Bahiyah Woman Magazine
By Te-Erika Patterson
New BWM Team Writer
The rumors of hazing, brainwashing and the physical characteristics that divide African American sororities have left a permanent stain on the premise of Sisterhood that most Pan Hellenic sororities were founded upon. It is so prevalent that many women may turn away from becoming involved simply to avoid the negative stigma associated with each of the four historically Black sororities, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Zeta Phi Beta.
When I first arrived at college, I knew without a doubt that I would pledge. I had already seen Spike Lee’s ‘School Daze’ numerous times and ‘A Different World’ showed me the fun side of sororities that I wanted to make sure I experienced. College Greek Life influenced me from an early age. My first influence was my best friend Anna’s Mother.
Even as a middle-aged woman, Anna's mom is a stunner. She walks around like she is God's gift to everyone because she knows she is. I would go over to Anna's house after school and immediately stroll over to the picture wall, where my eyes would linger over one picture.
It was a picture of Anna's mom during her college days at Florida Memorial College. She was wearing an apple green colored dress, posed sitting on the grass with her Afro blowing in the wind. She looked like a beauty queen, and she was. She was Ms. AKA at her college.
Later in high school, I met one of our guidance counselors who was too precise. That lady walked around like she didn't have a care in the world. The aura that surrounded just reeked of confidence and I thought to myself, there's something about her that I want.
One day I was in the flea market getting my hair done and I saw her leaving the salon. She was carrying an AKA umbrella. She saw me looking at it and walked over to me and smiled. "I expect nothing less from you Te-Erika," she said and walked away.
When I got to UF, I was on a mission. When I saw a girl with an AKA shirt on I went up to her and introduced myself. "Um, I'm interested in your sorority. Will you be having an interest meeting soon?" She looked at me with a half-smile, like she knew a secret. "Just keep your eyes open," she told me. "Be on the look out."
Man. What did that mean?
I later found out what that meant; Absolutely nothing.
The AKA's had just been kicked off of campus. No new lines were going to cross anytime soon.By then I was trying my best to live my life for God and it hurt so much because I always thought that being an AKA meant that I had arrived. That I had finally developed into the women that I looked up to. The cool, confident, successful- I got my head right type of woman that I envisioned myself becoming.
With no chance of the sorority coming back I decided to focus on other activities. I wrote for the school paper, participated in women’s Bible studies and met tons of people through the many clubs that I would visit. Eventually I met a group of women who were spirited, good hearted and well known around campus for their community service and positive attitudes. They were a part of a community service sorority called Gamma Sigma Sigma, a national service sorority with deep roots at the University of Florida. I loved community service, I loved working with women and they were so nice to me that I couldn’t help but attend an interest meeting to see what they were about.
I decided to pledge. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I thought I’d wear a pin and attend a few community service projects and that was it. We had an induction ceremony and I met the 18 other women who would become my line sisters. A week passed and I hadn’t seen any of them and it was fine by me. I had already developed friendships with women at my school so my interest in the sorority was strictly for community service purposes. I was at ease about the pledge process until I got a call for our first meeting. I headed over to the dorm where my new line sisters were meeting and I took the elevator up to the 14th floor. I walked in and greeted everyone as calmly as I could. I was actually very annoyed because I had to leave my ‘real’ friends to go to this meeting. I sat down and waited as one woman introduced herself and others followed suit. I stood up and told them my name and my birthday and I sat back down again. While the introductions were going on, the phone rang and the woman whose dorm room we were in informed the caller what floor we were on. Minutes later we were shocked when a Big Sister walked through the door with a stern look on her face. This same woman who I had hung out with and laughed with was now a completely different person. She wasn’t the cool chick that pushed me to be attracted to the sorority; she was now someone to humble myself before as I was told I had to earn my way into her sorority.
As she and the other Big Sisters banned together seemingly in opposition of my line sisters and I, we were forced to depend on each other, to protect each other and to uplift each other against the Big Sister’s tactics. Our entire pledge process was such a trying time. I had not counted on the emotional stress I was put through and I had no idea a community service sorority would be this thorough about learning it’s history, getting to know each other and pushing us to bond. I really thought I was joining a club but this was no club, this was a process.
By the end of my process I had experienced every emotion imaginable with my line sisters. I wanted to kill them sometimes. I wanted to hide from them sometimes and sometimes, I wanted to tell the world how much I loved them. To this day I don’t believe there will ever be another life changing time in my life like my experience in a sorority. Being forced to work together, study together and even live together laid the foundation for a healthy work ethic today. You can’t simply walk away from your line sisters; you have to work out whatever problems you have. I learned not to give up on women. Because of my pledge process I don’t desert a friendship easily. By dealing with so many different women I also learned that there is more than one way to achieve success. I lost my attitude that if things weren’t done my way then they wouldn’t be done right. My participation in Gamma Sigma Sigma gave me the confidence that I needed to go out and sell myself to potential employers.
By working as a team on so many different projects it heightened my love and dedication for mankind and sharpened my ability to work well with others.The women I met through my sorority are women who anyone would be proud to know. They are lawyers, physician assistants, Ph.D. students, social workers, teachers and entertainers. Although our professional success is something to be proud of, it is the love we have for each other that affirms my belief that sororities are a great experience. There is no other group of women on earth that I know of who will love me like they do. They have watched me evolve, grow and stumble yet they have never judged me or abandoned me.
There are so many Black women in this world who do not understand the richness of having a Sistafriend. We need each other to share our passions, our pains and our plans. We need each other to share our secrets and our shame.
The love between two Sisters is unmatched by any other relationship simply because it is often based on mutual respect and admiration and not physical attributes or the desire to gain something.
One thing that is certain as the years begin and end
My love for my Sisters, not a fad or a trend
Blessed from up high with women I can depend
We’re Sisters by choice, but God made us friends