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NPHC Greeks and the impact of Black History Month

 

For some students at the University of Mississippi, Union Unplugged is the face of National Pan-Hellenic Council Greeks.

The event, which usually happens every Tuesday, has become a showcase for traditionally black sororities and fraternities. The energetic step routines always attract a crowd of students to the front of the Student Union every week.

“We should teach the campus why we step or stroll,” said Isiah Poellnitz, Chinese language senior and president of Iota Phi Theta. 

He said part of African-American tradition and culture has been preserved in that particular art.

“What’s seen (at Union Unplugged) is not what we really are — it’s a portion,” said Omar Hamid, mechanical engineering senior and president of Alpha Phi Alpha.

Alpha chapters across the state participate in organizations such Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Brother’s Keeper program.

“Everyone in every organization is involved in something,” Hamid said. “There are many sides of us that you won’t see at first glance, but take one minute with us and you’ll see everything we’re involved in and do.”

NPHC member Davis Gates was inducted into the Ole Miss Hall of Fame this year. In addition, NPHC Greeks are involved in other prestigious organizations on campus, including the Columns Society and the Associated Student Body.

Brandon Smith, finance junior and president of Kappa Alpha Psi, said he hopes the involvement of NPHC Greeks on campus continues.

“Most members are involved in something, and that’s the reason they are members,” Smith said.

LaQuita Johnson, biology senior and president of the Ole Miss chapter of Zeta Beta Phi, said that even if their creeds are different, all NPHC organizations share three common goals: sisterly or brotherly love, service and academics. 

“We take the time to learn each other’s history and to know each other,” Johnson said.

Progress has been made since the first NPHC organization was established at Ole Miss in 1974. It’s safe to assume that nearly 40 years ago, members from the different councils did not host events together as they do now.

Alpha Omicron Pi and Alpha Phi Alpha will host their third annual spaghetti fundraiser while Kappa Alpha Psi is planning a yearly walk with Tri Delt to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“It’s important for people to realize how service-oriented we are and that we didn’t get to where we are today without men and women willing to serve and make sacrifices,” said Taylor Carnes, a geological engineering sophomore and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. “They didn’t get the benefits of it, so it’s our responsibility to carry on their legacy.”

As Black History Month comes to a close, it serves as a time of reflection and inspiration to go forward.

“To us, Black History Month serves as a reminder and motivates us,” Hamid said. “It keeps us hungry and working to make sure we don’t lose any of our rights or start to neglect what we were founded on.”

Members of Alpha Phi Alpha, most notably Martin Luther King Jr., fought for voting rights and Hamid said some NPHC members viewed the recent ASB elections as an opportunity to express their voice.

“It’s a reminder of all the African-American leaders we have throughout the fraternity and that we can be leaders as well,” Smith said.