|By Stewart, Pearl|
While many Black Greek organizations celebrate centennials, criticism grows of their relevance.
The nation's historically Black Greek letter organizations (BGLOs), collectively referred to as the "Divine Nine," have played an integral part in American history Since each organization's founding throughout the 20th century, Black fraternities and sororities have not only provided African-Americans with a community to support one another, they have also made notable contributions to society, particularly in the areas of civil rights, social welfare and politics.
The list of trailblazing African-Americans who have hailed from BGLOs spans the spectrum of American life, ranging from labor leader
Today, the combined membership of these organizations exceeds one million. With such longevity, these groups are among the oldest Black institutions in the country. In the past eight years, several BGLOs have marked or passed a celebratory milestone - their 100th anniversary. On
Despite the accomplishments of BGLOs throughout their widespread histories, they are attracting a growing number of critics in academia and media, including some from within their own ranks, who question their relevance and adherence to their founding principles.
Parks is currently researching the political activism of Black sororities and fraternities in the early 20th century. "BGLOs have a remarkable history in ... racial uplift activism," he says. As an example, he cites the
Parks adds that the organizations need to confront 21st century social and political issues. "The biggest thirdrail issue of Black fraternities is gay membership," he says. "From the research that I and my colleagues have done, anxieties over gay membership impact hazing, whether some brothers want to remain active and how the organizations impact communities."
The BGLOs continue to describe their purpose as primarily service-oriented. For example, Kappa Alpha Psi's website promotes its