NPHC holds forum discussing gang stereotypes
The panel included members from representatives of the eight NPHC chapters.
Apr. 12, 2011
On Monday night, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. held the “Black Greek State of The Union: Are We Just Gangs?” public forum concerning misconceptions and current issues within the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Conversation topics such as negative perceptions and identity issues were discussed throughout the evening.
“The stereotypes that black sororities and fraternities just act as gangs and that all we do is throw parties are prevalent within the black community,” said Kazi Ngwenyama, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. President and NPHC Vice President. “People tend to think we’re more social organizations, and we want to combat those stereotypes. We want the campus to see what the whole council does.”
Ngwenyama said the origin of such stereotypes is simply a lack of education, thus leading to a general misunderstanding as to what NPHC Greek Life is and the values upon which the NPHC organizations were founded.
“You can relate stereotypes to ignorance,” Ngwenyama said. “People see something, and they gain a certain perception, and sometimes that perception is misinformed. We want this to be a growing experience for the organizations and the general campus. We want to know what the campus needs and what we need from the campus.”
With a panel of eight representatives from each of the NPHC chapters and an audience of between 30 and 50 people, spoken and anonymously-written questions were presented to the panel members.
An especially heavy focus was placed upon the misperception of black sororities and fraternities acting more as gangs and less as organizations.
“If you get into a chapter and you want to fight, that’s when it’s a gang,” Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. member Gregory Green said. “It’s a gang when it’s not about scholarship and brotherhood. It’s about your choices.”
Tying in with the gang stereotype, the audience mentioned the perception of exclusivity among NPHC members, claiming that some members appear elitist and unapproachable.
“People approach us all the time, and there’s a certain way to go about it,” said Jamal Andress, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. vice president. “I want to know you as a person before I call you my brother and my friend. The first time we speak should not be about you wanting to be an Alpha.”
But panel member Chanecka Williams said elitism is justified within the NPHC community.
“A lot of people take the organizations lightly, as if it’s a joke,” Williams said. “But the fact is, we are non-profit businesses in the community. When people come up to us acting playful, it’s offensive. Some of us are elitists because we’re scholars, and we have pride.”
Despite differing opinions, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. member Ricky Hoskins said encouraging open discussion about community issues is the first step to developing solutions.
“Solutions occur when people start to talk,” Hoskins said. “At the end of the day, we join (NPHC organizations) to either be better people, or to bring something to the organization to make it better. This is a panel for students to ask questions and for us to give answers.”