People Speak out about the VH1 Reality Series “Sorority Sisters”


Karsceal Turner – I Got NEXT!

(Photo courtesy: Ping.com)
(Photo courtesy: Ping.com)

This columnist takes issue with the VH1 television show entitled “Sorority Sisters” I’ll tell you why in the next few paragraphs. Just bear with me. You might learn something…or not… “Sorority Sisters” chronicles the lives of nine Atlanta area women who belong to black sororities. And it became the target of protests and anger before it even aired. Reception to the show’s trailer, which was released in June, was so negative that it was pulled off the Internet.

I’m not even in a sorority. Men can’t be in sororities. However, as a member of numerous men’s fraternities beginning with the Masonic Lodge and ending with Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. I felt I should give this subject the benefit of my pen. First and foremost, I do not speak for any of my organizations. Let this serve as a disclaimer for my Masonic and Kappa brothers and my fellow Nobles and Eastern Stars.

You ask why it’s any of my business. Simple. Because these sororities are my sisters in a literal sense as they are Black women and secondly because they are members of the Divine Nine. In addition, I am Patron of an Eastern Star chapter. The O.E.S. boasts members of all sororities. I shall use this cyber platform to my advantage because I have your attention.

I don’t assume everyone knows what I’m talking about so allow me to simplify. A quick gander at the website BlackGreek.com will yield the following insight: “There are nine historically Black Greek letter organizations (BGLOs) that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Collectively, these organizations are referred to as “The Divine Nine.” Each of these fraternities and sororities is rich in history – ties to one or more of these organizations may be found in many college-educated Black families in the United States”

The nine organizations are as follows: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Founded 1906, Cornell University, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Founded 1908, Howard University, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Founded 1911, Indiana University, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Founded 1911, Howard University, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Founded 1913, Howard University, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Founded 1914, Howard University, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Founded 1920, Howard University, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Founded 1922, Butler University, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Founded 1963, Morgan State University.

Watching the show was painful

Just like many television viewers, I saw the commercials about the show before it aired. Just from the previews, I knew I wasn’t touching it. Many dudes felt the same way surely. I did an about-face because of the uproar I’ve noticed via social media. Hence, I had to suffer through an episode a week ago.

I must spotlight Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, right now because thus far, they were the only sororities represented at the Tea episode I suffered through for purpose of writing this column. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority were represented in that particular episode and you won’t catch me watching another.

Again, I’m not in a sorority, but I’m like, “who the hell are they representing with this show?” Like really, while thumbing through my memories of collegiate life at a Black college, specifically Bethune-Cookman University, I only recall congeniality and cooperation amongst ALL the Black Greek organizations. That isn’t to say there was always peace, love and unity but wait, that negative stuff isn’t for everybody to see just like the shenanigans that go on at your house behind closed doors. Many of you would be in jail.

Allow me to be very clear from the jump that I hate ALL reality shows, especially those which depict Black people portrayed in stereotypical manner. Sadly, many of those shows such as Love & Hip Hop, and any of the “Real Housewives” and “Love and Basketball” are widely viewed by the same sisters I advocate for. Check your Face Book timeline if you think I’m lying. It isn’t just me.

David Anderson is “old school” regarding fraternal life. He is a member of a social fraternity and a Masonic Past Master. “I have been a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity for 34 years. I am extremely proud of the Black Greek Communities reaction to “Sorority Sisters”. Enough is enough!” Anderson exclaimed. “We have seen years of programming degrading the Black community and Black women in general. Predominantly Black Sororities have played a dynamic role in Social Action in this Country for over 100 years. We cannot allow these prestigious organizations to be lumped in with “Basketball Wives” and the other garbage the networks are perpetuating these days. I stand with my Black Greek Sisters in demanding that this program be removed from the air.”

As I co-sign Anderson’s statement, a big issue here is that such shows portray Black females in social sororities in a manner that we shall call “ratchet”. “Ratchet” is the new stereotypical term for folks who behave in a ghetto manner with little to no home-training. It is self-critical but so are Black people. Don’t start me on Willie Lynch. Just DON’T, but stay with me… demonize and kill the men, demoralize and poison the women’s minds. Same formula, different era. White Greek Letter organizations are like ‘just don’t bring that crap over here’.

Perhaps you ask about the purpose of this offering. The purpose here is to Boycott this television show and its sponsors for sake of preservation of the principles these sororities are based on. The purpose is education about the rich heritage of such organizations from a time when the mainstream didn’t want Black folks (much less women), to have anything. How dare ya’ll let Hollywood twist this. The purpose is in awakening the sleeping sisters who tune in to shows that portray their heritage in negative manner.

As a Frater, I must not, I will not sit idly by while the sisters of various sororities I’ve grown to love are disrespected for all the world to see on television. One can only ask, who’s next? Perhaps the male counterparts of the Divine nine. Perhaps they’ll try to lure some of my fraters into some hair brained “Real World” exploitive type of show. For all we know, such a pilot show is already on the “trestle board”. One thing I believe is certain, they aren’t ignorant enough to try such exploitation with the sisters of the Order of Eastern Star nor the Masonic brothers.

You want to know how to get involved? Here’s the link: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/end-mona-scott-youngs

This petition was posted by MoveOn.org, an organization for Civic Action along with the following caption: “End: Mona Scott-Young’s “Sorority Sisters” Show”. It further reads “Let us join together to stop the blatant disrespect of the strong Black sisters who founded these organizations. Let us educate and redirect the mindless masses who flock to watch this mess.”

After I submitted my cyber signature to the cause, I noticed that there were 76,065 signatures towards the goal of 100,000. The petition was started by Reynoir Lewis and is to be hand delivered to Sumner Redstone, Chairman of the Board for Viacom, and Philippe Dauman, President/CEO, Viacom.

MoveOn.org primarily focuses on nonpartisan education and advocacy on important national issues. A petition won’t work as well as our not being brainwashed to tune in, but it’s a start.

Looks like a middle finger to me

In an emailed statement, VH1 said that the premier was seen by 1.3 million people and it was the number one non-sports cable program in that time period among women ages 18 to 49.

There are currently no plans to change the series and it seems to be connecting with its audience,” the network said through a spokeswoman.

Me? I’m like damn, who the hell did they ask about this? Not one sorority sister I reached out to of the hundreds I know said they “connected” with this show and they ranged from 18 to 49 too. Here is another disclaimer, I reached out ALL BLGO females but not all of them returned a response. Hey don’t get mad now, I asked.

Local sorority sisters speak out

Maria McCoy, a Soror (Sister) of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was critical of the show and how it portrays the women in those organizations. McCoy just celebrated her 30th year as a member of the organization, established on the campus of Howard University in 1913. “I think it is as ratchet as it can get. Each one of the women on the show deserve whatever sanctions their perspective sororities place on their membership. It gives black women a bad name and it shames the sororities,” she said.

McCoy was equally hard on her own Sorors on the show. “Especially them,” she said. “They are an embarrassment. The sororities are asking us to boycott the sponsors of the show since VH1 won’t take it off the air.”

Sponsors pulling out

Someone heard McCoy’s plea. Among many others, the National Basketball Association announced that it will join dozens of companies in pulling their ads from the controversial new reality show along with CVS, Victoria’s Secret, Homegoods, J.C Penny, T-Mobile, Target, Macy’s, Burlington Coat Factory, Olive Garden, Metro PCS and a host of others I didn’t feel like listing.

Danielle Jones has been a member of DST since 2013 (neophyte). Jones, who was initiated into the Theta Mu chapter at Oklahoma State University was also very critical of the television show. Jones and a vast majority of sorority members decry the show as stereotypical in nature.

I hate the show. I honestly feel there are women like that (who treat their organizations as if they’re gangs) but it gives each a bad representation of what our organizations stand for. In an interview of K Michelle she was right when she said we all can be a little ratchet sometimes but there’s no need to do it on national TV while “ooo-ooping” and in the name of Delta. The saddest part about it is that they treat it as if you’re not allowed or supposed to support women of a different organization. My best friend is an AKA and I’m close to a lot of her sorors. We’re all striving for the same goal just wearing different letters doing it,” Jones said.

It’s been a reality check for me. I can’t love ratchet T.V. and then hate when ratchet T.V. showcases my sorority in a negative light. I’ve decided to stop watching. And I have,” jones concluded.

Tamela Thompson is a member of Zeta Phi Beta, she was initiated into the sorority at the Mu Beta chapter at Bethune Cookman University in 1997. Thompson has boycotted the show.

I refuse to watch it. I will not patronize any business, corporation, or network that demonizes our people or organizations we have created to better ourselves. The show does not represent any of the sororities of which I, family or friends are members of. It depicts greedy companies profiting off stereotypical behaviors and prototypes of the Black communities that they’ve created.

I will not watch it, “Housewives”, “Basketball Wives” or any other show that depicts African Americans in a negative light. I loathe the disgusting efforts of anyone who seek monetary gain and fortune behind demonizing a group of people.

Tamaria Tate is not a member of any sorority. She gave the impression of a professional Black woman outside the realm of “Greekdom.”

I’m not a fan,” Tate said. “I feel that you should not affiliate yourself with your organization when you know you’re acting a plum fool and playing to the stereotype. I watched the first episode on YouTube hoping they wouldn’t get ratings. I was insulted that the women were insulting their own sisters from the same sorority,” Tate added.

Black Fraters speak on it

It is highly likely that those whom I couldn’t pull a statement from were shamed or simply too upset to speak on the show. Or, they have witnessed the “ratchedness” personally. Methinks many of the female Fraters are pissed that dirty laundry that actually happens is being aired. I’ll say it again, don’t get mad at me! I was prompted to get the perspective of men, so I reached out to them.

James Butts is a brother of Phi Beta Sigma, Fraternity, Inc, Butts’ sentiments echoed my thoughts on the matter. “I think the show, like many other African-American reality shows, are just another way for main stream media to expose us a dimwits and imbeciles who will air our dirty laundry, for a few dollars, for the world to continue to see us as a negative race, Butts said.

Johnny Vickers sees it as a double standard of sorts. Vickers is a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha “Not once did anyone Greek or otherwise make a fuss when these shows (Real Housewives Of Atlanta, Love & Hip-hop, Bball wives) exploited us. More members threatened to boycott businesses that would advertise during the SS time slot. Yet no one threatened to boycott advertisers during FOX News segments (Hannity, O’Reilly), when they demonized Mike Brown & Eric Gardner.

There are a plethora of directions and paths I could take regarding the issue of this Television show, such as, are we mad because it’s true or because it’s on television? Will a signed petition stop the exploitation some of us seem to advocate by tuning in?

My fellow Kappa brother Aaron Brown put it like this: “As for me I think it’s doing exactly what Mona Scott and the anglos that control her intended and that’s “Divide & Conquer.” Distract us from the REAL issues we face as a people!!! I have had life-long friends go on & on about how the portrayals are true and that every Greek they’ve ran into acted the same way. Basically it caused black folks to further divide ourselves based on the “reality” of a TV show, no different than whites watching the 6 o’clock news, then deciding ALL blacks must act/behave like what they just witnessed in the news cast!!! Is it negative? Sure. Are some girls like that in real life? Sure. But it’s nowhere near the whole picture of what it means to be Greek for Black people. There are much more positive things happening that they won’t show for fear of poor ratings. It’s sad but true,” Brown concluded.

I end this particular offering by telling you why I give a damn, just trying be my sister’s keeper…ALL of them.

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