So let me preface to say that yes, I am a member of a sorority. Just admitting that alone I know more than half of you are probably rolling, your eyes, sucking your teeth, or contemplating flipping to another blog. Stay with me if you can. I’ll get right back to y’all in a second. Let me also say that I am not speaking on behalf of my organization in any way; I’m just a member of a sorority who has an opinion (as right or wrong as it may be to some folks). Now that all formalities are out the way, here’s how I break.
As I spent my Founders’ Day yesterday at work posting pictures in my favorite crimson and cream sweater, dusting off my red Chuck Taylors, and indulging in red velvet cupcakes, the internet gave me one of the nicest gifts I’ve ever received on January 13th in a minute. While putting on my coat and getting ready to head to class, I got an alert on my phone that a high school friend (who is not in a sorority) tagged me to a picture on Instagram. As most people do who are addicted to social media, I put down my coat and checked my phone to see what she tagged me to. Tapping on the little square on the upper right corner of my phone, my screen illuminated with a picture of the infamous Sorority Sisters cast. Knowing this friend wouldn’t play me like this tagging me to this picture on my Founders Day, I looked in the caption to figure out why she would bring this to my attention. Inscribed underneath the picture was the following:
According to reports, VH1 reality show #SororitySisters has been cancelled!!!! After Friday the show will no longer air…
I stood there speechless trying to read the words over and over again to make sure what I was reading was what was registering in my brain. After about the fifth or so time, my subconscious and conscious came to the agreement that what I was reading and comprehending was for real. Sorority Sisters was to be no more.
I’ve never been into ratchet reality television. Anybody that knows me can validate this as a truth. I’ve signed several online petitions, was totally here for Michaelangela Davis’s “Bury the Ratchet” campaign, and I simply don’t watch the shows. The only way I would know anything that is going on these programs is because of social media telling me how folks are proposing to men, knocking people out, sleeping with former boyfriends, sleeping with current boyfriends, keeping sidewives as sidehoes, or anything else like that. With that being understood, I think I fail to meet the qualification of the chastising argument given to Sorority members who are opposed to Sorority Sisters, “Well, you watch the other reality shows though.”
From the beginning I have always been an adamant opponent of the show. And when I say from the beginning I mean way back when Mona and Company posted that my-first-iPhone taped YouTube commercial one random day in July 2014. After watching the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) sororities (Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho) silence and snatched the commercial from the internet almost as fast as it was posted, I thought it would be the last we would hear about this foolishness.
Oh, but then…
I still can’t remember what I was watching, but I remember being in my bed and then seeing the first commercial saying the bullish was back. Mona took her name off the producer list, but I didn’t think she wasn’t chilling in the background. Imediately, my phone started jumping with texts from Greek friends and family asking if I had seen the travesty. I responded to many with dismay and confusion of its unusual return (the promo aired not even a week before the premiere). I thought we deaded this months ago? Does this show have the lifespan of a multitude of cockroaches? WHY IS IT BACK?!?!?
Within the coming days, I saw countless pleas from the people (some in sororities and some not) to give it a chance. That maybe it would be a good look for us? *In my Take A Bow voice* PLEASE. Bad black images under the guise of “reality” are the bread and butter of the Mona Scott Young empire. Her name may have disappeared but I doubt if her influence did. After ten or so years of this, we know how she rolls by now. If it ain’t about the ratchet, you can miss her wit it. But out of the darkness of disparity, Black social media gave me hope. There was a campaign afoot to combat television trash in the form of petitioning, boycotting sponsors, channel blocking, and protesting. It took a little while to get folks on board, but eventually the hash tag #BoycottSororitySisters became a thing; and a very good thing, might I add. What amazed me was the variety of people that participated. Men and women; older people and younger people; BGLO members and non-BGLO members. A lot of friends who I knew from elementary, high school, and college that didn’t pledge gave me a lot of support (it also made me realize how much I really display my org if I was their first reference point in hearing about this mess). Since the first airing of the Greek tragedy (no pun or exaggeration; I heard it was really that terrible), the protest had taken root and grown. While VH1 tried to downplay the social media demonstration as minimal, subtle hints suggested otherwise. Like their standing firm in a pool of quicksand that the show was “really connecting with its audience.” Hmm, steadily declining weekly ratings indicated a connection? News to me. Or when they said that it was only a few members that took issue with the program. Hmmm, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt that maybe the folks at VH1 just don’t get how NPHC’s work. Those “few” members (aside from the countless tweets and tags you got from other pissed off members) wrote a letter to you all saying how as a collective unit, they weren’t here for this program. Those “few” members were the National Presidents of each of the sororities you decided to include in your Greek Freak Show. Those “few” members pretty much speak for the entire organization when they speak (or at least that’s how it rolls for me and mines). And then there was the all time kicker that let you know they were hurting BAD: that pathetic little sit-down for the cast to “defend” themselves. What is there to defend exactly, doll? You prostituted your membership in your organization to act a purebred fool for a paycheck. In the NPHC world, there is no defending that and you know it.
But despite such useless strategies, protesters were steadfast in our approach which appears to e paying off now.
We could argue all day about the rights and wrongs about Fraternity and Sorority life, the seemingly pointlessness of protesting this kind of thing, and how it appears contradictory to protest against one show but not the others. But to me, again as an opponent of all reality ratchet television, this wastes a lot of time and energy that can be better spent into formulizing new strategies, which is what I’d rather hear being discussed. How can we as a people replicate the approach to combat other shows and social issues?
Key word: Organization.
One of the main reasons why the #BoycottSororitySisters movement was able to produce results so quickly was because it was an organized effort by an organized entity. To my knowledge, there is no National Basketball Wives Association of Anycity, USA or Hip Hop Jumpoffs Junction, Inc. to go after these kinds of shows that degrade their featured demographic. Despite how folks may feel about the whole concept of fraternities and sororities, it cannot be denied there is power in a unified front. This demonstration showed that (which is a concept I think Black people have been struggling with for a while, but that’s another writing piece).
But therein lies a conundrum: How do we get organized? In constantly reading different stories about the Sorority Sisters debacle, the comments sections always seem so filled with attacks from NPHC members and non-NPHC members towards each other. Speaking in this capacity, there is one thing that both sides need if we are to effectively organize–humility.
NPHC Fraters and Sorors, we have to be humble enough to learn from AND teach our communities. Yes, we came up with this masterful strategy to combat Sorority Sisters, but what good is it if we don’t reapply it elsewhere to help the communities we claim to support? And when we teach others what we have done, we must do it in such a way that is helpful, not haughty or with some superiority complex. Nobody wants help from someone who presents himself/herself like a pretentious jackass no matter how good their intentions may be. We have to understand our people as well. We are not better than them, we are them. Learn their names and know their needs. Don’t bust up in the hood not knowing what it’s about like Edward Said discussed in Orientalism (Yeah this is a Political Science nerd reference; he was actually talking about European infiltration in the East but you get my drift) Alpha Phi Alpha member Cornell West once said, “You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people; you can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.”
Non-NPHC folks, the same prescription of humility to learn and to teach should be used. Instead of being so quick to negatively criticize what was or was not done earlier, it would behoove you to ask questions about how #BoycottSororitySisters got off the ground so quickly and how the results are materializing. It is clear that this is a strategy that produces results. Why not try to learn from it and encourage NPHC members to get involved with your causes (if they are not involved already)? Again, being a pretentious jackass (i.e.- eye rolls, teeth suck, nitpicking criticism) works both ways–nobody wants help from one and nobody wants to help one.
I know that when I talk about organizing, I don’t expect that if everybody just smiled on their brother (or sister) that everything will be okay. Like we would all magically be on the same page at the same time all of the time. *Bring the Take a Bow voice back* PLEASE! Of all the countless hours studying Organizational Behavior, I know that isn’t going to happen. That never happens in even the most well-organized groups in the nation. But even though we may not be on the same page, that does not mean we still can’t be in the same book.