insideblackfrat

From left, senior Jimmy Hershberger, historian of the fraternity, and junior Damani Roberson, play an intense game of NBA 2K17, while senior Devon Brown, keeper of records, and junior Grant Prather, President of the Alpha Chapter, talk about the history of their fraternity. 

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No House To Call Home: Being a Black Greek on IU's Campus

Before joining Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., I knew we’d be living apart. I knew we wouldn’t have a mansion with a wooden swinging bench on a well-kept lawn. I knew that if we wanted to meet, it wouldn’t be as simple as going downstairs to the tidy living room. I knew the stress we’d have to encounter by being forced to pick a place and time everyone was available to meet. But I never knew why I didn’t have these luxuries.

Indiana University’s campus has two areas that cater to most of the sororities and fraternities in the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and the Panhellenic Association (PHA): 3rd and Jordan, and Jordan and 17th Street. These houses are home to rushing, huge parties and large numbers of members.

But for the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC)— the historically black Greek fraternities and sororities—as well as the Multicultural Greek Council, those luxuries are not as accessible.

Unlike other councils on IU’s campus, NPHC fraternities and sororities induct a small number of members, some as small as two a membership class. Maggie Reisdorf, president of IU’s PHA, said PHA has a minimum quota of 55 per membership class.

“It comes down to recruitment,” Nikia Jefferson, IU’s NPHC advisor, said. “Recruitment isn’t usually a word that Black Greek Letter Organizations are comfortable using, and thus practicing. If not recruitment, I think it’s then, ‘How do we market ourselves? How do we get more people to see who we are and what we do here?’”

For Black Greek Organizations at IU, being identified or noticed as a Greek by non-black counterparts on campus is something that has to be worked for.

***

Since NPHC fraternities and sororities do not have houses, the members of each organization try their best to live together, but may not be able to because of preference or financial reasons. When they do, they usually name the apartment or house based on their fraternity/sorority mascots or Greek letters.

The Alpha Chapter members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.—founded at Indiana University in 1911—had a house near campus in 1914 at 721 E. Hunter Avenue. This was the fraternity’s first house, according to Grant Prather, Polemarch (president) of the Alpha Chapter, and the Gamma Chapter’s website.

In 1961, their house at 1469 E. 17th Street was dedicated to one of their founders, deemed as the Elder Watson Diggs Memorial. The house was sold in 2005 to the Indiana University Foundation, according to the Indiana Historical Bureau.

Now, the 10 members of the Alpha Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. don’t all live together, but have a few houses where members reside: The Korner, The Blokk and The Krib.

***

It was almost midnight on a Thursday and some of Alpha chapter’s members just got back to The Krib from a powderpuff game hosted by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Jimmy Hershberger, Devon Brown and Grant Prather each sat on a different couch or chair in their spacious living room, all facing their 54-inch TV.

The wooden coffee table separated them, covered with a lint roller, a bottle of Minute Maid orange juice, an empty Gatorade bottle, a bag of Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips and a black umbrella. Three paintings adorned the white walls and sneakers lined the wall nearest to the front door.

Hershberger finished his chicken wings as senior David Golder walked in the side door with a to-go box. Sophomores Dakota Moore and Saba Chernet walked in behind him.

Golder sat on the loveseat next to Hershberger, opening his box of chicken wings, as Moore and Chernet leaned against the tan couch. Hershberger resumed NBA 2K17, playing against his friend Damani Roberson.

The guys yelled over the game, about scoring and getting more food for the night.

“Wassup with this Z & C?” Hershberger asked everyone else, referring to Z & C Teriyaki and Sushi.

“I don’t even want Z & C anymore,” Golder said.

“Yes you do, bro,” Prather said.

“I’ll just get some McDonalds,” Roberson said.

“Z & C sounds heat, though,” Brown added.

“It really don’t, though. Honestly, Z & C ain’t sounded heat in a long time,” Hershberger said.

“It’s heat as hell with the Saracha. Y’all sleep,” Brown said.

“Feeling Rally’s?” Chernet asked.

“Damn near am,” Hershberger answered. “Who’s grabbing Rally’s?”

Hershberger continued the game, asking who would be next to play.

“Saba, are you trying to grab me a brew?” Prather asked Chernet, who was standing.

“From the fridge?” she asked, heading into the kitchen.

“You tryna have Saba take the car to go get us Z & C?” Brown suggested.

“Yeah,” Prather said, laughing. Everyone joined in laughter.

Chernet agreed to drive, urging one of the guys to go with her. Roberson agreed, saying he needed to pick up something else.

“Ooh, two for one, two for one,” Prather sung.

Chernet told everyone to text her what they wanted, and grabbed Brown’s card.

“Spicy mayo,” Prather said.

“We’re not going there!” Moore yelled.

“Yeah you are,” the Kappas responded in unison.

They continued to list their orders as Chernet, Moore and Roberson walked out of the front door.

***

While the Kappas at IU enjoy their shared space and hang out at least once a week, they said they’re frustrated that they don’t have a house recognized by the campus.

“Especially being Alpha chapter, it’s kind of a slap in the face,” Prather, junior, said. “Also it’s a constant reminder of how much extra work we have to put in to just make a name for ourselves and have a presence with such little resources.”

Now, a sorority is housed in 721 E. Hunter Ave. Hershberger said that when they tried to rent the house, the landlord wanted around one million dollars because of the house’s significance.

Brown said that even if the Kappas were able to have a house like DePauw University’s—which gives Greeks the opportunity to have a chapter house—they would be satisfied.

Though a Greek house is important to NPHC members—Kappa Alpha Psi members especially—the bond and understanding of brotherhood/sisterhood they’ve created overpowers their feelings of frustration.

“Having such a strong bond without having a house makes it easier for us to live without each other,” Brown, senior, said. “We are close enough to know that we don’t need to live together to have a strong bond.”

Jefferson agrees and said a house is not necessary to have a full Greek experience.

“We are validated through the time and effort we put into making our organization that much better than when we entered,” Jefferson said. “We belong because we lived our ritual and our promise every single day. This is so much bigger than having a house.”


insideblackfrat_2
By Yulin YU

Senior Donald Glover replies text messages while "Blonde" by Frank Ocean plays in the background

insideblackfrat_1
By Yulin YU

Sophomores Saba Chernet (left) and Dokata Moore (right) talk to Senior Devon Brown