Why I Became an SGRho...and Why it Matters

Why did I choose this particular organization? Why am I telling you? Action over words
I went to college with zero interest in Greek life. Having attended predominately white schools my whole life, I decided I didn't want to join a traditionally white sorority, but my perception of black sororities—the Divine 9, NPHC, BGLOs (why do we have so many names y'all?)—wasn't much better. Without offense to my sister greeks, I just didn't see the hype; I didn't see sisterhood and quite honestly didn't see any "works" that I thought were worth joining one of their organizations. So, I walked on campus without any inclination of joining a sorority.

The shift in this perception happened when both a friend of mine and a cousin of mine crossed Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. in Spring 2007. I had never heard of the organization before then. My cousin had grown up surrounded by women of Delta Sigma Theta, so I was shocked (as I'm sure they were too) when I logged on to Facebook to see she had chosen differently. For those not familiar with Greek life, specifically black Greek life, most people become what we call legacies. A legacy is someone who joins the same organization as their parent (or family members). For instance, my grandfather is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, so are two of his sons (my uncles); they are legacies. Many times you will see a clustering where mom, daughter, sister, granddaughter, cousins, etc. all join the same organization. So I expected my cousin to become a Delta if she became greek. This reveal was the first to make me wonder what Sigma Gamma Rho (SGRho) was about. It is what prompted me to attend the SGRho neophyte (new member) presentation at my own school.

My freshman year of college there were no SGRhos on campus. The neophyte presentation or probate (at Clemson we weren't allowed to use the word probate officially) was the resurrection of the chapter. I didn't know what to expect. At that point I had only been to a Delta and a Kappa show; both of which had a large (for a predominately white campus) number of new members. I was shocked to see that only one person had joined SGRho and was doing a show by herself—I was further shocked that this one person was a friend of mine, one of the first people I met all the way back at orientation, who lived down the hall from me. When you watch 20 people spit information and perform complicated steps it's entertaining, but when you see one person command an audience and do the same thing alone it's mind-blowing. My first thoughts were along the lines of "that takes guts" and "I want to be able to do that."

Now, as I researched the organization and fell in love with the motto "Greater Service, Greater Progress," I didn't think I would actually be doing a show by myself. There were actually a couple mutual friends I thought might also join. However, I agreed with the focus on service and education; I trusted they didn't do anything too crazy because both my cousin and my friend were Christian women I trusted; and I wanted the strength, boldness, and leadership skills that my friend exhibited in her show. So, even though I was the only one who showed up at the interest meeting that next Spring, I pressed forward and I found myself learning just what it took to earn those skills as I, too, stepped out to do a solo performance.

So why on my Christ-centered blog am I telling you about my experience joining a sorority? There are at least two posts on this blog relating the things I learned from joining the sorority and what I thought should be learned in Church communities (you can check them out here and here.) Today, however, I want to focus on that first step. Christians are often asking the question of how to convert a non-believer, and 9 out of 10 times the methods used backfire only to create more non-believers. What "converted" me from not interested in Greek life to being a member of sorority is the same thing that converted countless non-believers during the early church: action.

Anyone can talk the talk. Take a look at the missions of the four sororities that comprise NPHC[1]:
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority's aim is to enhance the quality of life within the community. Public service, leadership development and education of youth are the hallmarks of the organization's programs and activities. Sigma Gamma Rho addresses concerns that impact society educationally, civically, and economically. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
Alpha Kappa Alpha’s mission is to cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards, to promote unity and friendship among college women, to study and help alleviate problems concerning girls and women in order to improve their social stature, to maintain a progressive interest in college life, and to be of "Service to All Mankind". Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated is an organization of college educated women committed to the constructive development of its members and to public service with a primary focus on the Black community. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Zeta‘s national and local programs include the endowment of its National Educational Foundation community outreach services and support of multiple affiliate organizations. Zeta chapters and auxiliaries have given untotaled hours of voluntary service to educate the public, assist youth, provide scholarships, support organized charities, and promote legislation for social and civic change. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

Did you notice anything? Despite having very distinictive cultures and images in the black community, the mission statements are not that different. Every organization is essentially about service, scholarship, and sisterhood. What makes them different is not the words written on their websites; it's the everyday action of the members in the organization. While I would hope every member read the mission statement of their organization before joining, no one comes to an interest meeting and says they want to join because the mission statment really got to them. It's always something they witnessed. As I mentioned, for me it was the rock solid solo performance that exhibited traits I wanted to have. One of the girls who came after me said she was drawn to us because she saw us recieving academic excellence awards (our chapter maintained a ~3.8GPA average giving us the highest chapter GPA in Greek life for both black and white organizations). Some people talk about interactions with a favorite teacher. Others are impressed with the person who mentored them their freshman year...

SGRho isn't associated with education simply because our founders were educators or because our mission statement says we care about it. We're associated with education because the members of the organization are scholars! I have to scratch my head to start naming sorority sisters (sorors, as we call them in NPHC) who stopped pursuing education after undergrad and I can't think of any that didn't graduate. Most of my sorors have higher degrees and even those who did not become teachers/professors, some form of mentoring or teaching is involved in what they do. We didn't just write it on a piece of paper and then keep repeating it until people believed it, we are out doing it.

This is precisely why the church fails to convert non-believers. Galatians 5:22-23 says "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." How often do we show these traits? How many people can say they experienced peace when around a group of "Christians?" How many people can say they truly felt loved (see 1 Corinthians 13 for God's definition of love)? How many people can say they see joy in life of "Christians" or experienced joy from being around these "Christians?" Are we patient? Do we exhibit self-control? Are we kind? Are we gentle? Do we panic with the rest of the world or are we seen to have faith fueled by hope in times of need?

Can you imagine standing in the crowd in Babylon to see these three men refuse to obey the king even though the punishment was death (Daniel 3)? Can you imagine witnessing Daniel praying even though he was told not to and being thrown in the lion's den (Daniel 6)? What about Esther, approaching the king without being summoned and facing the possibility of death? Or Ruth following her mother in law to a strange land not knowing how they would survive? The Bible is full of people demonstrating their faith. They did not knock on people's door and say "Can I tell you about our Lord and Savior today;" they simply lived according to the faith.

6“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. Deuteronomy 6:6-8 NKJV
When the your actions (hands) match the words (thoughts from your forehead), you are truely sealed and it is then that others will endeavor to follow the path you've chosen.

As Sigma Gamma Rho turns 100 years old, I reflect on how I became a member 12 years ago and how I influenced others to join. I also reflect on those same questions as it pertains to my faith in the Most High God. Do the things I claim to believe match my actions? Do I live life such that people interact with me and think "wow, I want to be like that, I want to learn how to do that?" I hope so.

References and Footnotes

  1. The mission statements of the other three organizations were taken from their national websites. I couldn't find a mission statement for Zeta Phi Beta on their national website, so I substituted a paragraph from their page on the history of the organization which clearly demonstrates what the purpose of the organization.

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