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Educate the yard: ‘Black’ Greek life 101

Martin is a senior public relations and theatre arts major and can be contacted at kenneth.martin@drake.edu

I’m sure many of you have seen the 2007 film, “Stomp The Yard.” If you haven’t seen the film, it chronicles the life of a young college student and dancer who is the new guy on campus, and he joins a fraternity. The film centers on an age-old tradition of showing pride in one’s organization by “stepping.”

These organizations are not fictional; they do a lot more than step, and they are experiencing a rebirth right here on the campus of Drake University. The Divine 9, National Pan-Hellenic Council Organizations and Black Greek Letter Organizations are a few that are keeping the tradition alive. There are many names for these fraternities and sororities, but it is important that the Drake community knows which ones are alive and well on this campus.

On Drake’s campus, there are currently five chapters of these organizations. The Eta Tau Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority was established at Drake in 1973, the Omega Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity was established here in 1925, the Theta Mu Mu Chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity was established in 1970, the Phi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was established in 1923, and the Kappa Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity was established in 1978.

All five chapters have made their return within the past four years after lengthy periods of inactivity. The five chapters also have a joint chapter status with Iowa State University. There are only eight current Drake students between all five of the different chapters. I know. I know. We’re a very small part of the Drake Greek community. So, I’m sure you’re asking yourself these questions:

What do these organizations do on campus? Why haven’t I heard of you? Can only black people join?

The answer to each question, respectfully:

1. NPHC organizations have a primary focus of serving the communities in which they live. All five chapters have various different service projects each year in Des Moines and Ames. The NPHC organizations go beyond raising money for different causes or foundations; they work with certain causes and foundations to improve the cities in which they live. We are still social organizations, however, and have fun, too (read the next column about “stepping”).

2. The next question is a bit more complex. You probably haven’t heard of some of these organizations because they are all newly returning, and very different from the IFC/PHC system. These organizations do not participate in fall or spring recruitment (rush) activities, and they handle their new member prospects on an individualized basis. Interested parties apply for membership to each respective organization as they feel compelled to try and join. None of the organizations have houses on campus, and most chapters have never exceeded more than 40 members on their roster at a time.

3. The answer to the last question is simple. NO! An absolute resounding no. There have been, on this campus in the past, and currently still are non-black members in the various different chapters of these organizations.

So what does all of this mean to you? It means keep your eyes open and your ears perked up for the various different events, civic engagement opportunities and showcases from Drake’s very own representation of “black” Greek life. Yes, we will be stomping the “yard” (campus), but we will also be rebuilding the yard, informing and educating the yard, and we will be making our presence known in the yard.


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