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I USED TO BE AN ALPHA
Since I was 16 years old, I told myself that I wanted to be Greek when I went to college. Living in a city that houses an HCBU, I was influenced by Greek life at an early age. The whole concept of Greek life permeated my high school’s social climate. Girls who were a part of the Delta’s program, “Delteen” used to boo and hiss at the girls who were picked as AKA Debutantes. Students used to step in the hallways between classes. They used to sound off with each BGLO’s call; pretty much telling the world which organization that they wanted to be a part of.
My only issue with the students in high school was that fact that the mass majority of them, who were so into the microcosm that is “Greek Life,” showed no intentions of ever going to college. In the end most of them didn’t. They were simply enthralled with the concept of having “letters” and “LB’s,” “LS’s” and all of the so-called perks of being Greek. I still remember classmates being “on line” for a week to become official members of “wannabegreek” cliques. At the time, I used to nod my head at them and tell myself that when I got to college, I would never see these clowns again.
The truth is that I didn’t see those particular clowns again, but now looking back on it, I was simply introduced to a new level of clowns. Upon entering college, I stepped on campus with aspirations of becoming an Alpha. Having had first-hand opportunities over the years to research each organization, (by reading local university yearbooks, meeting fraternity members in the university library, and from many Greeks, who were counselors in the NYSP programs from years before) I—for the most part—had deduced that each fraternity were along the same lines as far as influence, service, scholarship and such other familiarities. I felt that I had always felt a common bond with the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha as they tended to be the brainier guys on the yard—YET—tended to be outgoing and widely popular on campus. The same was the case with the Alphas on my campus. They had grades, girls and a future ahead of them. I immediately began my community service, and pushing for high grades. It took one Alpha probate show to more than solidify that I had to be a part of this frat. I began to collect flyers, I went to all of their events, I knew the founders, founding date, incorporation dates, chapter history, chapter member’s names and majors and the entire like.
The year had come and I was eligible to join a fraternity on my campus. I had a friend, who is a member of another organization, who knew of my aspirations to tell me in September of the fall semester that I needed to let the Alpha Brothers know of my intentions. I kept asking myself, “Why tell them now when they only have spring lines?” My friend persisted in telling me to let the Alphas know. I did and next thing you know, I was directed to a member of the chapter known as the “Chairman of Intake.” Commonsense told me that simply meant “DEAN of PLEDGES.” I was given the phone numbers of every Brother in the chapter and that’s where the process began. That first week, I bought Brothers’ lunch, and was asked to purchase books. All the while, I was crazily excited because I knew that I was on my way to becoming an Alphaman.
I was supposed to talk to every brother on the phone EVERY night at a certain time for each Brother. One particular Brother didn’t answer his phone one night and as a result, I received my first taste of “wood.” Despite the pain, I was dancing in the mirror in my dorm room—after the Brother hemmed me up, slabbed me up, and dropped me off on the campus. As far as I was concerned, I was officially a Sphinxman.
After that incident, the Chairman of Intake introduced me to other students on campus who were “Sphinxmen” as well, after which; we were required to function as a line. We learned 7 principles that we were supposed to display at all times as Sphinxmen. We even had meetings with parliamentary procedure and had a secret handshake—a secret handshake that the Alpha’s gave us when they felt that we could be trusted to be “underground” and not rat them out. One Sunday night, we met with the Chairman at what was supposed to be a study session. It wasn’t.
The lights went out and my LB’s and I began to fly in all directions and bounced off every wall. We were asked to line up and what is known as a “set” began to commence. After what seemed to be a year, we wearily made our way back to the campus. Sets commenced regularly and we never knew when the next set was going to be. We had officially begun to live in fear of our “Big Brothers.” We weren’t allowed in the café. We banded together in one room nightly in the dark just to make sure that no one was “hemmed up.” I still remember the way my heart would pound in fear when a Brother would bang on the dorm room door. At this point, Brothers equaled pain and suffering.
It became increasingly hard to keep grades up at this time. We took back routes to get to class without Alphas seeing us and spent nights in fear or in sets. By this time, my strong Christian background began to resurface and I asked myself, if it made any sense to go through all of this just to be in an organization. I drenched that flame of thought in a heartbeat, convincing myself that “If every Alphaman in the world can get through this, so can I.”
The fall semester gave way to the spring semester and I began to live by the chants, “Just a few more days, and I’ll be an Alphaman,…,” “Ice Cold water runnin’ through my veins…,” and “Everywhere I go, there’s an ALPHA there…” I was so caught up in going over I ignored the fact that I had lost weight, my grades were slipping and it was impossible to sleep on my back at night because of my “shell”—taking wood over such a long time had caused my buttocks to harden and darken in color. The thought kept crossing my mind that maybe I should leave it all alone and worry more about my degree. Once again, I poured water on that thought and told myself,
“Think of the props you’ll get when you go over! Everyone will know your name and who can ignore the Brotherhood that you’ll experience? Women will be banging down to door to get with you. You can sit in the Greek section at step shows and think of the para you can rock…
Once again, I sucked up my thoughts of quitting and beatdowns commenced. I convinced myself that if it wasn’t supposed to be, I’ll get a sign.
It was time for intake season and my LB’s were reporting that they had received phone calls from the district’s area coordinator. I hadn’t heard anything at the time but I didn’t worry about it. A week went by and I still hadn’t heard anything. I began to worry. I decided to call Nationals. After sitting on the phone for about 15 minutes, I was told something that made me feel like I had been punched in the stomach: My paperwork was lost. I was the first one on my line to submit my packet, yet my packet got lost at nationals. I didn’t get to go to Leadership and Membership Weekend. I wished my LB’s well and STILL endured the hazing and beatdowns with them to prove that I was worthy of Alpha. However, for their official intake procedures, I had to sit in the dorm room and sulk that I couldn’t be a part of what they were going through.
These men, who I pledged with, came to my room late one Saturday evening, trembling. They stood around me. One of them whispered, “We are now officially Alphamen.” I was happy for them, but on the inside, I wanted to cry. For the week that followed, my “LB’s” reduced their contacts with me and I felt almost as if they had deserted me. They didn’t. They were now going through a “post pledge” period in which I was not allowed to be a part of. They probated and I sat and watched as they ranted off with greetings and steps. I felt brand new levels of anger and frustration as the crowd cheered them on and the “Big Brothers,” in whom we lived in fear of for so long, began to jump all over their new “bruhs” with bear hugs and grips—that grip that I had worked for nearly two semesters to receive. My former LBs’ lives in Alpha began as I walked back to my dorm room still a “GDI.” The room got blurry and I passed out.
Thanks to my grades slipping from a year of pursuing Alpha, I had to get my grades up and focus on graduating. You see, many professors were Greek on campus and after my LB’s crossed and explained to many of their professors what they had gone through with letters on their chests to prove it, were shown mercy when it came time for grades to go out. I didn’t have that luxury. It was hard to get back to life as a regular student again. My LB’s were Alphas now and were enjoying the “fruits of the Brotherhood.” The Brotherhood paid me no attention at all. Here I am, this guy that you beat on for two semesters and you can’t even speak? OK, fine. I hated the idea that this was how it was going to be, but I chalked it up to “the game” and still knew that I was going to be an Alpha at all costs. Ignoring me now just made me want it even more.
Coming back to the real world, I began to become more active in church as I used to. Realizing that I was depressed due to my situation in pursuing Alpha, I sought solace in the Lord. As a member of the men’s ministry, I began to feel a new sense of brotherhood. The fellowship of these Christian men aligned right along with what I had always felt Alpha would be like: mutual uplift, fellowship, and networking, everything that I was searching for in Alpha, I found in the church. I began to feel as if my mishap with nationals was for my betterment—I didn’t need to be worn down to a pulp and rebuilt to be one of these brothers in Christ. My walk with Christ was all that I needed.
However, when I felt that I was content with everything; my old LB approached me about seeking membership in a graduate chapter. Initially, I didn’t even care, but after I sat and reminisced over what I had been through for these three letters, I refused to not let myself be a part of something that I had worked so hard and long to attain. I decided that I would get my letters in a grad chapter.
Who doesn’t pledge in grad chapters? I sure did. And it honestly was a little worse because these “Big Brothers” had jobs and had other obligations to deal with so they hazed me when it was convenient for them. Where I used to buy Big Brothers, books, CD’s, and meals from McDonalds’, I was now buying book shelves, TV stands and meals at Red Lobster. I’ll admit, there were only a few beatdowns, but to be stomped by Grown Men, really plays with your mind. Once again, something felt wrong about this situation.
It was time for the Ritual. I was so nervous of what was going to happen and with the myths that I was told of what would happen, I took two percocet tablets just before the activities began. At 10:16 that evening, in a confused but excited daze, I officially became an Alphaman.
I became a maniac. Everything that I owned had to have the letters on it. I gripped every brother that I saw and challenged every brother that I didn’t know. I was a neo in every sense of the word. The excitement began to fade and after a few years, ugly things about my beloved brothers began to surface. Some were sleeping around with other brothers’ women. Some were homosexual and living in the closet. Some were involved with shady business practices and the list kept growing. Politics within the chapter made it almost impossible to produce any form of service. Meetings became “pat a bruh on the back” sessions. It became a struggle of young brothers wanting to work and old brothers wanting to hold on to the power. I would tell myself, “It is truly more drama once you’re in!”
I began to lean more to the fellowship of my church. I always seemed to be more productive through the church than with Alpha anyway, so I began to become less and less active with my chapter. I came across a website called ‘Dontgogreek.com” and thought that I would check it out for laughs. I initially thought to myself that the person behind this site must be on something to go about putting up a website about the ungodliness of Greeks. Is this why greekdom wasn’t doing it for me? Because of its roots in paganism and idolatry? I laughed it off, called this guy a fanatic, and moved on.
A few more years passed and I had become totally inactive in my chapter. The drama never stopped so I saw no need to keep dealing with it. I always kept a thought of that website of that fanatic guy every so often. The paganism and idolatry began to play with my mind. Then I thought that I didn’t recall hearing all of this when I went through my initiation—what is this guy talking about. I gave him a call. We discussed it. He was nothing like I assumed he would be. He was very down to earth. He followed the Word as we all should and pointed out parts of my ritual that didn’t align with the Lord. First of all, I felt a little embarrassed since Alphas never explained the activities of our ritual to me. Second of all, I had realized that I had never even read our ritual. I had become very discouraged with my fraternity. I started to limit my interactions with brothers altogether. I told only a few of them how I was feeling about the frat—some understood and some didn’t. When a brother asked me to choose between Alpha and my family, the bond was broken. I was truly done that day.
I spoke with the minister who had the dontgogreek website again as he mentioned that he used to be an Omega. After a very blessed conversation with him, I had the courage and the Biblical backing and knowledge to confidently denounce my letters. At this point all need in my life is Jesus Christ. With the Bible in my right hand, I’ve begun walking forward and have forever left Alpha behind.