African-American Greeks give back to 'downtroddenn' people

By Michelle Roberts

Arizona Daily Wildcat

What do Bill Cosby, Dr. Martin Luther King, George Washington Carver, Jesse Jackson, Thurgood Marshall and Emmitt Smith have in common with about 40 UA students?

They are all members of African-American sororities and fraternities.

Jesse Hargrove, the assistant dean of African-American student affairs, said most African-American Greek organizations began shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court declared the doctrine of "separate but equal" in the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson decision.

The organizations began in the early 1900s because African-Americans were not permitted to join other Greek organizations, he said. The sororities and fraternities have continued despite the fact the Supreme Court overturned the "separate but equal" clause in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case.

Hargrove, an African-American fraternity alumnus himself, said the organizations offer role models for members as well as the opportunity for members to become role models. He said they focus primarily on scholarship and the need to uplift people out of their condition.

"We want people to focus on high ideals. That's why a lot of the fraternity/sorority shields have stars on them. They represent reaching higher than yourself, aspiring to be in a higher position than you're currently in," Hargrove said.

He said a lot of the organizations' activities surround community interest. He said they were founded to make a difference in the lives of downtrodden people.

"(They) have continued to focus on the uplifting of the African-American population and have broadened to other parts of the community," Hargrove said.

Psychology senior Andrea Bridges said she joined Alpha Kappa Alpha because she wanted to get involved in a group that shared some of

her interests. She also said that she likes the school support, the sisterhood and the fact that she can call up any member for support.

Louis Laffitte, an elementary education senior, said he has been a member of Alpha Phi Alpha for almost four years, and he wanted to get involved in a group of people who shared his beliefs.

"My thing is to be a role model for my people," Laffitte said. "Our (fraternity's) sole purpose is to put back into the community."

He said most of Alpha Phi Alpha's community service focuses on the African-American community but sometimes the activities are for the community as a whole.

Accounting finance senior Rebecca Robinson said she joined Delta Sigma Theta because it's a public service organization. She said she had been involved in other community service, but wanted to be able to focus on the African-American community.

Yolanda McMillian, an accounting finance junior, said she joined Sigma Gamma Rho because she had relatives that were involved with African-American Greek organizations.

"They told me it was a great experience, and it helps you make contacts. It's like an extended family. Everything we do has to do with giving back to the community. It's a part of our culture and our history. Traditions are passed down," McMillian said.

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