I Tried To Pledge AKA, The African-American Sorority Being Sued By Two Howard Students

Unless you're actually a member of a Black sorority, you'll never really know what it takes to get into one.

Mar 12, 2013 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

Two Howard University students filed a federal lawsuit against the oldest African-American sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. The students, Laurin Compton and Lauren Coefield say their human rights were violated when the sorority refused to allow them entry despite each of their mothers being members. As "legacies," the young women believe they should have had priority entrance into the sorority and allege they are being treated unequally due to their "familial status," which is a protected class under the D.C. Human Rights Act. 
 
On Friday, AKA responded to the women's allegations in a public statement: "Despite the Plaintiffs’ disappointment and complaints, AKA did not violate the “Legacy Clause” in its Constitution and Bylaws, because that is not a guarantee of membership to a particular chapter, but simply provides for a priority process."
 
Also, in the lawsuit, Compton and Coefield allege they were hazed by the sorority. The list of accusations include not being allowed to wear the sorority colors, talk to non-sorority members, or hang out in common areas on campus. By far, the very worst allegation the two women make is that they were called "weak bitches," which isn't cool, of course, but that's it? 
 
When the story broke in the Washington D.C. City Paper last week, Compton and Coefield fueled a resounding guffaw around the Internet that the City Paper even addressed the next day. 
 
Unless you're actually a member of a Black sorority, you'll never really know what it takes to get into one. The first unofficial rule of membership is akin to the first and second official rules of Fight Club, which are "You do not talk about Fight Club."
 
I've never joined a sorority, but I did pursue membership in AKA twice. I knew that rule about not talking going in. I've now to decided to break it, which I'm not entirely sure is a good idea. I've chosen to leave my name of this article for that reason. 
 
Like I said, if you're not in it, you don't know exactly what's required. Rumors abound about what goes on though, from "basic" mind-fucking described in the current lawsuit to taking wood, i.e., being hit with a paddle, and potentially horrific craziness like whatever happened to the two women in California who drowned allegedly during an AKA hazing process. Everyone knows it's not going to be a cakewalk. 
 
In college, many of my friends joined AKA and when they became members, they asked me to do the same. The rumors -- and having watched my friends go through it -- gave me a general idea of what I would be signing up for.
 
I'd have to sleep -- when that was possible -- on the floor or a mattress in one room with the other women on my line. My GPA would likely plummet. A friend lost 20 pounds in 8 weeks, so I wondered how often I would eat and how much physical endurance was required.
 
My friends who became members had recalled a story of being taken to a community service site 5-6 miles from campus, asked to work an eight-hour shift, then left to walk home afterward. I wouldn't be able to straighten my hair. I might have to carry around a brick in my backpack at all times. What was mine -- clothes, jewelry, shoes, etc. -- no longer belonged only to me, but all my would-be sisters.
 
I was assured I wouldn't be hit, which I didn't really believe (and wasn't down for) but figured I'd cross that line if/when it came up and hoped it wouldn't. I'd be asked to do lots of silly stuff, under the guise of humbling me or giving a sadist her kicks. Most of it seemed harmless like what happened to my friend, "Keena" who was instructed to say, "Keena, Keena, pants on fire!" every time she saw a member. (She'd lied to a member and had been caught. This was her punishment.)
 
I stayed on board with AKA long enough to be told by one member to call a certain member by a silly name (that I can't remember). She chastised me when I did it and told me to grow up. Stupid, but not a big deal.
 
Later I was asked, to call members at certain times of the day, or the middle of the night. They would talk about the minutiae of their day -- like whether or not to shape their eyebrows -- and I would feign interest. Sometimes they would call another member on three-way and talk to each other and expect me to be quiet and listen, or maybe even chastise me for not talking more. (I learned early on that everything I did would be wrong.)
 
Or they would put me on hold for however long they wanted and I would be expected to remain on the line. The waste of my time annoyed me more than anything else that went on.
 
The last straw was when a member gave me 60 seconds to come up with a hook and verse to a rap song describing what I knew about her and how great she was. I wasn't able to. She hung up on me. I laughed and called my best friend and told her, "I'm out. Not built for it. Don't want it this bad." 
 
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The sorority member actually called me back to say, "Hey, you know you were supposed to call me back, right?" I appreciated the gesture because it let me know that none of it was personal, just the process. I was annoyed though, so I told her, "Hold on" and clicked over to continue talking to my friend. I have no idea how long she waited on the line.
 
The next day I called the friend who suggested I'd try to become a member and gave her a "Thanks, but no thanks." It's their organization and the chapter had their way of doing things. I wasn't down for it. No offense. She said there were no hard feelings.
 
Two years later, I'd moved to a new city for work and befriended a co-worker who happened to be an AKA. She suggested I go with her to an event hosted by the organization, so I did. For about a year, I kept going to the events and volunteered for multiple community service programs they organized. I met members and other women who were also interested. Sometimes the interested women would share stories with me about someone who was rude to them, but I never experienced anything to complain about. 
 
Through the grapevine, I heard that the chapter was accepting new members, a process that only occurs every few years. For whatever reason, I wasn't chosen.
 
Once the new line crossed, a few members suggested that I continue to pursue my interest by going to programs and volunteering for events and maybe I'd be chosen next time. My feelings were hurt and I figured they had an opportunity to take me, but they chose not to for whatever reason. I thought about it as if AKA was a man I was dating. I wanted a commitment, he said no, so the best thing for me would be to respect his decision. If he, or AKA, changed their mind, they would call, right? 
 
Laurin Compton and Lauren Coefield would have been better off to wait their turn, or simply accept that for whatever reason, they were not wanted. Life, unfortunately, is not "fair."
 
And in their refusal to accept that, they have embarrassed themselves, displayed their entitlement and have dragged AKA, which they still want to be a part of, through the mud. And it's all for what, when their chances of becoming members, or even AKA changing its laws, are slim to none?