Today, a conversation with a co-worker, a member of a Black Greek-letter fraternity went to this affect after telling him tommorow marks my five years in Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority:
Co-worker: (Jokingly) "I don't even want to say how many years it's been for me-[He then goes to say the year he was initiated]-probably before you were even born"
Me: [Tells the year I was born]
Me: (Referring to the co-workers time as a fraternity member) "That's not old, that's growth"
This hasn't been the first time a member of a Black Greek-Letter organization (BGLO) has placed value to any length of time of active membership. In a conversation with another BGLO member, the response to my mentioning being active in my sorority for five years was "So you've been in there a while". Such comments led me to think about the underlying significance in continuous activity in a Black Greek-letter organization for me: continuous service and growth through self-giving.
Andre McKenzie notes the in his essay In the Beginning, "...the BGLO movement has provided its members with the opportunity to experience the camaradere of brotherhood and sisterhood, service to others, and social and personal development". This experience is lifelong, given BGLO affilliation "..has continued...through active participation in graduate chapters." According to Tamara Brown, in her introduction to her book African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision (in which McKenzie's essay is featured) service and growth was inherent in the purpose of forming such organzaitions. She contends they "began to take shape...as a means...to...create better men and women, and affect social change". How does this happen? This is achieved through a self-giving love of one's neighbor.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI asserts in God is Love that love is a "journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery" Regarding BGLOs, Brown observes "the fraternal idea is best understood as tangible relationships" which is formed by the reconstruction of the self from an individual to the group. The aforementioned social and personal devlopment fostered through BGLO membership, then, can be seen as being rooted in non-selfish giving of oneself to fellow members and the community at large. It can also be gleaned that such giving should be continuous.
Benedict XVI further notes in his aforementioned work that "love is never 'finished' and complete; throughout life, it changes and matures and thus remains faithful to itself". In terms of BGLO emmbership, McKenzie assertion illustrates this, as noted above. Hence, service and growth has an important link to continuous membership in a BGLO.
In a nutshell, to serve one's fellow man is to grow as a person. This is and has been at the heart of membership of a Black Greek-letter organization. This has been especially true for your humble blogger. To the BGLO founders and members that have come before, an insurmountable amount of gratitude and honor are owed to you. To the BGLO members of the present (special acknowledgement to my sorority sisters-you know who you are), this is a love letter to you. Without you, my Greekdom would not be possible.
Brown, Tamara, Parks, Gregory S., and Phillips, Clarendia M. African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision. (Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press, 2005)
Pope Benedict XVI. God is Love. (San Fransisco: Ignatius Press, 2006).