Black Fraternities: It’s More Than Just Stepping

Black Fraternities: It’s More Than Just Stepping


What do you know about black fraternities and sororities? Did you know that more than 800,000 people around the world belong to one including some of the most prominent figures in our history like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. Dubois, Thurgood Marshall, and even Frederick Douglass? Or that there are nine historically Black Greek letter organizations (BGLOs) referred to as The Divine Nine? Even if you don’t know much about BGLOs you know one thing for sure, they put on one hell of a step show.

If you attended college, you probably have at least one friend who pledged one of the top three black fraternities, Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, or Omega Psi Phi. And if you’re just not “one of those people who could go through all of that to make friends,” you probably haven’t educated yourself enough on the heritage of black fraternities and why they matter. Don’t let movies like Stomp the Yard confuse you, black fraternities are about more than just stepping.

Alpha Phi Alpha

Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest black fraternity, was established in 1906 on the campus of Cornell University in the midst of racial divide. The seven jewels forged a union to ensure their survival, and despite pushback from their white peers, the organization rose to be greatly recognized in Black society; celebrating 111 years to date. “Alpha Phi Alpha started as a social club to keep each other inspired and hold each other accountable on campus,” said one member. The leaders of the Fraternity succeeded in laying a solid foundation of scholarship, fellowship, good character, and the uplifting of humanity. Through its college and alumni chapters the fraternity serves the community through almost a thousand chapters in the United States, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean, Their national programs are community outreach mentoring initiatives. Have you heard of Brother’s Keeper, A Voteless People is a Hopeless People, Go-to-High-School, Go-to-College, Project Alpha? Unlike many white Greek-letter organizations, black groups commit themselves to a lifetime of service to their organization’s activities.

A Few Famous Alphas:

Duke Ellington

Lionel Richie

Stuart Scott

Kennan Ivory Wayans

Frederick Douglass

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

W.E.B. Dubois

Thurgood Marshall

Dick Gregory

Kappa Alpha Psi

Don’t sleep on the Kappas either. Kappa Alpha Psi was established just a few years later in 1911 and is the first nationally incorporated college fraternity by African Americans. Their motto is, “Achievement in every field of human endeavor.” The organization was formed on the campus of Indiana University at a time where most black students could not remain longer than a year or so. At the time, the percentage of blacks on the campus was less than 1%, and a small group of men decided to form a fraternity for support. Kappa Alpha Psi pushes achievement and through the years has grown to have over 125,000 members with undergraduate and alumni chapters in nearly every state. They also have international chapters in Nigeria, South Africa, the West Indies, the United Kingdom, Germany, Korea, and Japan.

A Few Famous Kappas:

Johnny Cochran

Arthur Ashe

Cedric the Entertainer

Finesse Mitchell

Bob Johnson

Reggie Lewis

Mike Roberts

Omega Psi Phi

Last but certainly not least, Omega Psi Phi was established just a few months after Kappa Alpha Psi in 1911 at Howard University. You’ve probably seen and heard these men barking around campus in their purple and gold, but the fraternity’s foundation is much more solid than that. The organization was founded on the principles of manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift. “When you’re a part of Omega Psi Phi, it is automatically assumed that you are of a certain caliber, said one member of the organization. Internationally renowned and home to over 750 chapters that call is one that each BGLO has. The practice of the calls stretches back to Africa where calls were used to communicate one’s location. Once enslaved, Africans continued to use the call-and-response tradition to communicate with each other. Although not official, calls are integral parts of black fraternities and aren’t to be used by non-members.

A Few Famous Ques:

Langston Hughes

Sterling Brown

Roland Hayes

Bill Cosby

Joe Torry

Steve Harvey

Rickey Smiley

Tom Joyner

Like the calls, stepping is an unofficial ritual. Believe it or not, stepping and step shows weren’t always a part of the black fraternal tradition. Stepping actually became popular in the 80’s and isn’t the end all be all or essence of black fraternities.

In more recent days, people debate rather or not black fraternities actually hurt or harm the black community. Here at Fresh Heritage, we think the proof that black fraternities are important, positive fixtures in the black community is in the positive work they do within black communities. Collectively black fraternities give millions of dollars to causes that predominantly affect our communities and provide resources and mentoring to those in need. So, to those who think black fraternities are all about stepping, we say, know your heritage.


Speaking of heritage and history, did you know Fresh Heritage was created after two brothers took a life changing trip to North Africa?  Fresh Heritage has been helping men look and feel better by creating products that are inspired from the ancient traditions of our ancestors.

Read more about our story here (pics and videos included)!



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