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MU hosts talk on history of black Greek organizations

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 | 10:49 p.m. CDT; updated 1:23 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Rasheed Ali Cromwell gives a speech sponsored by the National Pan-Hellenic Council on Tuesday at the Arts and Science Building. Cromwell is the founder of The Harbor Institute, an education company that focuses on cultural empowerment, leadership, professional development and entrepreneurship.

*Rasheed Ali Cromwell is executive director of the Harbor Institute, an educational consulting firm in Washington, D.C. An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified his occupation.

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COLUMBIA — The image of the actor Pooch Hall from the movie "Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming" was projected on the screen. Rasheed Ali Cromwell asked the audience, "What is a black Greek?" 

He answered his own question. 

"The easiest way to say what is a black Greek is saying what it's not," said Cromwell, who spoke about the media's distortion of black fraternity and sorority life Tuesday night at the Arts and Science building at MU. His talk on "The Miseducation of the Black Greek" was part of MU's National Pan-Hellenic Council Week.

*Cromwell, executive director of the Harbor Institute, an educational consulting firm in Washington, D.C., encouraged the roughly 50 audience members in black sororities and fraternities to tell others that their organization is "not only about stepping and strolling," a reference to a type of performance done at events that celebrate each organization's traditions.

You won't find anything about stepping or strolling in any of the sororities' or fraternities' purpose, constitution or bylaws, Cromwell said. 

It wasn't until the '60s or '70s when stepping became recognized as a tradition, he said.

Maikieta Brantley, National Pan-Hellenic Council executive board president, said her fellow board members decided to invite Cromwell to MU's NPHC Week after hearing about his previous work at Harbor Institute.

Julie Drury, senior coordinator of Greek life at MU, said this week is important for black sororities and fraternities.

"It's a way to market and introduce themselves to the whole campus," she said.

Justin Cooks, a senior and member of Kappa Alpha Psi, said there is a negative stigma attached to black Greek organizations at MU.

During Homecoming, there's a separation among black sororities and fraternities and other organizations, including traditionally white Greek organizations, Cooks said. He said there should be more inclusion.

Cromwell said the only way to overcome negative stereotypes is to leave a "legacy." When you leave the campus, he said to the audience, it should be better than when you arrived.


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