Black fraternities and sororities do good for Black folks but can do better
Last week, up to 10,000-15,000 members of my beloved fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, flooded into Philly to participate in the thoroughly impressive Kappa Conclave 2019.
The weeklong event included several parties, a golf outing, a gospel fest, a public meeting, a Black male health symposium, a school district check presentation, and a Cheyney/Lincoln HBCU fundraiser.
The check presentation was in the amount of a whopping $75,000 that the Kappas donated to the city’s schoolchildren. And thanks to the fundraiser, Cheyney and Lincoln received a total of $20,000 with half to each. By the way, the fundraiser stemmed from a mega-party with several hundred attendees at the Marriott Hotel at 12th and Filbert Streets that resulted in $10,000 along with a separate matching gift of $10,000 from Samuel J. Patterson, General Chairman of the conclave.
In fact, it was Patterson who informed me that, in the interest of promoting Black businesses regarding the conclave’s various events and festivities, he and the other conclave officials had one question before deciding which companies to hire: “Do we know somebody Black?” That’s exactly why, as Patterson pointed out, “The printing firm, the transportation service, the security agency, the decorating establishment, and several others were all Black-owned and operated.”
That’s a good thing. It’s actually a great thing. But it could be even greater. It should be even greater because we can do better.
While in Philly, the Kappas along with their families, friends, fans, and groupies- yes, we have many fans and many groupies!- spent, in the thoughtful and conservative estimation of Patterson (who holds an MBA from Wharton Business School and is the CEO of PK Financial Group, LLC), probably as much as roughly $50 million or so in the city at the convention center, hotels, restaurants, stores, clubs, bars, parking lots, and elsewhere.
This is exactly why I say we can do better. And by “we,” I don’t mean just the Kappas. I mean all the members of the Divine Nine, which is officially known as the National Pan-Hellenic Council and consists of Black fraternities Alpha Phi Alpha, Iota Phi Theta, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, and Phi Beta Sigma along with Black sororities Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho, and Zeta Phi Beta.
Instead of us Divine Nine members constantly giving our money to white-owned convention centers, hotels, restaurants, stores, clubs, bars, parking lots, and other places in order to hold and attend conclaves, conferences, banquets, weddings, and similar gatherings, why don’t we all come together and build our own damn convention centers with their own hotels, restaurants, stores, clubs, bars, and parking lots?
The cost is absolutely no problem. In fact, the Baltimore Convention Center and Exhibition Hall, for example, cost only $200 million to build along with another $200 million for the cost of the adjacent and enclosed skywalk-connected Baltimore Hilton Hotel.
The Kappas have around 170,000-200,000 members, which is approximately similar (or thereabout) to most of the other eight members of the Divine Nine, all of which have annual membership dues of about $700.
So let’s do the math. If you multiply $700 times 200,000 Kappas, for instance, you have $140 million. And if you multiply $700 times 1.8 million (based on the nine organizations having, for example, approximately up to 200,000 members each), you theoretically have $1.26 billion in a single year. Obviously, though, most members, generally speaking, of most types of organizations don’t regularly pay dues. But even if only ten percent of the Divine Nine do, we have $126 million in just one year.
In other words, much of that approximately $50 million that went into the pockets of mostly white businesses in Philly last week in connection with the Kappa Conclave could have gone into the pockets of Black-owned and operated businesses- if the Divine Nine had its own “Divine Nine Convention Center and Hotel” designed by Black architects, built by Black construction workers, and serviced by Black receptionists, maids, waiters, caterers, etc. All we have to do is to form a Black fraternity and Black sorority coalition and rely upon the expertise of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers, the National Organization of Minority Architects, the National Black Contractors Association, and the National Bankers Association.
In addition to getting our business right, we gotta get our mind right. And we can start by no longer foolishly calling ourselves “Black Greeks.” At least 2,000 years before the Greeks did their fraternity thing, the Egyptians (correctly known as the Kemites) had originated their “Wisdom Teaching” and their “Sophia” (meaning sophisticated) rites of passage, which the Greeks tried to copy with their own pledge program. The Greeks referred to the Egyptians’ thing as the Mystery School. That’s because when the Greeks asked the Egyptians what they were secretly doing, the Egyptians politely told them that it was none of the Greeks’ business and that it would remain a mystery to the Greeks. While the Greeks’ pledge program lasted for weeks or months, the Egyptians’ rites of passage- which included a mental obstacle component, ritualistic ceremony, secret passwords and handshakes, and cultural/spiritual enlightenment- lasted for years.
So why do the Greeks get all the credit for the fraternity/sorority system? Well, the short answer is mutual commercial trade that eventually led to a takeover as a result of Greek scheming, duplicity, aggression, and then weaponry that was more massively destructive than any on the planet. The Greeks not only stole much of Egypt’s wealth. They also stole and plagiarized much from Egypt’s public and secret libraries, including most- but fortunately not all- of its “Wisdom Training” and “Sophia” documents.
Enough of the history lesson for now. Let’s get back to business. And we do that by building facilities and creating wealth. In other words, let’s do for self!
And although we certainly do good already, we can certainly do better. Much better.