Students from diverse backgrounds gain family, skills from multicultural greek life
MSU's Multicultural Greek Council and National Pan-Hellenic Council both have rich historical foundations and a respect for culture
When Davina James came to college, she hadn’t found a group in which she felt included.
James, a human development senior, was born in Detroit and moved to Colorado during her adolescence. She returned to Michigan to attend MSU. Throughout all of her life, she said that she had never really found her niche.
Until she discovered greek life.
“I’ve always felt like there’s so much more for me than what everyone thinks is available for me,” James said.
James found that through Zeta Sigma Chi Multicultural Sorority, Inc.
“I can do so much more and I have done so much more,” she said.
James, who is also the president of MSU’s Multicultural Greek Council (MGC), isn’t the only one who has come into her own through joining greek life.
MSU National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) President Kristopher Johnson said as a minority, being a part of a predominantly black organization with significant history, has brought him a lot of pride.
When making his decision to go greek, Johnson wasn’t sure if he would feel this sense of pride and inclusiveness if he decided to join a fraternity on the much larger Interfraternity Council (IFC).
When comparing MGC and NPHC to the better-known campus councils such as IFC and Panhellenic Council, the foundations are extremely different.
NPHC, also known as the “Divine Nine,” is composed of the largest historically black greek-letter organizations.
The council was nationally founded in 1930 at Howard University in Washington, D.C, during a time when racial segregation plagued African Americans.
“The NPHC was specifically founded as a black retention tool as a way of providing African Americans with a gateway to have a holistic college experience,” said Denzell Wright, president of the MSU chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and marketing entrepreneurship senior.
Notable members of the NPHC organization include Dr. Martin Luther King, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, and Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, who was a member of Phi Beta Sigma.
“The history of my fraternity is what really grasped me,” said Johnson, a member of Phi Beta Sigma. “My fraternity and all of the frats and sororities (in NPHC) are really engrained in black power and enhancing the college experience for our minorities.”
Wright also said being black and having been exposed to the history of the council heavily influenced his decision to become a member.
NPHC has a goal of developing a sense of community.
“We try our best to benefit our community in practical ways,” said Johnson. “We’ve had fundraisers for the American Cancer Society — specifically for cancers that more directly affect the African American community.”
Johnson said that his fraternity values being able to have direct contact with those that they help in the community.
“The most exciting thing for me is having the ability to impact and even change some peoples lives,” said Wright.
Countless cultures, one council
MGC has been the homebase for greek organizations that have found their root in multicultural backgrounds.
No two people in the MGC look exactly alike nor have they shared the same experiences.
MGC has a governing body that represents Latino, Latina, Asian, and other multicultural greek-letter organizations on campus.
“It is okay to be different, learn different things, and be around different people,” James said.
James said she appreciates that MGC has no boundaries or limitations, in terms of the organizations who join up. She calls it a “free for all.”
Delta Lambda Phi Fraternity was founded in 1986 by gay men, for all men. The organization joined MGC last year.
“We are not just that gay fraternity — there is no judgment, we are a group of brothers,” said media and information junior Khalil Speller .
The sororities and fraternities within the council have a strong respect for culture.
Psychology junior Emily Villegas explained that her organization, Lambda Theta Alpha, a historically Latina sorority, is inclusive not exclusive.
“We have Latina members, African American members — it doesn’t matter, we are all sisters,” Villegas said.
MGC is an organization that is continuously involved in servicing the community and promoting scholarship.
“We try to stay involved by doing projects like volunteering at places like the Haven House and Boys and Girls Club,” said James.
Emily Villegas explained that her sorority along with other chapters in MGC often collaborate with other organizations to host community based events.
A second family
Johnson attributes many of the skills he developed in college to being a part of his fraternity.
“Professionalism, social skills, leadership skills — all of these skills will translate into the real world,” Johnson said.
Wright also attributes his leadership skills to being a part of his fraternity and adds that having the opportunity to socialize with such a wide variety of people has pushed him far out of his comfort zone.
Aside from skills, other students in MGC and NPHC feel they have gained something more valuable — a family.
Though their fraternities might be very different in culture, brotherhood is a value that both Johnson of Phi Beta Sigma and Speller of Delta Lambda Phi share.
“I joined this fraternity because they gave me a sense a brotherhood —they were like my family away from home,” said Speller.
Johnson shares a similar sentiment.
“The brotherhood shared between the people in this fraternity was admirable — I wanted to have that,” said Johnson.
Sisterhood is a core value for the women of Lamba Theta Alpha.
“These girls are my best friends, it’s really nice to have women that are genuinely there for you,” Villegas said.
James said she is 100 percent proud of her decision to become a part of her sorority.
“I take pride to the fullest, (there) is never a moment that I wish I could have done something different,” James said.
Johnson said since MGC and NPHC have a smaller number of members than IFC and Panhellenic Council, they do not have enough funds being contributed by members to pay for sorority and fraternity houses. But Johnson said they don’t let that get in their way.
“It would definitely be useful, but I think we will be okay, we’re still a family regardless,” said Johnson.
And that is something that all of these students feel like they will always have in their fraternities and sororities.
“I know that I can call my brothers any time and they will pick up — you don’t find men like this too often,” said Speller.