After attending different events and parties and being approached by members of other fraternities, three freshmen saw a need for a frat specifically designed for, but not exclusively limited to men of color, with an emphasis on diversity. The three friends wanted to be a part of Greek Life but could not find a frat that they felt compatible with.
Speaking about his vision for the new frat, freshman Maliq Champion remarked, “We wanted to improve the diversity on campus. I felt like there was predominantly white fraternities on campus and greek [life] holds a lot of power to the University and to see men of color amongst the same power can be very empowering and cause enlightenment. I feel like stereotypically, men of color, their bonds are associated with sports, and to become a fraternity, it just feels that we can bond and connect over different ideas, not just athletics.”
Freshmen Alieu B. Corr, Maliq Champion, and Mo Abdelrahman have set out to start their own fraternity established for those that identify as men of color. The idea came about originally as a joke amongst the friends, who then took action by reaching out to members of the sorority Alpha Chi Delta. Alpha Chi Delta has assisted and supported them in taking the idea further, ultimately proposing it to the Director of Greek Life Christy Clinton.
The process for creating a new fraternity or sorority takes three semesters if done in a timely manner and is comprised of three phases.
“When it comes to starting a new group I don’t think people realize it’s not just writing a constitution, it’s getting enough people involved and invested, writing the constitution, writing bylaws, writing a new member process, finding and formalizing things from colors to letters,” Clinton said. “So starting a new greek organization, it’s a little bit intense, but it’s fun.”
Senior Sam Yaeger is the president of the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) and said that when he brought up the idea of the potential new fraternity at an IFC meeting he was met with some apprehension due to the fact that the school might change to a one semester rush process. Currently, some fraternities are struggling to get their needed numbers, which concerns all other fraternities because those involved in Greek life want it to be wholly successful. The idea of adding another fraternity worries some because it would be yet another group to be concerned about.
“It’s not that we don’t want another fraternity in there, it’s that a lot of things are happening right now and there’s a lot of moving parts that are going on and things are kind of fluid internally within IFC and within the Greek community as a whole,” Yaeger said. “We don’t want to see someone come in and instantly possibly fail if something goes wrong, have someone go down, crash and burn and then have to try and go into another organization.”
Another concern is the fact that the interested students are freshmen, and therefore are not allowed to go through the rush process and have not had the opportunity to fully explore each fraternity outside of a theoretical perspective. Overall, the IFC is open to the idea and excited to listen to the interested students, however they would prefer if the men first rushed, attended events and saw what each fraternity is about first and if they feel the same way after, they would continue the new colony process.
Yeager explains, “At first they were kind of skeptical, they were like ‘well what do they want that’s different than us?’ And then we heard that they wanted to be sort of a multicultural fraternity and we were like ‘you know what, we don’t have that.’ If that’s really what they want to come in with we would love it, it would be a new thing that our fraternities offer,” Yaeger said. “We all thought that we did a pretty good job of being multicultural in a sense and being diverse with who we brought in and all that, no fraternity has ever denied someone because of the color of their skin, because of their culture.”
The men interested in starting the new organization sat down to reflect on the school climate and how they want to make an impact on the school and its social setting by creating a space for men of color within greek life.
“Frats are historically white and as of now they’re overwhelmingly white and it’d be nice to have one that’s more welcoming to people of color,” Abdelrahman said. “Especially with the movement of more diversity and to become more diverse,” Champion added.
“It’s not greek life’s fault per se, it’s just the hand they were dealt with. Redlands is a predominantly white school, there is nothing we can do to change that, except for unify the black community, which isn’t to segregate, but to empower.” Corr said.
The men also responded to the idea that because they are Freshmen, they have not rushed yet, therefore may not know whether they fit into current fraternities.
“It’s not that we dislike other frats, but it’s compatibility and we just need somewhere for us,” Corr said. “We’re not trying to miss out on greek life but at the same time we definitely feel like we don’t fit into the other greek life, and there’s the argument that we haven’t rushed yet, but regardless, there are some things you just know; I’m not going to rush and then all of the sudden fit in.”
Mo said that due to the pervasiveness of greek life on campus and the fact that fraternities and sororities manage a lot of events and throw the majority of parties, as well as conduct philanthropy within their organizations, they want greek life to be a part of their college experience as well.
“I feel like the social dynamic within our friend group is very different than the social dynamic of other frats, it’s not that they’re wrong in any way, it’s just different,” Abdelrahman said. “It’s like when frats invite people to parties, the frats are already predominantly white, it’s most likely going to stem into other white people coming to the same party which can lead to a lot of exclusion of people of color. But if it’s us, we can be more open to people that are like us and anyone that’s willing to join.”
The friends said that they have reached out to other men of color on campus, many of whom reported that they were not planning on rushing next year until they heard about this potential organization.
“I feel that all we’re doing is creating another branch, another section, another personality in frat life that people can reach out to and possibly enjoy their frat experience a bit more,” Corr said. “Most men of color simply do not want to rush other frats, which sounds like a shot on the other frats but it’s not, so if someone were to say that we are taking away from something is a baseless claim because we are simply reaching out to an audience that they could not captivate because they did not resonate with the frats to start off with.”
The University of Redlands currently has the sorority Alpha Chi Delta on campus whose goal is to empower women of color. If all goes well, it is hopeful that this potential new organization and Alpha Chi Delta could be constitutionally bound, sister and brother organizations. The interested members have been meeting with members of Alpha Chi Delta regularly, where members of the sorority have answered their questions along with supporting them through the process.
“I think more than anything, they need to know that they have support, and that’s where we come in more than anything, because we support them 100%,” Senior and President of Alpha Chi Delta Jordyn Carroll said.
Alpha Chi Delta was refounded on March 31, 2016. The organization was refounded from an organization that was designed for “Women of all Colors and Creeds.”
“It’s based on the principle of empowering women of color, so you don’t have to be a woman of color to empower women of color, you don’t have to be multicultural but we celebrate culture, we like to share our culture with each other,” Carroll said.
Alumna and member of Alpha Chi Delta’s founding class, Jewel Patterson spoke about some of the shared ideals between Alpha Chi Delta and this potential new organization.
“They’re going to be inclusive, and something that I want to point out, that I think is really important is that, when you say multicultural, oftentimes, black culture is at the bottom of that, after everyone else’s culture,” Patterson said. “So what is important about these two organizations is that both are founded on black culture, which does not mean we don’t accept other culture’s. So many things that we do [Alpha Chi Delta], come from black culture so that we know that black culture will be upheld and will not be forgotten in a multicultural organization. But I’m counting on every one of my sisters to bring their culture because if there’s no culture, there is no Alpha Chi Delta.”
When becoming a sorority, many people questioned whether or not they would allow white people, called it reverse racism, as well as questioned whether they could be in it if they did not have a “culture.” Carroll worries that the students of the potential new organization will face similar concerns.
“When they hear ‘women of color’ they feel excluded, but that’s not the case,” Carroll said. “The whole point of us is to empower women of color and I know they have the same foundation.”
Senior and member of Alpha Chi Delta’s founding class, Lana Ludovico explained how the women in Alpha Chi Delta worked with the men after they presented their idea and have thoroughly enjoyed their experience working with the interested members of the potential new organization, who have become close friends as well.
“For the boys it was them seeing us and noticing that they were inspired by us. Them being lost because, guess what, we were lost at one point too on how to get this started. When they came to us with the idea, we were nothing but supportive,” Ludovico said. “If we were going to help them out, if we were going to become brother and sister organizations, there’s a certain level we have to make sure they’re striving for and make sure they were going to match us. Because we worked hard, a lot of tears, a lot of sweat, a lot of sleepless ass nights, on so many levels we put our heart and soul into this organization and to watch it grow and watch people aspire to be in organizations that are meaningful and add to the cycle of empowerment.”
Many of the women in Alpha Chi Delta have said that what the men starting the potential new organization will experience will differ from theirs. First, in the sense that Alpha Chi Delta paved the way for this to happen. Because of Alpha Chi Delta there are rules and operations to starting a new organization. The ladies of Alpha Chi Delta also said that because their sorority exists, the concept of the potential new organization, a place to empower people of color, is not an unfamiliar idea to the school.
The idea of a black or multi-cultural fraternity is not a new concept, as many schools currently have divisions of what is referred to as the “Divine Nine,” a collaborative group of nine historically but not exclusively black, international Greek lettered fraternities and sororities.
Dalyn Montgomery, the Campus Director for Graduate and Professional Enrollment. Montgomery has a masters in higher education from the University of Pennsylvania where he studied access to college success for underrepresented populations. In that formal course of study he did work on factors that go into black males being successful in higher education as opposed to simply the obstacles. Montgomery identifies as a white, cisgendered man with a middle class background and grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“When it comes to being knowledgeable about historically black fraternities and sororities it comes to most of my spare time is spent studying specifically American Black, white race relations so I’ve been studying and writing about that for getting close to 20 years,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery noted that what is important to know about black fraternities and sororities specifically, is that they were originally created at a time when black people were very rare in college, which were predominantly white institutions that rarely if ever admitted black people. Black colleges came into existence during the early 1900s, but there were still no fraternities. Montgomery recalled a story of the creation of one of the first black frats in the United State Alpha Phi Alpha at Cornell University in upstate New York.
“The legend goes that in 1905 there were around six black men that were admitted to Cornell and none of them lasted a year because you have to realize that in these early days of integration it was very normal for institutions, professions, school otherwise to let a black person in and just make life hell, that way you’re not discriminating on paper but you get the same result where they’re still excluded,” Montgomery said, “So by all accounts this was the experience of these men at Cornell. So the following class, the class after that, as a way to stick together and provide support that the University was not providing, they formed a fraternity.”
After that there was a number of other fraternities that were founded, most of them at Howard University, a historically black University in Washington D.C. Those fraternities have never been exclusively black but historically they’ve been predominantly black. Montgomery said that other people that have been allowed to join but historically not only did white people not want to, but black people weren’t allowed to join anything else so they were birthed much more than other organizations, out of support and collective success as opposed to elitism and exclusion.
“You have other secret societies that were built as a way to elevate themselves over their peers or to build a network that was exclusive that’s why you weed people out, that’s why you have rush and pledging and all those sorts of things,” Montgomery said “The origin of black fraternities and sororities were inclusive and supportive so that’s a very key distinction. They have a reputation for being much more active in community service and scholarship and leadership post graduation than your ‘traditional’ or white dominated greek letter organizations.”
“We can delve into race and say that white people have more established connections just because historically they had a head start with everything, they have built connections,” Abdelrahman said. “Whereas black people for example, do have some of these connections but they’re definitely not as good as white people, it’s a privilege that they do have just because of the historical head start so to say. If we’re a brotherhood of men of color, we can get a little bit of the connection and networking, we can help each other reach higher. ”
According to a study by Walter M. Kimbrough in The Journal of Negro Education, membership in a fraternity or sorority lead students to develop stronger bonds with peers and families as well as play an important role in facilitating and improving the Black students’ perceptions of the college environment especially if they attend a predominantly white institution. The journal compares “members” and “non members” or greek life and found that among members, 74.1% participated actively in two or more campus and or community groups and held office in at least one organization, compared to 44.2% of non members.
“Things that help black males feel successful in this environment is having a network or support group of not only their own, but just people who are like minded, understand the experience, or just inherently support each other.” Montgomery said.
“You’ll find resistance from white people because they default to the idea that they’re being blamed and that they are the problem and a political way to get around that is to help them understand that the problem is not white people, they’re not inherently bad, they’re not causing things but you might simply not be providing what other people need.” Montgomery said “Black people and white people, latinos for that matter, experience America differently, the world reacts to you differently by how you present yourself. I as a middle class white man, the world reacts to me differently than a young black male, that’s just fact. And so I cannot offer the same sort of empathy or support that another black male might, we’re not going through the same thing. So the benefits and the reason why there is merit to starting another group is finding a group of people that actually can provide that support, because you guys deserve that support in my opinion. So the question would be to people in your way, ‘why don’t we deserve that support?’”
The men will have Associate Director of Campus Diversity and Inclusion Reggie Robles acting as their advisor. Robles gave some of his insight on the future of this potential new organization.
“It’s difficult to start an organization. A fraternity or any greek organization takes a lot of time and it’s a really difficult process that you have to have a group that is willing to go as far as you have to to get this done, and not a lot of people are able to.” Robles said.
But despite these challenges, the men remain determined.
“Although this process may be daunting, we are excited about what the future holds for us through this process and we hope to further enrich life on campus,” said Abdelrahman.
Regarding the concept of this particular fraternity, Robles said that it is important because students need to feel that there is something that they can belong to.
“I feel like when you don’t you lose a place of a voice and you’re not able to navigate through a college campus as successfully without having a group of people that you can share challenges, you can share struggles, you can share reward, and know the accomplishment of that based on what the road has been.”
As their advisor, Robles plans to attend as many meetings as he can as well as help them with wording on their official documents and any other logistical needs that present themselves. In addition, Robles plans to incorporate D.U.D.E.S. discussions on sexual assault, alcohol, and drugs, healthy relationships, authenticity, and being caring individuals as just a few discussion topics which are national problems among fraternities.
“I’m proud of them and it’s crazy that these three Freshmen men came in and saw the climate of the school in their first semester and were like ‘nope, I need to change something.’” Carroll said “And I hope that this school is accepting of this space that they are trying to create because they are trying to create this space for themselves not necessarily to interrupt anything else that’s going on, just like we were trying to create this for ourselves so we have a place for us, so they need a place for them.”
If you want to learn more or are interested in being apart of this potential new organization you can contact, Alieu B. Corr at (760) 460-6102 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Feature photo taken by Llana Ludovico