PRINT: The Next Chapter: Diversity Q&A

FAU Greek chapters condemn racism and celebrate inclusivity both on and off-campus.

Photo+is+from+the+NPHC+Sorority+Recruitment+Night.+Top+Left+is+Rakkayah+Peters+%28President%29%2C+top+right+is+Jasmine+Bodenstein-Fox+%28Historian%29%2C+bottom+right+is+Isabella+Conde+%28Treasurer%29%2C+and+bottom+left+is+Dennisha+Smith+%28Vice+President%29.+

Photo is from the NPHC Sorority Recruitment Night. Top Left is Rakkayah Peters (President), top right is Jasmine Bodenstein-Fox (Historian), bottom right is Isabella Conde (Treasurer), and bottom left is Dennisha Smith (Vice President).

Darlene Antoine, Features Editor

Editor’s note: This story is in the UP’s latest issue that can be found digitally through our Issuu page.

Activists permeated the summer of 2020 with protests, social justice efforts, trending hashtags, and campaigns to end police brutality. FAU Greek chapter leaders heard the outcry of rallying students who marched along campus halls and highways to demand change at FAU and across the nation.

After reaching out to all 12 sororities and 15 fraternities, only four chose to comment.

Chapter representatives from these four were asked via email and Zoom about how they are working to pave the way for social changes in their chapters.

  • Javier Montalvo, president of Lambda Alpha Upsilon Fraternity, Inc.
  • Anthony Powell, president of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity
  • Dennisha Smith, vice president of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
  • Viviana Lopez, president of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.
  • Ameera Sabit, chapter treasurer of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.

How has your chapter responded to the issues of racial discrimination here at FAU and across the nation?

Smith: The Pi Eta chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. meets regularly with other members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council to discuss and draft efforts the university could use that actively address racial discrimination present on campus and abroad. Education is key, so we work individually and organizationally to educate those who are uninformed through daily conversation, programming, and university conferences.

Sabit: As a Latin sorority, the pertinent issue of racism and colorism throughout our communities has always been relevant and a hot topic of conversation. We consistently discuss these topics and what we could do to reduce blatant racism, as it directly impacts the ones we love. Our sisters are always advocating for the minority community, whether it be by attending protests or creating controversial table talks, we try to remain consistent in creating a safe space for all communities at FAU.

Montalvo: On a national level, I do recall that after the death of George Floyd and the increase of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the start of all the protests during the summer, our national organization put out a statement condemning racial inequality. We as a chapter at FAU did an educational video alongside the Deltas on campus. Essentially we were explaining to people in a twelve-minute Instagram video: what the Black Lives Matter movement was, why it is happening, what has happened in the past that has grown into this important movement.

Powell: The first thing we did was we looked internally and made sure that we didn’t have anything that was fueling [racial discrimination]. We talked to our members and asked how we can improve ourselves and make sure we are all educated. We educated ourselves. We’re one of the most diverse chapters in the nation. So we looked to our brothers and basically made sure that we were all educated. We support each other, support people of color, and have a zero-tolerance policy on racism or discrimination. If anything like that happens, immediate boot, we don’t tolerate any of that stuff.

Have there been any instances of racial injustice within your chapter and if so what have you done to combat those situations?

Lopez: While we’re proud to say that we haven’t had any instances of racial injustice or discrimination internally, we understand that that’s not necessarily the case everywhere. This is why we make it our mission to actively combat racial injustice and discrimination, not only within our sorority but throughout organizations and councils nationwide.

Smith: Our organization was founded due to racial injustice faced by the Black community. We work hard to keep all members properly educated on social justice issues and are glad to have not experienced any racial injustice within our chapter.

Powell: Since I’ve been at FAU, we’ve had no problems with racial injustice at all. I have many brothers that are persons of color, we hang out, we all love each other, we’re brothers. I’ve never had an issue with that at all since we’ve been here so that’s definitely something I’m proud of.

What are some ways your chapter is implementing more diversity and inclusivity in terms of members?

Smith: As a historically Black organization, one of the many ways we seek to continue the legacy of our founders is by placing no boundary on what a sister looks like. An apprentice to the Black community is more valuable than an ally, so we ensure all those interested that there is no “look,” there exists an expectation to find your role in the liberation of Black people.

Sabit: Our sorority’s motto is “Latin by tradition, not by definition” which is crucial in recruitment considering you do not have to be Latin to join our sorority. We make it very clear when we are tabling, or recruiting members in general. If you take a look at our photos throughout our years at FAU, we have the most diverse lines with women joining that are from the Caribbean, Dominican, Arab, Asian, and many more nationalities from across the globe. We have never discriminated against a potential orientee, considering that we see the beauty in diversity. With diversity comes many different perspectives, all that is crucial to creating a safe community for people of every race.

Will your chapter attend or even host workshops/events regarding discussions about diversity and racism at FAU?

Smith: One of our anticipated events is titled “Know Your Roots,” which hopes to continue a conversation on the importance of hair and its representation in the Black community. Afro-hair is a common basis of discrimination cross-culturally, so we wish to emphasize healthy hair habits and healthy approaches to the perception of natural hair.

Powell: Actually, we’ve been talking in our chapter about doing a presentation that we are going to share with Greek life, about diversity and inclusion. That includes ageism, racism, stuff like that, and we are constructing our own with help from outside information. We are going to share it with other people and they could use that to present to their chapters or the school can use that to present to Greek life in general. We’re in the process of making our own right now.

What do you have to say to predominantly white Greek chapters who failed to respond to discussions of racial injustice?

Montalvo: This is something that’s affecting everyone, obviously, the minority groups specifically, the Black community, Latino community, etc. We’re all affected by these things, but to a certain extent, I believe it’s also affecting the white community because they are the ones mostly being called out for these injustices. It’s important for people to educate themselves. I think it’s important to try and understand and empathize with people so you can understand what they are going through. Even if these chapters didn’t have anything to say at meetings, I think it would’ve been nice if they could’ve attended so they could hear what’s going on in the communities. If they see something, hear something, and learn, they can become advocates of change. All of that comes with education and educating yourself. Even if it’s not your community being attacked, [white Greek chapters can] help bring that change.

Darlene Antoine is the Features Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email her at [email protected]