So I’m a Black Greek.
So is your grandmother.
So is my godmother and your godmother.
People join Black Greek organizations for many reasons, some of them amazingly stupid. They just want to be popular. They like to step. They like the colors. I think in many ways, they just want to be chosen.
I wasn’t chosen a lot as a kid. I wasn’t really popular. I wasn’t that good at sports. I never went to the prom. Your mom was a nerd at the school for nerds, Alonzo Bates Academy. Being chosen was nice. But that’s not how I arrived at Delta.
I rushed the regular Greek system at Northwestern first. And by “regular Greek system” I mean “the sororities with one billion white girls, four Asians, and a black girl.” I also mean “rich.” They all had beautiful houses with their letters over the door. The rush system was interesting, there was a lot of choosing and whittling down of who wants who. They all had cute little animals and symbols and philanthropic charities. I think I liked Kappa Kappa Gamma. But as a black girl, the idea of a sweatshirt with only two Ks on it was a little … unsettling. Maybe Delta Delta Delta.
Then three things happened.
My mother was not trying to pay all the money they wanted. And she was not trying to have me join a sorority my freshman year.
ME: But MOOOOOOOOM! They take freshmen!
MOM: Why the rush? Y'all just got there? You don’t know your elbow from a hole in the ground. How can you choose the right one? How will they know you won’t immediately flunk out?
ME: But moooooom! It’s HARD to get in when you’re a sophmore! They like FRESHMEN.
MOM: And why do you think that is?
Um, to get the maximum amount of money during your time in college? Because they are kind of just looking for numbers to pay for those houses? They don’t really care what you’re really like? DANG. I hate it when she logics me to death.
Anyhow, she said I could join whatever I wanted. She just wan’t going to pay for it. Which meant I wasn’t joining. Because unless I took a work study job selling crack? No haps.
But either way, something else happened. Those goddamn girls didn’t accept G. She was tall and solid with a great laugh and a huge mane of beautiful hair. But she wasn’t like them. She was warm and friendly. She was artistic and direct. And you knew that you weren’t just going to tell G something stupid and go unchallenged. She was a woman in a sea of frail, nervous girls. And worst of all? She was a sophomore, up against a teeming eager-eyed throng of idiots.
None of the ones she wanted, wanted her. I’m not even sure any of them said yes to her. I remember that making her very upset.
And even though I was mad at my mom for not just fessing up with the thousands of dollars? In my heart of hearts, I didn’t really want to join a club that wasn’t fighting amongst themselves to have G. I didn’t know a lot. But I knew that was a woman worth having.
G is a big Hollywood writer now. So THERE, losers.
Anyhow, that was that for them.
Spring came and I started to get restless at NU - long story short? I started missing black folks. Don’t get me wrong - I loved all my friends. I just missed people who watched Martin. I wanted people that already knew what I put in my hair. It was the culture that I missed. I remember my friend Shanta and I gleefully sharing a can of collard greens.
I remember my friend Glendon Palmer, took Shanta over to his dorm. He opened the door on a lounge and THERE WERE 500 BLACK PEOPLE PLAYING SPADES.
Shanta and I? We exhaled.
That night led me to meet a Delta. Tonya. From Delta Sigma Theta. And I learned that this sorority is about more than philanthropy. Raising money is important. But this organization was about public service. Hands on. Every week. And I liked the women I met. One of which created TV shows called Girlfriends and The Game. Another is a doctor. Another is a professor. They were interesting. And strangely business-like.
I called my mother. I wanted to pledge Delta.
She still wouldn’t pay for it. I figured out how to do it myself.
Even today, almost twenty years later, Delta changes me. In a city with a very low population of black folks, chapter meetings are full of black women. And while they most certainly are not playing spades, I exhale. And I have found a sense of … place. I lead hoardes of young folks all day at work. But I enjoy being in the company of my elders. It is settling in a way I hardly know how to explain.
Perhaps I am back among the long gone Gaston Girls - my grandmother and her sisters? Women who will tell me that everything will be okay and I believe they know what they are talking about? Women that are looking to me to pick up the torch and use all my gifts to keep it burning as they have done for so many years? They have … expectations.
And the Delta I became in 1991 has expectations. But it is easier to see them when they are reflected in the faces of other Deltas.