During my collegiate experience, I knew I wanted to be part of something that was much more than myself. As a college student, one of the best ways to do this is to join a Greek affiliated organization. As a black student, I was expected to join an organization within the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), which houses 5 historically African-American fraternities known as Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., or Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. Many and almost all of the members in these organizations are people of color (POC) and were made for us, by us.
However, my undergraduate institution only housed two NPHC fraternities, one of which was removed from campus at the start of my freshman year. The other fraternity just wasn’t the right fit even though I was a legacy (Someone who’s sibling, parent, aunt or uncle were in a sorority or fraternity) and I wanted the entire Greek life in college experience.
I soon found my brotherhood, Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) which is an organization within the North-American Interfraternity Conference also known as the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC). Although I was one of about three black men in the chapter, my brothers welcomed me with open arms. They didn’t judge me because of the color of my skin or because of what I looked like. What mattered was the values that we all shared. That we all desired to be leaders and to be part of something that is more than ourselves as individuals.
Being a POC in an IFC fraternity, sometimes made me feel like an outsider as well. There are many times when I am confronted by a member of an NPHC fraternity and I am told one of the following: “Is that an academic fraternity?” or “So you too good to be in a black fraternity huh?” or “So you chose them cause you didn’t want to have to put in real work to wear letters”. Or I am confronted by a non-Greek or a member of another organization and they automatically assume that I am a member of an NPHC organization because I am black and then seeing their look of disappointment when I tell them that I’m not.
When this happens, I often ask myself if joining ATO was the right thing. Should I maybe have waited to join an alumni chapter of a NPHC organization? Should I had still tried to make myself fit in to the organization that I was a legacy?
The answer to both of these questions is No. Why? Because no other organizations have helped me become the leader I am like ATO. I love and respect all of my brothers and everyday my days in ATO push me to continue to grow as a leader and a individual.
I understand why an individual would want me to be part of an NPHC organization, however, it just wasn’t in the cards for me. It is 2017 now. Things are different. Not all POCs are in divine 9 organizations and not all non-POCs are in IFC or NPC (National Pan-Hellenic Conference) organizations.
ATO helped mold me into the man and leader that I am today. I will continue to live by our values each day and wear my letters with pride.