History of Multicultural Greek Organizations

Countless sources cite the positives of joining a sorority in college as a great way to make friends, an easy way to get into service and leadership, good access to an academic support system, and an excellent way to build a huge post-grad network. Furthermore, according to Elite Daily, students who “go Greek” in college are more likely to graduate. Moreover, according to the Fraternity Advisor, both the first female senator and first female astronaut were Greek, and 63% of the U.S. President’s cabinet members since 1900 have been Greek. That said, it’s no wonder there are an estimated 9 million Greek members nationally (both undergraduate and post-graduate).

Despite all of this data, you might still be looking at a sorority and thinking “that’s not for me.” Speaking from personal experience, I really wanted to join a sorority when I got to college, but what I knew about sororities didn’t click with me—I just didn’t see myself as a “sorority girl.” But one day, as I was walking through the student union at my campus, I came across a sorority whose banner was written in Spanish, whose members all had a strong air of individuality, and who were—for the most part—Latina. That’s when I knew I had found my home in multicultural Greek life.

But first, some history on Greek life in the United States:

The types of sororities and fraternities that are popularized in western culture belong to one of two councils: the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) and the Inter-Fraternity Conference (IFC). The former comprises of 26 sororities, and the latter of 69 fraternities. Greek life in the United States was started in 1776 by Phi Beta Kappa At the College of William and Mary, who are known as the first fraternity. It wasn’t until 1852 that the first sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, was founded at Wesleyan Female College.

Over fifty years later at Cornell University, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. was founded in 1906. Two years later in 1908 at Howard University, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. was founded. These two organizations would go on to be known as the first historically black fraternal organizations, and members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. This council, also known as “The Divine Nine,” comprises of nine sororities and fraternities rich in African-American history and culture.

In 1931, a new kind of fraternal organization arose when Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity, Inc. was founded. This fraternity is known as the oldest Latino fraternal organization in existence. In 1975, two more organizations were founded: Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc., and Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.—the latter being the first Latina sorority in the United States. Since then, multicultural Greek Life has been on the rise, a and oftentimes, students entering college don’t even know about its existence.

Multicultural Greek organizations can’t be grouped into one council like the other organizations because multiple councils exist. For example, there’s the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO), which is home to seventeen sororities and fraternities, from Alpha Pi Sigma Sorority, Inc., to La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity Inc.; from Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Inc., to Omega Phi Beta Sorority Inc. Though you do not have to be Latino/a or Hispanic to join one of these organizations, Latino fraternal organizations are deeply rooted in Latino tradition, with a strong emphasis on unity, strength, and diversity.

That said, there are many other merits to multicultural Greek organizations aside from the more blatant “multicultural” aspect. Foremost, multicultural fraternities and sororities tend to be smaller—a lot smaller—than NPC and IFC. That means that you can expect to know all of your sorority sisters. And I don’t mean having just seen them in passing and knowing their name—I mean knowing their name, favorite color, family history, having cried in their car at least twice, and meeting for Sunday brunch every week. In addition, a smaller chapter makes it more likely that you’ll get to work on the projects you’re interested in, and your opinions will be more likely to be heard. Moreover, though money should never be the thing that makes you choose an organization or hold you back from joining one, multicultural organizations do tend to be a little bit cheaper than NPC and IFC.

Of course, there are cons to joining  a multicultural organization. Because they are smaller, be prepared to work hard. Multicultural organizations do about just as much as their bigger NPC and IFC counterparts—that means parties, fundraisers, socials, recruitment, and community service done on a similar scale but with a fraction of the people to help. That just means that when you join a multicultural organization, you need to be prepared to work hard.

So, whether you’re about to start college or it’s still a few years away, or maybe you’re already there and are interested in a sorority, make sure to look into your current of future school’s roster of multicultural organizations. If you’re ready to work hard and live proudly in your culture and tradition, all the while still enjoying the benefits of being in a “normal” sorority, be sure to give multicultural Greek life a chance!

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