In May of 1982, I was born as a Black child in Toledo, OH to two Black parents, both of whom are educators.
In March of 2006, I officially became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated, as a sole line member of the Toledo (OH) Alumni chapter in the fraternity’s Northern Province region.
On August 11, 2012, I married my beautiful husband, Paris F. Prince, in the backyard of our home in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Based on the recent controversy surrounding the beautiful wedding video of my fraternity brother Nathanael Gay and his husband Robert Brown, there are too many people in our country that find those basic facts of my life to be shocking.
But for me, they are all important life moments that make me who I am.
Nathanael Gay, who recently appeared on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, had to defend he and his husband’s wedding colors because people dared to falsely presume the colors mirrored the colors of the fraternity. However, as the newlywed aptly pointed out, our colors are crimson and crème, not red and white.
Alas, the wedding colors are beside the point. Why is it that a marriage between two proud and accomplished men of color generates such news controversy in the Black community?
At this point, I’m really itching to put on my professor hat and give a lecture about social networks and how our various associations help inform our thinking and behavior around social norms and mores. However, I’ll pass on that for now.
What I will do is make a simple point: It should not be a surprise to anyone that some members of historically Black fraternities and sororities are same gender-loving individuals. In no way is it a contradiction to our professed love and commitment to uphold the very tenants of our organizations’ objectives and purposes. It is also no longer an anomaly. I personally know of at least two other members of my great fraternity who also happen to be in same gender-loving marriages with their husbands. And I am sure there are more on the way and others we don’t know about.
Historically Black fraternities and sororities were created in the wake of the Jim Crow segregation and limited educational opportunities afforded African Americans, many of them at predominantly White institutions of higher learning in the beginning years of the 20th century. They were designed to create a bond between persons of shared values and commitment to community and education.
Today, these organizations exist in varied forms, but all share that commitment to community. The bylaws of the “Divine Nine” organizations do not speak to a hetero-normative agenda where only those who identify a certain way are welcomed to be members. They are open to all college-trained women and men who only are required to have one thing in common – their gender.
To correlate one’s life actions such as marriage and sexual expression with that of fraternal norms is a misnomer and does disservice to the very founders of these illustrious organizations that sought not to tear down the Black community, but to lift it up.
The compounded events surrounding the now-viral video honoring Robert and Nathanael’s wedding extend beyond that wonderful couple and their strength to love each other for all the world the see. Their choice to post the memories of their union should not be diminished to a debate about Nathanael’s membership in Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. It should not be trivialized or parodied so as to suggest different wedding colors should have been chosen to avoid this aftermath. Though his fraternity made the video of interest to a greater segment of the population, the prejudice revealed in many of the responses would exist regardless of his letters.
Robert and Nathanael’s courage has forced a larger societal dialogue about social mores, norms and respect. Will we work together focusing on issues that bridge our common humanity? Or will we seek to create divisions among our Black community based on our individualized experiences as a part of it?
As for me, my Black identity is not limited by hetero-normativity. Nor is my fraternal membership bounded by rigid philosophy. And, neither is up for scrutiny simply because we may disagree about social issues.