This week in Greek life was made interesting by controversial conversations regarding what role Black Greek Letter Organizations should play in the new civil rights movement taking place in cities across America. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc and Delta Sigma Theta were both criticized for issuing statements to members asking them not to wear their letters or logos to protests against police brutality and the killing of unarmed black men at the hands of police.
Professor Gregory Parks, a law professor at Wake Forest University, recently wrote that he and other leaders in the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity plan to stand united in support of the protesters.
Today, Mary B. Wright, the International President of Zeta Phi Beta, Inc, has issued a letter to the organization’s members that not only affirms the group’s commitment to these social causes, but asks them to do even more. In the statement on the organization’s website, Wright calls on Zetas with specialized expertise to lend their skills to the movement to pursue justice on behalf of black people everywhere.
Here’s the statement:
As a leading international women’s service organization with a 94-year commitment to the advancement of our communities, Zetas worldwide pray for peace and healing, not only in Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio, but also all across our nation.
We recognize that the events surrounding the senseless killing of African-American boys and men in U.S. cities, both near and far, point to a series of systemic issues that exist in our communities. While we cannot change the past, we can and will create a better tomorrow. Our children and our communities deserve to live without fear.
Our sorority member, Elisabeth Omilami, daughter of civil rights leader Hosea Williams, reminds us that “we must remain non-violent in our protesting, but we must continue to protest.” As Zetas, our protest must come in the form of action.
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, a community-conscious, action-oriented organization, will lead by example.
Leaders within Zeta with expertise in law, law enforcement, political engagement, and youth development have crafted a national civic engagement program entitled “Get Engaged,” which will be released to Zeta’s chapters on December 22, 2014. “Get Engaged” will be implemented by the chapters in early 2015 and beyond. Zeta stands committed to fostering citizen engagement and strengthening relationships among the community, elected officials, law enforcement, and educators.
To my sorors, let’s show the world what women driven by purpose can do to drive life-saving change. Get involved and get engaged – because all lives matter.
Mary B. Wright
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated
Financial Juneteenth lessons from this story:
As lines are being drawn in the sand during this critical moment in black history, organizations are being asked to decide if they are willing to risk potential damage to their corporate brands that might come from being identified as being too “radical.” The fundamental idea here, however, is that many African Americans (particularly those in corporate America) are taught to believe that hiding from the truth is their key to survival and prosperity. Many of us would live entirely different lives if we didn’t feel that wealthy white people were watching our every move.
So, when Delta and AKA leadership ask members not to wear their letters and logos when they protest, they are basically saying, “We don’t want rich white people to identify us as bad negroes.” The idea that even the most vile, unethical and disrespectful whites are able to obtain the unconditional allegiance of black leaders is a clear symbol of just how little equity the black community has in its own social destiny.
The hope is that the Zetas and Alphas, as well as conscientious AKAs and Deltas are going to end up on the right side of history. It’s difficult for anyone to argue that the death of Eric Garner was justified in any meaningful way. Additionally, the onus may be on members of the black community to also learn the importance of supporting black institutions that might risk marginalization for standing up for important social causes. The bottom line is that dependence upon money from white America often creates ethical conflicts for any black person who doesn’t have a clear knowledge of self. We must be strong enough to not always feel that we have to take the money.