Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Our Fight Has Just Begun: Black Greek Letter Organizations in the 21st Century

During the twentieth century, black Greek-Letter organizations (BGLOs) united college students dedicated to excellence, fostered kinship, and uplifted African Americans. Members of these organizations include remarkable and influential individuals such as Martin Luther King Jr., Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, novelist Toni Morrison, and Wall Street pioneer Reginald F. Lewis. Despite the profound influence of these groups, many now question the continuing relevance of BGLOs, arguing that their golden age has passed. Partly because of their perceived link to hip-hop culture, black fraternities and sororities have been unfairly reduced to a media stereotype—a world of hazing without any real substance.

The general public knows very little about BGLOs, and surprisingly the members themselves often do not have a thorough understanding of their history and culture or of the issues currently facing their organizations. To foster a greater engagement with the history and contributions of BGLOs, Black Greek-Letter Organizations in the Twenty-first Century: Our Fight Has Just Begun brings together an impressive group of authors to explore the contributions and continuing possibilities of BGLOs and their members.

Editor Gregory S. Parks and the contributing authors provide historical context for the development of BGLOs, exploring their service activities as well as their relationships with other prominent African American institutions. The book examines BGLOs’ responses to a number of contemporary issues, including non-black membership, homosexuality within BGLOs, and the perception of BGLOs as educated gangs. As illustrated by the organized response of BGLO members to the racial injustice they observed in Jena, Louisiana, these organizations still have a vital mission.

Both internally and externally, BGLOs struggle to forge a relevant identity for the new century. Internally, these groups wrestle with many issues, including hazing, homophobia, petty intergroup competition, and the difficulty of bridging the divide between college and alumni members. Externally, BGLOs face the challenge of rededicating themselves to their communities and leading an aggressive campaign against modern forms of racism, sexism, and other types of fear-driven behavior. By embracing the history of these organizations and exploring their continuing viability and relevance, Black Greek-Letter Organizations in the Twenty-first Century demonstrates that BGLOs can create a positive and enduring future and that their most important work lies ahead.

Contents of the book:

  1. Introduction: Toward a Critical Scholarship - By Gregory S. Parks, J.D., Ph.D. (Cornell U.)
  2. The First and the Finest: The Founders of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity - By Stefan Bradley, Ph.D. (S. Illinois U. at Edwardsville)
  3. The Vision of Virtuous Women: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority's Founding Twenty Pearls - By Stephanie Y. Evans, Ph.D. (U. Florida)
  4. The Last Shall Be First: Omega Psi Phi Fraternity's Founders - By Judson L. Jeffries, Ph.D. (Ohio State U.)
  5. Women of Vision, Catalysts for Change: The Founders of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority - By Jessica Harris, Ph.D. candidate (Cornell U.)
  6. Constitutionally Bound: The Founders of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority - By Matthew Hughey, Ph.D. candidate (U. Virginia)
  7. The Pride of All Our Hearts: The Founders of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity - By Michael Jennings, Ph.D. (U. Texas-San Antonio)
  8. Seven Schoolteachers Challenge the Klan and Establish Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority - By Bernadette Pruitt, Ph.D. (U. Houston), Caryn E. Neumann, Ph.D. (Denison U.), & Katrina Hamilton, M.A. (Pepperdine U.)
  9. A Narrative Critique of Black Greek Letter Organizations and Social Action - By Vernon Mitchell, Ph.D. candidate (Cornell U.) & Jessica Harris, Ph.D. candidate (Cornell U.)
  10. Black Feminist Thought in Black Sororities - By Caryn Neumann, Ph.D. (Denison U.)
  11. Giving and Getting: Philanthropic Activity among Black Greek Letter Organizations - By Marybeth Gasman, Ph.D. (U. Penn.), Patricia J Louison, Ed.D. (U. Penn.), & Mark Barnes, M.A. (West Chester U.)
  12. Strategic Essentialism and Black Greek Identity in the Post-modern Era - By Cynthia L. Shelton, Ph.D. (Kentucky State U.)
  13. "I've Got All My Sisters with Me?": Black Women's Organizations in the 21st Century - By Shirley A. Jackson, Ph.D. (S. Connecticut State U.)
  14. Sisterhood Beyond the Ivory Tower: Exploring Black Sorority Alumnae Membership - By Marcia Hernandez, Ph.D. (U. of the Pacific)
  15. Exploring Black Greek Letter Organizations through a Positive Organizing Lens - By Laura M. Roberts, Ph.D.(Harvard U.) & Lynn P. Wooten, Ph.D. (U. Michigan)
  16. Not on My Line: Examining Attitudes about Homosexuality in Black Fraternities - By Alan DeSantis, Ph.D. (University of Kentucky) & Marcus Coleman, Ph.D. candidate (U. Georgia)
  17. "I Did It For The Brotherhood": Non-Black Members in Black Greek Letter Organizations - By Matthew Hughey, Ph.D. candidate (U. Virginia)
  18. Eating Disorders within Black Sororities - By Tamika C. Zapolski, Ph.D. candidate (U. Kentucky) & Gregory T. Smith, Ph.D. (U. Kentucky)
  19. Modern Fraternities, Ancient Origins - By Charles S. Finch, M.D. (Morehouse College)
  20. "'Cuz I'm Young and I'm Black and My Hat's Real Low?": A Postmodern Critique of Black Greeks as "Educated Gangs" - By Matthew Hughey, Ph.D. candidate (U. Virginia)
  21. Black and White "Greeks": A Call for Collaboration - By Edward Whipple, Ph.D. (Bowling Green State U.) & Martin F. Crichlow, Jr., M.S. (Ohio State U.)
  22. Advising Black Greek Letter Organizations: A Student Development Approach - By Ralph Johnson, Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins U.), Darnell Bradley, Ph.D. candidate (N. Illinois U.), LaKeisha Bryant, M.Ed. candidate (U. Oklahoma), Darren M. Morton, M.S. (St. John's U.) & Don C. Sawyer, III, Ph.D. candidate (Syracuse U.)

Our Fight Has Just Begun is a must read for anyone interested in the future of BGLOs, generally, or their own! Sylvia Cyrus-Albitron, Executive Director, Association for the Study of African American Life and History

Comprehensive and thorough in its scholarship, Black Greek Letter Organizations in the Twenty-First Century … is a must read for members of the organizations, prospective members, the general public, and especially for student service personnel. –Robert L. Harris, Jr., Vice Provost and Professor of History and Africana Studies at Cornell University, and co-editor of The Columbia Guide to African American History Since 1939

… More than a history of the "divine nine," Our Fight Has Just Begun guides the reader through 21st century of Black Greekdom... Can the fight be won? The authors are plainly honest in this smart, engaged scholarship about what it will take for BGLOs to remain contributory and relevant.

Robin Means Coleman, Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Michigan

As recently as fifteen years ago, the body of critical scholarship on Black Greek Letter Organizations was negligible. And yet at various points in history, these organizations have played seminal roles in the African American freedom struggle. Now, with the appearance of … Our Fight Has Just Begun, Gregory S. Parks and other contributors have stepped into this breach with an ambitious collection of essays. –Kenneth R. Janken, Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and author of Rayford W. Logan and the Dilemma of the African-American Intellectual

In the history of American fraternal orders and college fraternities, African-American contributions have long been overlooked. Dr. Parks has successfully organized a distinguished group of scholars and writers who have created a book that fills this oversight… Mark A. Tabbert, Director of Collections, George Washington Masonic National Memorial, and author of American Freemasons: Three Centuries of Building Communities

Black Greek Letter Organizations in the 21st Century: Our Fight Has Just Begun is an essential piece of scholarship for anyone who wants to better understand the history, challenges and triumphs of middle and upper-class African-Americans in the early 1900's and beyond. Frank in its delivery and candid to a fault, no topic is too sensitive for exploration. This book will leave you with a renewed appreciation of African-American culture. –Cheli English-Figaro, Esq., Cofounder and President Emerita, Mocha Moms, Inc.

This work is incisive as to the actions Black Greek Letter Organization's research can examine; scholarship is a critical need in our community and has a chance to be achieved with some guidance and inspiration from our groups. We commend the writers for their in depth comments and thoughts and for a retelling of the history of these important groups. –Cornell Leverette Moore, Grand Sire Archon of Sigma Pi Phi

As a fraternity man, I thought there was very little left for me to learn about the Greek experience. [Our Fight Has Just Begun] proved me terribly wrong. It's a must-read, must-have and the most comprehensive examination of Black Greekculture in print today.Derek Fordjour, Artist/Producer, The Black Sorority Project

Our Fight Has Just Begun is a masterpiece of multidisciplinary scholarship that clearly demonstrates the contemporary relevance of black fraternities and sororities by critically examining their remarkable history and thoroughly analyzing their present-day problems. It lays the groundwork for a fertile new field of scholarly inquiry and is a must read for anyone interested in African American culture and community.
–Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Assistant Professor of History and The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University

… In assembling an impressive range of scholars, research methodologies, and disciplinary frameworks, Gregory Parks has given this under-researched topic the level of critical attention that it deserves. In particular, the contributors reject purely romantic or cynical postures in favor of theoretically sophisticated and personally informed investigations into the contours, complexities, and contradictions of BGLOs. This volume will stand as a central text for anyone interested in the rich legacy and vibrant future of Black sororities and fraternities. –Marc Lamont Hill, Assistant Professor of Urban Education & American Studies at Temple University

Gregory Parks' latest contribution to the documentation and analysis of historically black fraternities and sororities should be celebrated and widely read. The impact of these groups on African-American and mainstream American life in the 20th century must be understood. And Our Fight Has Just Begun will offer considerable insight into their unique histories, challenges and modern-day issues. –C. Brian Williams, Founder and Executive Director, Step Afrika!

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Negrointellectual by Vernon C. Mitchell, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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