Monday, July 6, 2020

Greek life raising support, money for Black Lives Matter

June 16, 2020
<p>The Phi Delta Theta fraternity house on Cowley Avenue photographed on July 11, 2019. </p>

The Phi Delta Theta fraternity house on Cowley Avenue photographed on July 11, 2019.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

Following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and numerous protests against police brutality, Michigan State fraternities and sororities are using their platforms to speak out in support of the Black community. 

In raising money and support for various organizations and causes related to the Black Lives Matter movement, many of those who have gone Greek are dedicated to using their platforms to enact change across the nation. 

“The Black community faces racial discrimination every day in America, and people are hurting and suffering from the injustices of our society,” Rachel Fillip, philanthropy chairwoman of the Gamma Phi Beta chapter at MSU, said. “So, it’s our responsibility to do something about this.”

Fillip’s chapter has raised money — around $500 thus far — for the George Floyd Memorial Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Detroit Justice Center. She said she selected these organizations to honor Floyd’s life, support social justice and fight against racial inequality.  

Fraternities, too, are collecting money for support. The MSU chapter of Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity Inc. is raising money for the Black Lives Matter Global Network and National Bail Out funds, according to incoming chapter president Isain Ibarra.

Ibarra said the effort was undertaken by the region his fraternity belongs to, which includes 10 chapters from schools in Michigan and Ohio, after a brother from the University of Michigan came up with the idea to raise money via Instagram by matching or exceeding the donations of others.

“We just decided that it would be a good way to fundraise like that, where we could encourage people to match donations as a way of getting it to spread,” Ibarra said.

As of June 9, the 10-chapter region raised more than $5,000 in total for the two organizations.

The advocacy of the brothers of the East Lansing chapter, however, also stems from their own life experiences. 

According to Ibarra, many of the fraternity’s members live in predominantly Black areas, which spurred them to take action.

“A lot of these injustices that are occurring are happening in our own neighborhood,” Ibarra said. “We just couldn’t sit idly by while stuff like this occurs to people (we) grew up considering to be friends and family.”

The fraternity’s four principles additionally motivated its members to take initiative and raise support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the Black community. 

“We’re based on four (principles), which are scholarship, brotherhood, community service and cultural awareness,” Ibarra said. “So, fundraising and advocacy … hits really close to home for us, and it’s something that we try to do every single semester.”

Fillip said it is important for the chapter to use their four core values — love, labor, learning and loyalty — to stand up for and support the Black community, too. 

“We need to spread love to those affected by racial discrimination," Fillip said. "We will continue to work alongside our African American sisters and those who are affected to make a difference. We must educate one another by providing resources on the issues that we are facing in America. We will also stand with the Black community to help make a difference.”

To continue this support into the school year, Fillip said her chapter will be creating a diversity and inclusion position in the sorority. She also said Gamma Phi Beta will continue to fundraise for Black Lives Matter organizations and plans to work directly with National Pan-Hellenic organizations as students return to campus in the fall.

“We plan to expand our organizations and look to the MSU community (and) the National Pan-Hellenic organizations to guide us to donating to their recommendations,” Fillip said.

The National Pan-Hellenic Council, or NPHC, is the one of four governing councils for Greek life on campus, and is made up of the nine largest historically African American, Greek-letter organizations.

While the NPHC was formed in 1930, the first Black fraternity at MSU was established in 1948, 76 years after the first fraternity appeared on campus. The first Black sorority was established six years later in 1954 — 63 years after the school’s first all-women’s group was established. 

Today, MSU hosts all of the “Divine Nine” organizations of the NPHC. 

According to President of MSU’s NPHC Taleya Taylor, other Greek life organizations have reached out to the council to receive advice in crafting their statements and to provide their support for the NPHC, which Taylor said the council appreciates.

However, the council has done far more than provide guidance to other organizations on campus. 

To honor Black lives lost to police brutality, the NPHC organized and hosted a candlelight vigil at The Rock on Farm Lane on June 4. 

“We put together the vigil just for a space where people could just feel comfortable, especially the Black community, and let them know that the NPHC isn’t just an (organization), that we actually do something for the Black community,” Taylor said.

On top of the vigil and members donating money to legal funds, the NPHC partnered with the NAACP Michigan Youth and College Division to help hold a march in Lansing on June 10.

The march helped bring people together in a space where they could share their beliefs and support for the Black Lives Matter movement, Taylor said.

“(The march) was a really good experience. A lot of people came out,” Taylor said. “I think it touched everyone to continue with the movement and let them know that it wasn’t just a one-time thing.”

Taylor said the council, too, does not plan to stop its advocacy and activism as students return to campus in the fall. 

“This isn’t just a one-time thing,” Taylor said. “We did the vigil. We helped host a protest. … But, I think it’s important that people know it doesn’t stop there, and we will not stop there, as well.”

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