Anniversaries are times to look at a certain date or milestone and its degree of relevancy, longevity, and impact. Significant dates on a personal or collective can cover a myriad of topics, be it a birthday, a first date, a wedding anniversary, job anniversary, church anniversary, or other founding date. To the individual and the collective, some can see its impact on helping keep families or communities together, or helping make things better while knowing there is work that still remains.
Seeing that work remains is true for any member of a Black Greek Letter Organization, especially for those who sincerely understand their respective organization's mission and purpose, the historical conditions in which they are forged, the impact of its notable members, and the potential impact that can be made in the present day. However, there are those who don't quite see it, and that could be due to the fact that the only time they see members of our "Divine 9" or interact with them is in a limited manner, typically of some sort of social event. Likewise, when we have an opportunity to share our stories, we may not always articulate it or its meaning.
Here's a story for you to tell and share to let others know that there are more dimensions to said organizations than just a party. It started 23 years ago, specifically April 13, 1991 at a small, liberal arts based private institution in the Southeast which has since evolved into a top-25 nationally recognized institution of higher learning. 8 young African-American students, hailing from the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, just so happened to complete their "training" by becoming members of a chapter whose larger organization is established on the principles of Manly Deeds, Scholarship, and Love for All Mankind.
It sounds a little lofty that a bunch of 18 and 19 year old young men could really understand such a principle, or even measure up to it. But after something called growth, maturity, a dose of wisdom, humility, a sense of humor, and an understanding of the stewardship required, these men are getting it, and continue to do so. On a professional level, ministry, medicine, law, higher education, a high school athletic director, working in psychological and social services, and nonprofits (and a quiet phase of a company launch) sound like examples of professional achievement. Most of these men (5) are also heads of households via marriage (or close to it), and there's one who has almost reached that milestone (you'll just have to pray for him), and that in and of itself is something to celebrate.
But there's more to it.
What they do in their communities does have an impact. Working with young people from all walks of life through their careers, their places of worship, or their nonprofits is something of meaning, definitely when you consider that some of these men still hear from their former students in the form of a thank you call, text, or lunch as they share what they are doing on the 2-year, 4-year, trade school, and even professional level. Money isn't everything, but one of their members (among some of the things he does), via their foundation's scholarship program (established in 2008), has been able to provide nearly $95,000 in scholarship funding opportunities to support the post-high school aspirations of a number of graduating high school seniors, as well as students in the college setting.
One member (again, among the work he takes on), is the administrator of a scholarship program which targets first generation college students, the Magnolia Scholars Program. Given his (and his staff's) dedication to serve, the program not only received a $7.5 million donation to support its students, a blend of African-American, Spanish-speaking, International, Native American, and Caucasian students, but is in line due to his university's capital campaign to raise at least another $15 million (or more) to continue such work that will clearly be able to make some sort of impact. Another is formerly a member of an ownership group of an NBA franchise, and the list and work being done by those who reside in or near Winston-Salem (NC), Henderson (KY), Los Angeles (CA), Columbia (SC), Lynchburg (VA), Charlotte (NC), and Atlanta (GA) goes on an on if you take time to talk with and listen to them.
Now, these men may not be as visible as some of their higher profile members ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr, Maynard Jackson, Blake Morant, Gregory Parks, or even Dick Gregory. But they aren't in it for the pomp and circumstance; they are in it for taking on the challenge that many point out and talk about, but continuously sit on the sidelines, and that is the call to serve. And that underlying spirit of servitude and stewardship can make an impact when one (or a collective) commits to it.
The next time someone says that organizations such as Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., or Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. do not or are not making a difference, to the members of the aforementioned organizations, not only politely share your historical story, but share what you are doing individually and collectively other than the next function that one can shake their tail feather or personal donkey. And if all that you are doing is just that, then perhaps you may want to reread your history book and recommit to the true nature and principles of your organization.
These men by example aren't caricatures of their fraternity or the chapter though which they became (or are) members of; while there is still more they have to learn and more they have to do, they do have a track record of being the part instead of pretending to be. The road is never easy, and at times, there's a family member, co-worker, friend, want-to-be friend, significant other, or want to be some of of title of connectivity who doesn't grasp the concept, but the more one takes time to talk with and listen to, it is amazing the individual and collective impact that can be made.
And for these 8 men, while today is a day to reflect, it's a constant reminder of moving onward and upward, and bringing as many as possible with them in order to make their communities better.
23 sure has a ring of relevancy.