Categories
Brotherhood

Social Education

Why am I still in my fraternity? Throughout various points of my college experience the answer would be completely different. Now as a senior the answer is one a combination of old (friends, stability, social clout, etc.) and one strikingly new – I’m needed to teach.

What I mean by that is that fraternities now more than ever have become imperative for the environments they can provide. An atmosphere in which men let their guard down, open their ears, and speak candidly is much needed. It is no longer acceptable for men, as social power-holding individuals and as a collective to sit idle – unmoved, unbothered, and uninterested in the plight of all those around us. I realized that a fraternity may just very well be the ONE place where men are obligated to stop taking up so much space, to leave their patriarchic ideals at the door, and to have real, vulnerable, authentic conversations about how they view themselves and society. Combine that with the values we swear to uphold and you have the perfect and crucially necessary critical mass to get major social points across. I solemnly swear that I have learned more in my time in college from extracurriculars and organizations than I ever did in the classroom – social education.

Fraternities are supposed to be places where men grow, learn, and connect not only to their brothers and the Greek community they’re apart of but society as a whole. When you emerge from your alma mater you should be prepared to face the world and that means each and everyone in it – with dignity, respect, and fairness. My fraternity preaches brotherhood for all, service to the individual, and democracy – well, that entails literally everyone, and that’s deeply important. The way I treat and interact my brothers is how I should any stranger I may come across. That’s truly profound. How can I apply the same compassion, and camaraderie of people I spent substantial time with to someone I may not know at all? Easy – remember when a new member would join your chapter and instantaneously you had this connection with them? You could joke around, hang out without knowing anything about them, and accepted them as your friend – that quick lesson in social education as in that ability to immediately value a person is one that you must know. You’ll need to apply that to just about anyone you meet because that’s what it means to be HUMAN. We all have immeasurable worth and inherent value – don’t ever forget that.

So what do I teach? My membership in specifically my chapter I think has come to mean a lot. Along with me comes all my experiences, what I’ve learned, and all my complications. Those complications particularly those that challenge my brothers to think about their unearned social privileges, how they’ve played into and benefitted from -ist systems/institutions, and most importantly how they can be allies to subordinated identities, mean more now than ever before. Fraternities are the place to have tough conversations, check yourselves, explore topics, share your beliefs, and to learn about yourselves but also the world around you. The other stuff supports it like understanding how to be a lifelong friend, and doing service of our own volition. With or without brothers who identify as queer, transgender, person of color, modest income, have a disability etc. your fraternity is where you have the freedom and the obligation to talk about what it all means.

Talk about the stuff you usually don’t. Be curious about sexism, racism, homophobia, religious intolerance, and all the rest. Figure out what you can actually do about it. Realize that all of it AFFECTS you too, maybe not negatively but then you’re indicted as benefitting from the putting down of others. I don’t know about you but that’s unacceptable. I promised to be a better man, and in this modern day and age (as it should have always been) that means embracing social justice.

Fraternally Yours,

Brother Oteng

How does your chapter incorporate social justice into their lived values?

Categories
Brotherhood Leadership

Brotherly Resolutions

At the beginning of every new year people make resolutions that they promise to uphold, but somehow never do. The big problem with these resolutions is that they are not measurable. They’re usually vague and have no tangible goal marks to achieve along the way. It’s hard to reach a goal that seems so very far away. If you want your resolutions to stick make them realistic. They should be a challenge, but also should be attainable. Resolutions also need to be broken up into smaller parts, like miniature deadlines on the way to larger final project. Every time you meet your benchmarks, you get that good feel that you’ve accomplished something. At the end of the year, if you’re diligent, you’ll be exactly where you want to be. What do resolutions have to do with being a fraternity man? A lot more than you would think.

My Fraternity Resolutions for 2014:

  1. Be a better brother: Outreach – talk/hang out with the brothers I don’t know as well at least twice a month; Bigs/Littles – make a point to check-in with my big and my littles at least once a week; Celebrate – acknowledge accomplishments and attend events to support my brothers (birthdays, awards etc.)
  2. Do my part: Autonomy – fulfill my positional duties to best of my ability without being dependent on my brothers to give me direction always; Meetings – contribute constructively (follow Robert’s Rules; make new points not rehash old ones) and refrain from side conversations/multimedia distractions; Attend Events – keep track of my own community service hours/philanthropy efforts; make a point to attend at least 2-3 events per month
  3. Replace myself: Make a point to introduce myself to a complete stranger at least once a week; find a great recruit and pursue them like you were pursued – bring at least one new member in by the end of  the semester
  4. Show my pride: Wear my letters at least once a week; attend non-Greek events at least once a month and work the room

Those resolutions aren’t really unique to just me, but can apply to all of us in this fraternal movement. We need to be rejuvenated and find that fervor we first had when we joined our chapters. We must be vigilant in improving not only ourselves, but our chapters, and our communities. It starts with our self-work and spreads outwardly from there. Happy New Year and good luck in keeping your resolutions.

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*Comment below one thing you’d like to do this year for your fraternity

Categories
Brotherhood Leadership

Brotherly Outreach

*It’s been a long time since this blog has been updated but once the school year starts there seems to be little time for much else. It’s winter break and hopefully I can crank out some more fraternal thoughts! Prepare yourself.

The holiday season is one of the most joyous times of the year. Everyone seems to set aside their differences and come together to celebrate what’s important in life, family and friends. As fraternity men, this is our time to do the same. In my chapter in particular when we all depart for break there’s radio silence and no communication whatsoever between brothers. I can only imagine the brothers who are closest, or reside in the vicinity of one another still interact but the majority go our separate ways and put “fraternity” on hold. The thing about that break is that it’s a separation not only physically but to us as chapter. You can’t pause “fraternity” – that’s not how it works. It should not only be when we see our brothers in person that we think about them or talk to them. What would distinguish us from any other mere acquaintance we’ve made in our college experience? We pledged that we would always be there for another and now (as always) is the time to live up to our promises. It’s time to do some brotherly outreach.

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Check-In: Almost every chapter, at least in my experience, has that one brother who makes sure everyone else is doing okay. He’s everyone’s go to for support, advice, and somehow seems to know exactly what to do or say at all times. When you’re feeling down or need help, all of a sudden he’ll text you when you need it most. He seems to go above and beyond the fraternal duty. The truth is, he only appears that way because the majority of us are not doing what he’s doing. His action is contrasted by our inaction and outreach to our fellow men. Check-in with your brothers. What’s the harm in sending a text out of the blue (better yet a phone call or a Skype session) to your other chapter members. Most likely they’re perfectly fine but it’s just another way to show that you care. If they do need someone to talk to, then you’re creating an outlet for them to do so. We all want to be the brother that makes sure the rest are pushing forward. It’s not so hard but why then don’t we do it? Maybe we take that brother for granted or don’t realize the significance of his small actions, either way – what he does, in retrospect, is truly remarkable. Check-in with your brothers over this break. These are people you know, you don’t need a reason to strike up a conversation. This is just brotherly outreach.

Reconnect: Graduating from college and subsequently your chapter is both an amazing thing but almost always results in a disconnect from the brothers you spent so much of your time with. We all have brothers who have moved on or seemingly disappeared. This time of the year is the perfect opportunity to remake those bonds you cherished so dearly. Do what you need to, write a Facebook message, tweet at them, call them, send them a letter – it doesn’t matter just find them. These are connections that could be important down the line and at the very least, people you invested your time in so why let that go to waste? Choose a brother and make it your winter break mission to hear from him. I promise you it’ll be more than worth the time and effort it takes. There’s nothing more fulfilling than feeling another person’s smile and excitement just from hearing the sound of your voice. It does the soul good and truly is the best part of brotherhood. This is brotherly outreach.

If you’re really feeling ambitious, sending out holiday greetings and new year’s tidings is always a welcome gesture. Those who work behind the scenes at your national headquarters, your alumni association, and even the adminstrators on your own campus deserve some gratitude. Send out a thank you, maybe even include a gift. Brotherly outreach is all about letting people know you value them and appreciate having them in your life.