So, about these chicks and their mothers who are suing Howard University and Alpha Kappa Alpha because they were denied membership into Alpha Chapter.
Actually, I don’t want to talk about them at all. They suck.
Let us instead talk about being a Chapter-publican. Among my fraternity, I tell brothers that I am an Alphapublican. That means I believe that the most important unit in the fraternity is the chapter. It is the chapter who recruits, retains, and reclaims the membership. It is the chapter which serves the community. People join chapters. Based on the national organization’s legacy, of course, but they still join chapters. In an area like Washington, DC, or any other large metropolitan area, there are often multiple chapters of the same organization, each with their own personality and culture.
Leadership of the organizations should support the work of the chapters. People who aspire to be leaders should enjoy the chapter experience – not think about the glory and prestige of being a national, regional, cluster, state, or district officer.
The national headquarters of the organizations should focus on chapter services – giving the chapters what they need in a timely manner to fulfill their obligations of service to the communities.
The chapter is the most important unit. Not the region. Not the cluster. The chapter. Support the chapters.
As such, I believe that the chapter ought to have the final say in matters of membership selection. Always. Even when they are morally or ethically questionable.
First and foremost, every chapter vote ought to be final. When a chapter comes together to vote on who they want, the organization should trust that they have carefully considered who they want, who qualifies, who will be the best fit, etc. If you as an organization or an organization leader can’t trust that you have given the chapters the proper tools to make the right selection, then you have already failed them. Spend your time on training the chapters on how to identify the right candidates.
No one outside of the chapter or higher than the chapter should have the right to change the chapter’s vote in any way. You know what that means? No add-ons. If the chapter has not voted affirmatively on you, then this is the end of the road. There should be no way at all to appeal a decision of the chapter on matters of membership. No Region Directors adding people on after the vote. No parents calling headquarters. No. No, no, no. Bad.
And you know what? No take-offs. It wasn’t until very recently that I learned that some organizations have the power to actually remove a man or woman that the chapter has voted on for specious reasons. Again, if you are empowering the chapter to make the decision to select a line, how is it that one has the time to even check up behind that chapter to “just make sure” they have done everything properly? Sure, a chapter here and there might assist an applicant in fraudulently gaining entry, such as knowledge that the candidate doesn’t reside in the service area of the chapter, or a letter of recommendation which suggests a deeper knowledge of the candidate than is accurate, but you know what? Who cares? The chapter voted yes. The chapter wants the candidate.
Which leads me to the problem of so-called legacy clauses. And no, this is not just an Alpha Kappa Alpha problem. Theirs is just the one you know about.
I am against any policy which bypasses the chapter vote. I do understand the desire to have a policy which honors the bond between mother and daughter, father and son, or between siblings. I get it. I really do. But this bond should not be at the expense of the sovereignty of the chapter.
If your daughter is the bee’s knees, then let her shine on her own. If your son is the top banana, then the chapter will know it. But you, as their parent, will be biased. You just will be. By the time they submit an application, you will have seen their growth over two decades. You will see how far they have come. The chapter they are pursuing will only have known then for two or three semesters. Let them fall in love with your child as you did.
And acknowledge that while we do join organizations, we join them through chapters. The person must fit in the chapter. Let your child find out if they fit. Let the chapter make that determination. Don’t rob your child of the opportunity to forge their own path.
As Oprah quoted someone else on her show, there is a time for the parent to transition from manager to consultant. The women involved in this lawsuit never made that transition. If you are a Greek parent, do your children and your organization a favor: stay out of the membership process until it’s time for you to pin them or come to their neophyte show. It’s the best gift you could give them.
And ponder what I mean by becoming a Chapterpublican yourself. Consider the rights of your chapter, what’s best for your chapter, how your chapter can best serve the community. Don’t undermine your chapter – or anyone else’s – by robbing them of the right, privilege, and responsibility of selecting new members.
1) Where did you get the idea for the series of Lazarus, Covenant, & Epiphany?
2) Did it all come to you in one big idea? Or a little bit at a time, and that’s how it became 3 books. – Rico W.
The story of the Lazarus Trilogy began with a question: What would happen if the star basketball player got into a relationship with the most popular young man on campus?
That idea became a play that I wrote in 2000 called Behind Closed Doors, and later named Discretion. It was the story of a slightly different (yet familiar) Adrian Collins who was living with a basketball player named Isaiah, while dealing with mild Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from having been hazed and literally beaten off line from Beta Chi Phi. (Although he was still initiated into the fraternity, he was viewed as an outcast for being gay.)
In the midst of this story, he falls in love with Isaiah and deals with his ex-boyfriend Carlos, who he lost while pledging.
When the play was finished, I tried to stage a reading, but only my friends Maya (RIP) and Amerie showed up to help out. On top of that, my mentor at the time, Dennis Williams, said the play was good, but he wanted to know more about Carlos the ex-boyfriend and about the pledging process.
So I made the decision in 2000 to rework this story as a novel, beginning with the fraternity story and saving the love story for a subsequent novel if I still felt like it. I also decided to postpone writing it until after I finished undergrad. Incidentally, it was also during this time that my “black vampire” idea was born.
In fall 2001, I began writing the novel called Lazarus. President’s Day Weekend 2002, it was complete. I published it in 2005.
Of course, Carlos became Savion and Isaiah only made cameo appearances in Lazarus, so Covenant still had to be written. It was completed in 2007 and published in 2011. That novel was quick and easy to write because I already knew how it would turn out.
While writing Covenant, I had ideas for two more novels. In the end, there were to be four novels, more or less mirroring the four years of college. If you have read Epiphany, imagine the first two-thirds being novel #3, and the last third being novel #4, plus a story line about Adrian becoming the Dean of the line during his senior year. But I decided that I was done writing about the fraternity experience. While interesting to me, I don’t think most people would care about Sigma Chapter anymore after one novel about Adrian’s experience on Uprising and another about his experiences bringing in the Phantoms.
Oh hell, while we’re here, I might as well tell you about what was going to happen on the next line. So Calen was going to get elected Dean of Pledges, then he was going to have a terrible car accident and have to take a semester off school to recover. The chapter was going to recruit six guys:
Morris Jordan from Potomac was going to be the Ace. As you know, he had a previous history with Adrian. As the Dean, Adrian felt it might not be appropriate for Morris to make the line, given their past, but the chapter liked him so Adrian was outvoted. After he gets a little….shall we say “sassy” with Adrian, he is given the line name “Cruel Intentions.”
Kyle Sykes, a business student from Rock Creek, was the deuce. All I know about him is that his personal motto was “greed is good” which landed him the line name “Monopoly.”
Justin Wilson and Jason Wilson were twins attending Potomac. My notes on them indicate that they were always nervous so the chapter named them “Paralysis” and “Aphasia.”
The number five was Leon Rogers, a theology student from Rock Creek who is named “Holy Terror” because he turns out to be a homophobe that can’t seem to respect his Dean.
Finally, the number six is Shane O’Neil from Potomac. Everyone seems to think he a guitar-playing, stoner white boy, but he is actually biracial and struggling to find himself through the fraternity. Because he is so unique, and some would say strange, he is given the line name “Xenogenesis,” which is not only the prior name of Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood series, but it literally means “the supposed generation of offspring completely and permanently different from the parent.”
Needless to say, a lot was going on with this line, which Adrian named “Crucial Conflicts.” But in the end, I decided to make Mohammed their Dean to allow Adrian the chance to focus on his national position that he gained at the end of Epiphany and to provide a way for Mohammed to gain the respect of the chapter. And I didn’t think those things needed to happen “on-page” for them to be believable.
So that’s how Epiphany was written the way it was, with that “extra third” at the end which seemed like a separate story altogether. At the end, three college novels was enough, and if I was going to continue to write about these beloved characters, they’d have to be young adults removed from the college campus.
Let me tell you something. Elisabeth Epps is one of the most brilliant people I know and I would like very much to steal one of her eggs to ensure that my offspring are brilliant, too.
“I am an aspiring novelist. Right now, I keep a journal of my day to day thoughts and inspirational quotes. I’ve always said that I wanted to write novels one day, but I don’t know where you begin. How do you just start a story?” –Rico
I think keeping a journal is an excellent start. Keeping a journal gives you practice for descriptive narrative. It helps you refine your abilities to observe and recall events. Be sure to push yourself further and practice recalling everything that happened to you in a day: where you went, what you wore, how you felt, what you ate, what it tasted like, how places smell, what things reminded you of other things. Pick one day out of the week to make your ultra-descriptive journal entry so that you don’t overwhelm yourself every day that you write.
But obviously, keeping a journal alone won’t result in a novel. Novels will have dialogue, and I will get to dialogue writing in a future entry. What I will focus on today is how to just start writing.
In your daily adventures, observe people and situations that you find interesting. Then ask a “what if” question based on your writing interests. For my upcoming novel Birth of a Dark Nation, I merely asked myself “What if vampires came from Africa rather than Europe?” From that single question came many others:
And so on and so forth. Now, you might not be writing in a paranormal genre, in which case the questions might be simpler. In the case of Covenant, the central question was “What would happen if the star basketball player was dating a fraternity man?” And from those questions arose more, some from me, some from people who read the rough draft:
Your questions should start you down a path of either/or scenarios, sort of like the “Find your own adventure” books from back in the day. You might already know how you want the novel to turn out, and that’s fine. The toughest part may be getting to the end.
Take your time and make an outline of the story. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to figure out the beginning, middle, and end. but never forget your central question. Answer it in your novel, or at least write the kind of novel in which everyone who reads it walks away pondering the same question: ”What if…?”
48 years ago today, our shining black prince was taken from us.
He will always be royalty to me.