There are no parts of Black culture considered “off limits” from being monetized, branded and profited off of in some way. That is the history of America, certainly as it pertains to music and fashion.
So for Black Twitter to get so emotional about rapper Lil Boosie rocking a red Kappa Alpha Psi sweatshirt at the Atlanta Hawks vs. Houston Rockets game on Wednesday night is somewhat hypocritical and an overreaction.
It’s understood that the Baton Rouge rapper never pledged the historically Black fraternity. And that is a major violation. Twenty-five years ago it was a federal offense. It’s generally understood that you are only “allowed” to don paraphernalia and rock the letters of a Black frat if you have completed the initiation process and earned them.
A failure to respect these principles could lead to fisticuffs in certain settings.
Boosie didn’t care, he said he was just getting fresh. “Black Greeks” called him out on his disrespect, but in reality Boosie was really helping boost the Black fraternity brand, which has had a fading luster for the last two decades.
— Minister of Music. (@Mz2euceBOSS) January 9, 2020
Participation has been declining in Black fraternities and sororities across the country for a variety of reasons. Some say they have lost focus. A changing cultural landscape has also emerged and certain universities are pressuring Black Greeks to make their organizations gender neutral.
The five Black fraternities and four Black sororities that compose the “Divine Nine” were established in the early 20th century as a response to White Greek-letter organizations that denied Black students entry.
By the mid 2000’s, Black Greek life pervaded American pop culture via film and music videos, the membership numbers for BGLOs surged. Cloaked in their distinctive colors and signature Greek-letters, fraternity members become as regal as the mythological characters they emulate and many students endure unfathomable hardships to join their ranks.
Then about five years ago the mainstream attention began to fade.
Building The Brand In A Changing World
Boosie’s highjacking of sacred Greek fraternity wears isn’t much different than Spike Lee selling the Black college experience to make a profit in his classic 80’s flick School Daze. It boosts the visibility of Black Greek fraternities and sororities and keeps their honorable mystique relevant.
VH1’s Sorority Sisters didn’t neccessarily reflect the divine women of Delta Sigma Theta in a positive light. There was a ton of backlash from members across the social spectrum.
Some people felt like the show sold out the culture. Others felt like it was a necessary evil to get Black Greek sororities into people’s mentions on social media. A matter of survival.
The world is changing and people “do anything for clout.” Especially rap legends like Boosie who don’t give a flying f@$ck what anyone says and stays in the news.
Laaaawd y’all then got my Unc Boosie started pic.twitter.com/VH8b3rQP5w
— Sargent 1st Class TJ (@aintulefteye) January 9, 2020
He knows how to stay relevant. He probably thought that he was paying homage to the fraternity, giving them some rap celebrity and urban street culture shine. Boosie assumed he had the entertainer’s pass.
Gangs & Fraternities: Complex Black Duality
There was also a concern that the red he was rocking could be misrepresented due to his celebrated affiliation with the Bloods gang. This is where the multi-dimensional brilliance of Black culture meets the contradictory sadness of our existence.
But let’s be honest. Branding is branding and publicity is publicity. Our world leaders meet with enemy leaders for the sake of diplomacy before blowing their heads off.
Why not Boosie and Greek life?
I know that fraternities — which are rooted in unity, social upliftment and community service — don’t want to be affiliated with bloodshed, murder and criminal organizations. But historically, the original principles and purpose of minority gangs — from Italian to Irish to Asian — are rooted in community, being disenfranchised and seeking unity, protection and cultural empowerment.
In their purest forms and philosophies, gangs and fraternities are very similar. Instead of inciting Boosie to have to clap back at threats aimed at him, the Kappa organization could really benefit from his 6.6 million IG followers.
Pledge Him In, Expand The Playing Field
How about offer Boosie an opportunity to get inititated and become an honorary member?
Hell…turn it into a reality TV series or Web series real quick. Boosie’s a walking billboard for Black Greek life and his presence alone reaches an untapped demographic of minorities who wouldn’t otherwise even give a percocet-induced high about BGLO’s and their rich and prestigious history, culture and contributions to the world.
That’s publicity you can’t buy. So everyone needs to chill out and educate the brother if anything and work with him to show the world why Black frat gear is more than just something to throw on when we want to get fresh.
Boosie was willing to rep the frat. That should have been acknowledged as an olive branch not an avalanche.