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February 05, 2014 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-02-05

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6B W desaFeray ,204 Satmn

Rushing your roots: minority Greek life at the 'U'
by Emma Kerr

For students of color, the Greek life expe-
rience can provide a community where
cultural roots are shared and celebrated.
Yet the barriers that separate students
100.,racially within Greek life on campus are
also unwritten and unacknowledged.
White students rush a Panhellenic sorority
or an Interfraternity Council. Some Black
students turn to the National Panhellenic
Council - the historically Black Greek
council.
The National Panhellenic Council is
primarily composed of historically Black
Greek Institutions and the Multicultural
Greek Council primarily serves ethnicity
based Greek Institutions. Both are smaller
and less widely known, and are not affili-
ated with Panhellenic or IFC.
Erin Fischer, an LSA senior and Phi Rho
Alpha president, spoke to the different chal-
lenges students of color are presented with
and particularly the obstacles she has faced
over the past four years as one of very few
Black women in her sorority. After taking a
stance last fall against the Theta Xi "Hood
Ratchet Thursday" incident, Fischer con-
tinues to see a long-standing racial divide
within Greek life at the University.
"There's this really weird segregation,"
Fisher said, "I think coming into college
as a person of color, if you are interested in
A"Greek life at all, you either kind of disobey
and leave that identity behind and join an
IFC or Panhellenic sorority or fraternity, or
you completely indulge in that part of your
identity and join one of ... those more his-
torically Black or ethnic sororities. I think
there's this great divide where your identi-
ties don't intersect and you have to kind of
pick a side."
LSA junior Sheetal Gade, a first-gener-
ation Indian-American and an executive
board member of MGC, said a separation
exists between minority fraternities and
sororities and their Panhellenic and IFC
counterparts.
"The reality of it is that most Panhel girls
don't even know what MGC is," Gade said.
"I don't think they teach their pledges about
MGC or NPHC, like that these are your fel-
low Greek sisters and brothers."
While the endless train of freshmen
snakes down State Street every fall with
girls dreaming of walking in the footsteps
of their mothers and fulfilling their legacy,
for many women and men in the MGC and
NPHC of cultural backgrounds, Greek life
b...is not a familial tradition.
"I know in high school, all of my best
friends were white girls and their moms
were Tri-Delts and their grandmas were
Tri-Delts - they were going to be Tri-
Delts," Gale said. "I know that for me, I'm
a first-generation Indian, so my parents did
not go to college here, so they don't know
what Greek life is. They still don't under-
stand what'I do."

the thought bubble

Partly because of this. many of the Black
students involved in Greek life are there
because of the community, not necessarily
to fulfill a personal legacy.
LSA senior Joshua Allen, one of the first
of nearly 30 fraternity brothers to agree to
speak on behalf of NPHC to the Daily, is a
member of Kappa Alpha Phi. He explained
just how deep the Kappa brotherhood runs,
and how that powerful network led him to
join an NPHC fraternity.
"Years down the road, you can still ask us
who our founders are, when we were found-
ed, and we can still tell you just as quickly
as we could from day one after we got into
our fraternities and sororities," Allen said.

Asian communities. Beyond the logistics,
the members of these and NPHC sorori-
ties and fraternities bond and commit to
each other and their organizations in such
a long-term way because they make a deep-
er connection with one another, one that
emphasizes their roots.
"We really enjoy sharing that connection
with our sisters ... Our language and culture
is a deeper connection for us than just the
superficial, 'Oh, we like the same shows.'
That's cool and all, but where you come
from is something different," Gade said.
Each fraternity and sorority is equipped
with its own unique identity and mission.
For members of the NPHC, that bond is

how far outside the box people try to think
of it," Allen said.
So why do minority students have their
own separate councils and institutions-
why not join IFC or Panhellenic? Cultural
influences are part of the answer.
"I think, especially like stepping and a
lot community service that a lot of the his-
torically Black fraternities do, it's a cultural
thing," Fischer said. "I feel like it is a very
welcoming community, and I feel like espe-
cially if you come from a community back
home where you're surrounded by people
who look like you, talk like you, act like you,
and have the same background, it can be
very comforting, especially in a predomi-
nately white University."
For NPHC, it's all about the support sys-
tem, the connections, the bond and the mis-
sion. The Multi-cultural fraternities and
sororities give students the chance to forge
bonds with others who have experienced
similar obstacles and share backgrounds.
For many students, those backgrounds will
have sweeping implications for their social
circles at the University. Fischer grew up in
a predominately white suburb, which she
said may explain why she felt more com-
fortable joining a sorority that is largely
white.
Despite that familiarity, there is still
some divide within her sorority that's hard
to define.
"A lot of it is just that they are already
so predominately white that you go in and
you're the only person who looks like you.
Sometimes you can be the only person talks
like you, uses a certain dialect, I think that
there are a lot of assumptions about you,"
Fischer said, "I know when I try to have
these conversations with girls in my house,
they say 'Well we don't understand, I accept
you. I have lots of Black friends.' That's
awesome, but it doesn't mean we come from
the same place and it doesn't mean that we
are going to see things from the same point
of view."
Gade said that despite growing up in a
mostly white community, she joined a South
Asian/Indian sorority in order to prevent
her from losing her cultural heritage.
"You don't want to forget your roots.
I'm first-generation, but I'm an American
citizen - I don't want to forget, I wouldn't
want my kids to forget where they come
from, their language, their religious festi-
vals, any of that," Gade said.
She added that this was a conscious
choice for her - to either completely
indulge in American culture and forget
where she came from, or to keep her past a
constant in her present.
The cultures and rich traditions that
have grown in the NPHC and MGC com-
munities serve students in a way that IFC
and Panhellenic often can't, by giving
them a space o campus So call their own.

online comments
ON BRENDAN GIBBONS

"Let's not use weak language surrounding Brendan
Gibbons. He is EXPELLED from the University of
Michigan for RAPE. Let's also not praise the University
for finally acting upon the incident. Their tardiness
allowed him to continue representing the football
program for three additional years following his
disgraceful behavior."
- LAUREN LIPAROTO ZANGER
"You Google 'Michigan' and the first 10 stories you get
are about athletics. We've got to find ways to leverage
that level of public attention onto the other wonderful
things that are happening on campus as well."
- SAM ADOLPH
"Let us hope that his degree in social work is never
used. A rapist masquerading as someone who can help
improve quality of life or facilitate change would be a
disaster.
- HANNA SHERMAN

"Try as many different, random classes as you can ... I've taken a class
abouthippies, beatniks and punks. I've taken Women's Studies courses. Ijust
take classes I'm interested in; I think it keeps you going and more propelled
toward what you want to do, as long as you get the diverse experience and
explore different concepts."
- COURTNEY WRIGHT, LSA junior

trending

Seth Myers made
his final goodbye
on SNLs Weekend
Update on Saturday.
While Cecily Strong
teared up, Andy
Samberg,Amy
Poehler and Stefan
made appearances
to send Myers off.
Lean writer Colin
Jost will be taking
NBC COM hispplace.

RUBY WALLAU/Daily
Members of Zeta Phi Beta perform at the Annual Blue and White Stroll Off hosted by Phi Beta Sigma
Fraternity and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority at Palmer Commons on Saturday.

Hotlanta failed to live upto its name,
experiencing a blimp in its weather system -
covering the city in two inches of snow. The
result: an overreaction that caused the city to
shut down its highways.
p--

"A lot of people back home that were men-
tors of mine were Kappas, so it was definite-
ly something I wanted to be a part of."
The sense of pride, tradition and close-
ness these minority-based fraternities and
sororities experience can be attributed at
least in part to their fairly intimate size.
For the Kappas, their membership intake
this year, which has beenincreasing,
was at an unusual high of 14 new members.
"Because there are so few of us, I can
see why we are more tight knit. There are
sometimes pledge classes of IFC fraterni-
ties of 40 people and 40 people can give or
take be our entire council so we're tight in
the sense that there's not many of us so we
definitely are really close with each other,"
Allen said.
The fraternities and sororities that make
up MGC are in a similar situation. There are
10 fraternities and sororities in MGC, four
of which are Latina, four serve students of
Asian descent and two serve Indian/South

palpable when you see these brothers and
sisters perform together, particularly in
regards to stepping. Stepping, an intensive
mixture of movement, spoken word and
physical expression is a huge part of the cul-
ture surrounding these historically Black
fraternities and sororities - it's intense,
passionate and visually exciting.
The stepping thathappens at Midnight
Madness - a dance competition hosted by
NPHC held on the Diag every September -
is just a preview for the real competition,
which happens in April and is not taken
lightly. Stroll-offs are another tradition
of NPHC fraternities and sororities that
is unique. Every organization has its own
traditions when it comes to stepping and
strolling, movements that are unique to
each fraternity or sorority.
"I really enjoy going to the shows and not
only participating but watching what my
colleagues come up with too, because we all
try to'be so creative.'Ii' really funny t'fsee

a-

J

I

One of America's best actors - known for
winning numerous awards, including Best
Actor for his role in 'Capote' - passed away
this week. Though autopsy results are
unreleased, it is speculated to be due to drug

F

It's the most
watched TV event
in history, and not
without reason.
Well, maybe
without reason.
The Seahawks
trumped the
Broncos, 43-8.
How's that for
unimpressive?

APPOO " atYr

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