Speaker visits greek community

Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough spoke about challenges facing multicultural groups.

by mackenzie collins

Three leaders from multicultural greek organizations put their heads and ideas together to bring awareness to the University of Minnesota about their unique history and challenges Wednesday night. The event, Multicultural Greek 101, featured speaker Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough, author of the book âÄúBlack Greek 101: The Culture, Customs and Challenges of Black Fraternities and Sororities.âÄù Kimbrough, president of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark., has traveled to more than 400 universities around the country talking about the rich history and issues of historically black and multicultural greek organizations. Kimbrough said that multicultural groups around the nation faced current issues and noted recent events of the past year on college campuses, including students who placed cotton balls on the lawn of the University of Missouri-Columbia black cultural center as well as several instances on the University of California, San Diego campus where people had displayed a noose and had a âÄúCompton Cookout.âÄù âÄúI think particularly in the last couple of years with the whole Obama phenomenon, youâÄôve seen an increase in racially motivated hate crimes on college campuses that people think are more liberal,âÄù Kimbrough said. âÄúBut students of color are seeing a higher level of backlash, and so I think that they are looking to those groups to provide shelter and to become voices to address those issues.âÄù The historically black and multicultural greek groups at the University face their own individual problems. One of the eventâÄôs leaders, Amin Aaser, president of Sigma Lambda Beta, a multicultural Latino-based fraternity made up of 69 men from 29 different ethnicities, said one of the biggest challenges his group faces is to break away from the negative stereotypes fraternities have, specifically among multicultural communities. âÄúOne of the biggest benefits of having so many cultures is [also] one of the biggest obstacles because everyone has a diverse way of thought,âÄù Aaser said. âÄúThere are a couple of Filipino brothers in our organization, and in the Philippines, to be part of a fraternity literally means to be part of a gang.âÄù The presidents the eventâÄôs host organizations also said they have problems with recruitment outside the traditional greek communities. Some of the problems the multicultural and historically black greek organizations face with recruitment include moving past stereotypes, negative press regarding hazing and getting the word out to students about their programs, because they donâÄôt belong to the Panhellenic Council or Interfraternity Council. One of the eventâÄôs main organizers, Desiree Abu-Odeh, president of Sigma Lambda Gamma, read KimbroughâÄôs book last summer and said she knew she had to help bring him to campus to teach the multicultural greek community about the historically rich customs that still apply to the University today. âÄúParticularly for students of color, those fraternal organizations provide a way to form a sense of community on a campus, and youâÄôre talking about a huge campus at the University of Minnesota,âÄù Kimbrough said.