By: Rachelle Barrett
Tendaji - an Afro/Caribbean club based at Broward College
‘Culture clashes’, amongst other unfortunate yet prominent occurrences similar to religious differences and political affiliation, strikes the world in a divisive manner. It is as common to be found in environments such as the homes of an immigrant family; the elders of the home more respective and loyal to their native country, while the youth more Americanized, schools, for the various lifestyles from different heritages are innumerable, and work cites to name a few. While all these obstacles present reinforce the idea of polarity between two or more societies, there are the few chances we as humans receive from the world that prove to push us together towards better understanding of each other, and towards a more unified future. And what better way to portray such wonders of the world than by limiting the space of which young adults live, learn, and grow, forced, for a certain amount of years, to reach out of his/hers comfort zone and prepare for what’s waiting ahead. That’s right, we’re talking about College. In this episode of
Pad’Nye, Timothy Smith, Tashaun Williams, Brandon Huyler and Sasha Hughes address the vast differences between the Caribbean students and the Greek students, specifically, CSA (Caribbean Student Association) versus the Fraternities and Sororities of their university, Florida International University.
Though it may not have been known to many, supposedly, the greek students and the caribbean students, strictly devoted to their own organizations, did not connect or integrate in any way, or at least they rarely did. (Pad’Nye 2:10). Alike most organizations deriving from exceedingly different foundations, in example, the differences between the dance team and the science club, or, the volleyball team and the student body government, there isn’t much room for bonding. At an unknown certain point in time, however, according to the folks over at the Pad’Nye podcast, organizations like CSA and the Greeks of FIU began familiarizing themselves and integrating. (Pad’Nye 3:20).
There are a few caribbean students at FIU who’ve become a pledge for their respective fraternities and/or sororities, including, Tashaun Williams, a graduate from FIU. Tashaun, the special guest of the podcast is alumni to Alpha Phi Alpha from St. Kitts, a caribbean island part of St. Kitts and Nevis. Through his time at the school, Tashaun got to know the Greek life gradually but well. Through volunteering, friends and informationals, or meetings held by certain fraternities or sororities that are normally important for first-hand experiences, meeting certain individuals, and learning more about that certain chapter, he learned what it meant to be part of a brotherhood, the sacred importance of being in such a position, and most importantly, he gained a new family with people he probably never knew existed, nevertheless, would’ve ever expected to even be friends with.
The integration between both environments has spread out in the form of influence at such an extent that the Greek life has immigrated to the islands, now, with the Bahamas occupying all chapters of the Greek life in its society. (Pad’Nye 13:43). From the American and African-American lifestyle based in the deep roots of what makes the Greek way of life truly unique, to the culturally rich and grandiose vibe of the nations in the caribbean, the unification of such powerful figures is above immeasurable.
Not only were fraternities and sororities a concept only recognized in movies to most of the world, with them being an American- born organization with Greek influence, but they were almost a thing of myth to non-Americans around the world, (including myself). Sasha, a co-host on the podcast, mentioned that she had no idea what she was witnessing when she saw the film infamous for portraying the everyday life of a young African-American adult on the college campuses of Georgia, Stomp The Yard. (2007). She thought they were just dancing. And it would be easy to laugh at her through the eyes of an American, though this thought is nothing but common correlation to foreigners all over. When I was younger, I fell into that common misconception. I assumed the intensity, heartache and troubles were imbedded within the serious sport of dance. An art black people formed from the original chants and steps of fraternities and sororities, into something as unique as stepping, a form of identity call. I had no clue organizations as such can get so serious. I, a kid from Canada at the time, Sasha, a kid from Guyana and people from all around the world are proof that though the world may be a small rock floating in this abyss we call outer space, the world itself is vast. We come from what seems to be different worlds though we can reside less than a thousand miles away without even noticing. Therefore, the assimilation of said customs is lethal, not just for these certain cultures, but for all cultures on earth.
To Tashaun’s recollection, the only knowledge he had of Greek life while he was in St. Kitts was from the high school graduates who gained the opportunity to attend an American universal facility. (Pad’Nye 15:10). If they’d come back pledged or not didn’t matter, the fact that they traveled far and went back home with stories to tell, new-found skills to share, and newly-acquired knowledge to spread was the beginning of new customs in the islands as well as America.
Social media is a heavy contributor to news spreading. The world’s number one universal news source more than successfully displays information on any topic to any platform. Snapchat with the ability to send temporary or permanent videos to any cellular device globally, Instagram’s profile platform that collect and portrays certain personas of celebrities, influencers, popular figureheads, and lets not forget ‘frat boys’ and ‘sorority girls’, and many more social outlets, lets anyone of any age search and retrieve the information needed in a split second. The possibilities are endless. “The reach is greater than before.” (Pad’Nye 16:25).
That being said, the transition period was not an easy task feeted. With such different worlds colliding, there were some aspects that needed getting used to. The common knowledge with such pompous organizations, especially fraternities, are the strict rules and boundaries for any and every event affiliated with the Greeks. Strolls, initiation and parties to name just a few. And there behavior is amongst the most outrageous, loud and in a way, patriotic. In normal environments, when two people with similar traits and characteristics meet, they usually do not get along. They normally clash on the ‘there can only be one of us’ conception, which is most unfortunate because this view halts the unification process needed to empower two great nations into one. During parties, fraternities and sororities are known to steal the dance floor with their chapter calls, dance moves and strolls, occupying about 90% of the floor while others watch from the sidelines. And do not dare make the mistake of trying to join in or imitate the dance moves they show, it is strictly against greek law and can be punished in any matter that the greeks seem fit. The common knowledge with fete-loving triumphant caribbeans above many is the great amounts of joy they get from partying with a rum and coke in one hand, good music, and loved ones all around. To put these two characters in the same environment is result for an inevitable contradictions. All caribbeans want to do is dance and have a good time, so to have their dancefloor paved for strolls consisting of the same moves for about fifteen minutes of more, without being able to participate, could be a bit annoying. Not to mention the aggressive way in which the fraternities and sororities chose to go about situations sometimes, which can be declared as over-the-top and unnecessary by some; whereas caribbeans are known for their happy-go-lucky and chill demeanor. (Pad’ Nye 18:00).
Though there are clear differences between these specific groups, whether it’s in characteristics, mannerisms, or normalities, there are also strong bonding factors. It’s faint, but there are also close similarities between them as well. The bombastic patriotism and deep love for their respective agencies give the opportunity for bonding and the passion allows them to locate and assure relationships. Both groups are extremely welcoming when it comes to their people. Not in a discriminatory manner, but more in a warming fashion, to make sure new-comers are aware that they are taken care of and that they aren’t alone. They always have a friend where they’re recognized, and the new fusion of the Caribbean- Greek student body forms and even greater community, welcoming all, especially students from all the states of the United States, to all the islands of the Caribbean.