ColumnistsD Kevin McNeirEditor's ColumnOpinion

EDITOR’S COLUMN: College Days Have Swiftly Passed, But the Memories of Frat Life Linger – A-Phi!

I’ll admit that as a high school senior, now more than 40 years ago, I never thought about pledging a fraternity once I got to college. While I didn’t have any sisters or brothers, I never felt like I wanted or needed a lot of company. Actually, being alone was rather refreshing. You know, I had my own room, my own clothes, my own phone and my own car. And unlike some of my friends, I didn’t have to share them, unless I chose to. So, being a lone ranger was just fine with me — at least most of the time.

My mother was a founding undergraduate member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. at her alma mater, Hampton University. And one of my surrogate fathers was a major player in Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. He matriculated at Tuskegee where my dad also went to college. However, as for me, their colors, shields, handshakes and secret meetings were of little interest to me.

But during my freshman year at University of Michigan, while attending the ice breakers in the fall and subsequent parties as the school year went on, I began to grow more intrigued by the fraternities and sororities on the yard. I began asking questions, shooting hoops with some of the brothers already in their respective frats — even attending a couple of the “smokers” — a meeting for prospective pledgees.

Then, on Jan. 6, 1979, after being admitted onto the line for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., my life as a pledge, a Sphinxman, began in earnest. Ninety-two days later and 15 pounds lighter (Mom cried when I went home for Easter saying that I looked like I was being starved), I crossed the burning sands. And boy, did I celebrate — for the entire summer and into my sophomore year.

Of course, today pledging has changed — mostly for the better. The “physical” aspect of it has been removed. I cannot say more on that subject unless you’re a fellow Alpha. And the time amount that one can legitimately be on line has also been reduced significantly. Today, you make it into the fraternity or sorority in about one week’s time. I, on the other hand, pledged for three months.

Still, I must say that the experiences, the memories, the crazy times and the bonds I forged with the brothers from Epsilon Chapter (University of Michigan) as well as other members of the “hood” are things and people who I will never forget. Naturally, some brothers acted more like maniacs than mentors, much to my chagrin and detriment. And there were some really close calls like a car we left on a hill without engaging the break that went down a street and into oncoming traffic before it, luckily, plowed into a hedge of bushes. Then, there was the time that visiting brothers tried to kidnap me and my line brothers. In that instance, we forgot about that “Big Brother” mess and opened up a can of whoop-ass on them. Needless to say, they left us alone.

A few days ago, I celebrated my 41st anniversary and sent out a note to my other seven line brothers — that is, to my “sands” — Edward, Tony, James, Kevin, Cyril, Gary and Terrance. I thanked them for the memories and the brotherly love.

And it occurred to me that I have truly benefited from those friendships, unbelievable experiences and outright crazy situations that came from putting myself, my very life, into the hands of brothers like Ervin, E.K., P.O. Jimmy D., Mouse, the Daddy, B.C., C.B. and Michael White for three long months during that very cold and snowy winter in Ann Arbor.

Once, I told my dad that I had had enough and was going to drop off the line. I had to be honest and tell him some of the things that had happened to me. After I shared the truth, Daddy told me that if I dropped, he’d treat me like a pledge. So, I remained on line. Funny the things you remember when you’re reliving the joyful moments of life.

Pledging Alpha really was magic. And I wouldn’t change any of it.

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents, the native Detroiter engineered a transformation of The Miami Times resulting in its being named the NNPA’s “Publication of the Year” in 2011 – just one of several dozen industry-related awards he’s earned in his career. He currently serves as senior editor for The Washington Informer. There, in the heart of the U.S. Capitol, he displays a keen insight for developing front-page news as it unfolds within the greater Washington area, capturing the crucial facts and facets of today’s intriguing, political arena. He has degrees from The University of Michigan, Emory University and Princeton Theological Seminary. In 2020, he received First Place for Weekly Newspaper, Commentary & Criticism, Society of Professional Journalists, Washington, D.C. Pro Chapter. Learn more about him at www.dkevinmcneir.com, Facebook – Kevin McNeir, Twitter - @mcneirdk, Linkedin – D. Kevin McNeir or email: mcneirdk@washingtoninformer.com.

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