/ acquaintances, they all help me create an atmosphere of awesome. The best part of rocking with the flock I fly with is we support each other and cultivate a culture of greatness. Together, we think and act in such transformative ways that help us mold the future of tomorrow.
Omegas have taught me a great deal of this. My three favorite Omega Men are Steve Harvey, Tom Joyner, and Earl E Graves Sr. We’re talking about legacies created. All three of these men were able to transform their professions in a way that related, captivated and cultivated a communal movement of its own. Steve Harvey’s candor in comedy, books and show has helped him open up opportunities for his followers to heal, feel and tell their stories in a unique way. Whether that’s through his talk show couch, the Neighborhood Awards or his boys camp in Texas, the community he’s cultivating is based on friendship, understanding and group uplift. Tom Joyner and his distinct radio voice helped boost intense advocacy for matriculation for HBCUs and HBCU pride. Earl’s manifestation of Black Enterprise and it’s influence on black financial literacy and entrepreneurship helped shepherd many black families into financial freedom. They all have used their platforms to create a supportive following that encourages each other, informs each other and elevate each other. And that’s what friends are for.
4) be a beauty and the beast
“Intelligence is the torch of wisdom” – delta sigma theta sorority inc.
A few people in my camp know this: at the beginning of my Greek journey, I only knew of 2 sororities: AKA and DST. I come from pretty good line of AKAs, however it was my Delta mentors – personal and public figures, that stole my heart. Steadfast women like Dorothy Irene Height, Betty Shabazz, Barbara Jordan, Ruby Dee and my all time favorites Shirley Chisholm, Nikki Giovanni (and now Delta ladies) Susan L Taylor and Soledad O’Brian have show me how to marry brains and beauty together seamlessly.
It was the passion, the purpose, the poise and the uncompromising position behind every political & presidential campaign, court case, class lesson, social justice march, magazine issue, televised docu-series that these women emitted that encouraged me to activate my intellect in a way that was ” unbought and unbossed.” They challenged the status quo with resilience and dared people to stretch their thinking. While looks may get you ahead in some instances, it is the value that you bring to the table that will elevate you and the delicious smell that lingers that will make you memorable. (Like how I inserted that food-Jill Scottish reference in there? It’s cuz I’ma Zeta sooo… j/k. Next lesson!)
3) execute and exude black excellence
” achievement in every field of human endeavor” kappa alpha psi fraternity inc.
“by culture, by merit” – alpha kappa alpha sorority inc.
Colin Powell once said, ” If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” That and Jay’s profound statement in F.U.T.W ” Don’t be good my n***a, be great.” reminds me of the Nupes and the Ivies. It doesn’t matter what endeavor they pursue, it’s done with a manner of astounding tact, class and distinction. These men and women have such a dynamic work ethic that ascends past mediocre expectations with a keen demeanor that cannot be denied.
From Johnni Cochran and his history making law practice, Robert L Jonhson establishing the first Black entertainment network for creatives of color, LeCrae introducing Jesus in a fresh way (s/o UNT!), Cathy Hughes founding Radio One, Phylicia Rashad, Maya Angelou and their many contributions to art and activism, the list goes on and on. With each example, it’s easy to identify not only the works of these individuals, but you can point out the impeccable execution of their work as well. I admire that no matter what the Kappas or AKAs do, they strive to finish with their Ivies pointed and their diamonds flawlessly polished. And I aim to do the same every day.
2) being a servant is the greatest form of leadership
” First of all, servants of all, we transcend all.” – alpha phi alpha fraternity Inc.
” culture for service, service for humanity” – phi beta sigma fraternity inc.
“Greater service, greater progress” – sigma gamma rho sorority inc.
You know me, YOU KNOW ME! I’d do anything when it comes to serving my comm-un-i-ty! ( If you read that in Drake’s voice and didn’t think it was cheesy, double cup cool points for you!) No but seriously, as discussed in in last month’s mentorship series, I am an advocate of servant leadership. For goodness sake, Jesus was the greatest leader of all time and he himself served the people that followed. Don’t debate me on that. In the same breath, it’s undeniable that Alphas, Sigmas and SGRhos epitomize this type of leadership to the fullest extent. Even thinking about the people I know today, many times when I’m about and about doing service activities, I can ALWAYS find one of the three, if not all, of these organizations represented and representing well. And it’s no surprise, because their predecessors set the game plan up perfectly.
We had Alphas like Martin Luther King Jr. and Dick Gregory and Sigmas like Congressman John Lewis and Hosea Williams who played intricate roles in the Civil Rights movement. We had Sigma Man Dr. Alain LeRoy Locke who birthed the opportunity for Black creatives and philosophers to flourish during the artistic revolution we know as Harlem Renaissance. Alpha Brother, George Edmont Haynes co-established the National Urban League while Sigma Men Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale started the Black Panther Party, both as a means to mitigate the need for justice, equality, lack of education, resources and other essential unmet needs of the Black community. In the hip hop world, MC Lyte legend and SGRho member uses her platform Hip Hop Sister’s Network as a way to mentor young emcees as well as provide funds for young men aspiring to go to college. Sigma man Lennox Yearwood, CEO and President of the Hip Hop Caucus rallies influential hip hop heads to serve as catalyst for discussion and civic action as it pertains to political and social justice issues effecting our communities. Each of these organizations remind me how important it is to the build our communities fervently and in style.
1) Be about that action; Complacency breeds complaints
“a community-conscious, action-oriented organization” – zeta phi beta sorority inc.
” building a tradition, not resting upon one” iota phi theta fraternity inc.
I am an avid fan and resident of the “don’t talk about it, be about it” clique. One thing I love about Zetas is the fact that they get-things-done-period. Or at least the ones I know of. Rather than sitting on the sidelines debating back and forth on what should be done…we pick a strategy, find a creative outlet and gett’er done for the betterment of our communities. We had Violette Anderson kept her Zeta train pushing her until she became the first African American woman to argue before the Supreme Court.
Recent Zetas are also helping inspire and mold the way we think and act. Two women in particular helped me shape my blog into what it is today. The late, great and amazing Amber Pratcher created Real Zetas, a much needed voice and visual platform for Zeta women who debunked the identity and narrative Greek Life attempted to paint for us. Danielle Belton’s witty and “woke” commentary on social, political, and entertaining issues on her blog The Black Snob helped elevate her assistant editor at the Root and contributor to online magazines and news sources such as Clutch Magazine, XO Nicole, the and Huffington Post. Zetas are narrative creators as we take risk takers, as are the Iotas. Coming in late in the game and changing the Elite Eight to the Divine Nine, didn’t intimidate them. Their founders are living legends and walking history books. Although they are the babies of our council, every Iota man I know is making proactive strides to create ardent, strong, and influential traditions in their own right.
I hope you guys are having a fantastic Black History Month! May you continue to be enlightened, informed and inspired.