Sunday, September 22, 2013

Black Fraternity & Sorority Calls (Information & Comments)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a two part series on historically Black Greek letter organizations (BGLO) calls.

DEFINITION: Black Greek lettered organization calls are signature sounds that members of an organization makes to greet another member or to represent (promote, "big up") their organization during public events.

This post provides information and comments about BGLO signature calls. Out of respect for those organizations, this series does NOT list the signature calls of these organizations.

Click for Part II of this series. Part II showcases seven YouTube videos of Black Greek Roll Calls. A BGLO roll calls is a public event where each fraternity and sorority are announced and respond to that announcement with their signature call and otherwise.

The content of this post is provided for folkloric, cultural, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

I recognize that providing information about Black Greek lettered fraternity/sorority calls is very much frowned upon by most members of those organizations. While I agree with the position that the history & meaning of these calls doesn't need to be shared with persons who aren't affiliated with those specific organizations, I believe that the horse has already left the barn regarding sharing the specific calls with the general public. I say this because those calls are routinely performed in public at Greek step shows, Greek strolls, and other Greek events, and those calls and chants are also showcased on YouTube videos and other online websites.

I agree for the most part with the position that information about the history & meaning of BGLO cheers and hand signs should be privileged information. Therefore, I'm not listing the calls for specific organization. However, as a folklorist I want to document & disseminate as much cultural information as possible about BGLO fraternites and sororities. For that reason I'm including lengthy excerpts about this subject from two discussion threads.

Part I:
"BGLO: Black Greek Letter Organization.

Calls – a unique vocal expression attributed to an organization. Please Do: Enjoy listening to the unique calls of the groups. Please Don’t: Repeat an organization’s particular call or response. It is considered a sign of disrespect."

"The National Pan-Hellenic Council, Incorporated (NPHC) is currently composed of nine (9) International Greek letter Sororities and Fraternities: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. NPHC promotes interaction through forums, meetings and other mediums for the exchange of information and engages in cooperative programming and initiatives through various activities and functions."
The nine organizations listed above are informally referred to as "The Divine Nine".

Click for a list of some other historically Black fraternities or historically Black sororities.

NPHC National Membership Intake Guide
Hand Signs & Calls
"Hand signs and calls have evolved into another historical facet of Black fraternal organization life. According to Kimbrough (2003), the concept of calls is imbedded in both African and African-American tradition. These sounds were a form of yodeling known as whooping in the Congo and Angola tribes. Additionally, these audible sounds, also known as cries and artwhoolies, could he heard being sung by slaves. It is not clear when calls were first used, however, it seems possible that calls used by NPHC organizations became prevalent during the mid-1970’s.*

Much like calls, the exact origin of hand signs cannot be pinpointed. According to Kimbrough (2003), pictures from college campuses of Black fraternities and sororities indicate that hand signs became a part of the Black fraternal experience during the 1970’s. Although it is not clear how calls and hand signs evolved, these traditions are long standing.

These universal symbols can be seen as exclusive outward expressions of pride and of strong organizational identification."
revised August 29. 2016
* I'm a very inactive member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (Gamma Zeta chapter, New Jersey, 1967). During the brief time in 1967 that I was active with that sorority, I definitely recall hearing and performing that organization's signature call "Skee Weee". I also definitely remember seeing and doing the organization's secret handshake. I know how to do AKA's hand sign, but I'm not sure that I remember seeing or doing an AKA hand sign before I voluntarily became inactive (which, for various reasons was shortly after I "went over" - i.e. officially became a member of that organization).

"How were calls started?

Finer Woman10-A-91
Location: New York, NY
“The answer to your query is privileged information with respect to all of NPHC. And chances are no one will tell you on this board. You have guts for asking. But tell me this...would you have actually asked a member of the organization you are interested in this question in person?”

Originally posted by InterestedGDI:
"I certainly don't want to pry into anyones secrets but I am interested in knowing how and who was the first sorority/fraternity to start doing calls, if anyone knows any back up history on calls and why they are done it would be greatly appreciated"...

06-27-2000, 01:15 PM
Location: SC
Well, if anyone has been hearing the calls for years on your campus (or anywhere for that matter), then common sense would tell you that yes, it is done between one frat/sorority member to another. I knew that without anyone telling me. If you observe then you will learn.

06-28-2000, 12:10 AM
Originally posted by ZetaAce:
Wow, I think I can hear the Sarcasm.

I think AKAtude's point is, if you already asked someone and you got the exact same answer, what in the world makes you think that you're going to get more information on the internet. A lot of times people who are interested ask questions on the net that they KNOW they would not ask a member face to face."

"I think there is a misunderstanding. I never asked someone this question, since I don't know anyone in those organizations and there aren't any on my campus. However, if the Internet did not exist as a forum through which to pose this question, and I met someone who was making a call, then I would ask the person the same question, because I would be curious s to what the heck they were doing. After all, how am I to know that the question is a faux-pas? Then if they said, "I'm sorry, but I can't tell you that", then I would respect their response & leave it at that.

It is kind of like when the media ask a lawyer something that is privileged ...the lawyer would just say, "I'm sorry. That is privileged information"."


07-19-2000, 09:00 AM
Location: Washington, DC
..."If you have wonder to yourself, "should I ask this question?" you probably shouldn't, because you will not get an answer, and while we are not trying to be elitist, we may end up hurting your feelings. I don't think that the Greeks on here are snobbish or mean spirited, but we do get tired of the same old questions that you know we can't and won't answer.

Most fraternities and sororities are secret organizations, and we guard our secrets from outsiders.

Now this is not to sound elitist or stand offish, but you will never learn our secrets unless you join our organizations, PERIOD.

So if you have a particular question of an organization that you are interested in, go to that organizations section, and ask one of the members. But don't get bent out of shape because someone answers you in a way that you may not like. "...

07-18-2000, 08:25 PM
..."Like in the Nupe forum, someone asked me and my bruhs what are call was. That's HIGHLY INAPPROPRIATE! This forum was set up, like the AKA said, to serve as a place where Greeks can come and talk about issues affecting us all. But we also talk about real world issue outside of the Greek realm. That's why we're here. If you have any question about how to join a certain BGLO, I would tell you here and to your face that you must do research. It's not that we're being rude, but people expect you to give them the keys to your organization without them having to work hard for them. I'm sure the rest of the DIVINE NINE would tell you the same also. I'm sorry if that's not to your liking. So now you know why we have this website, now you know what questions to ask. The expression that "no question is a stupid question", is not true. I'm saying you but a lot of interested people have come up in here and ask for information that they know they're not suppose to be asking. That's my opinion."...

07-18-2000, 09:12 PM
2000, 09:12 PM
Rain Man
..."(Originally posted by NUPE4LIFE)
"...someone asked me...what our call was. THAT'S HIGHLY INAPPROPRIATE!"

....I am not disputing that, matter of fact I do know about the culture, norms, and mores of BGLO, having pledged in a quasi-BGLO atmosphere. After eight years, I should know something about discretion.

Seriously, N4L, I don't think the issue here is so much whether or not a certain question on Greek Life is deemed appropriate for discussion so much as I see BGLO members questioning the motive for why it is being asked.

Ex. Someone asks you why you are called Nupes.

Is the motive:

Because they hear you shout it in your chants and calls and see it on your 'nalia and is just pure curious to know what "the deal" is?

Or is it because they got blackballed after trying to join a chapter and to be vindictive, they need some "inside info" to perp the fraternity.

I remember as a 1st semester freshman, I asked a Kappa what was a Phi Nu Pi. He quietly said, "Long story." End of discussion. I never asked again. I got the message. What do you think kind of impression he would leave me about his organization if he responded by giving me a beatdown? He knew my motive was not to perp, so he just responded quietly.

Since you don't know the motive, don't be quick to attack.


I guess I am saying to BGLOs, if you must respond, please be tactful, not hostile and defensive. You don't know what the true motive of a person asking is, so just give a response, that while they won't know anything more about your org they could otherwise research about, they will know more OF the basic topic of the question asked."
"your 'nalia" – paraphernalia [clothing and other items that have the organization’s colors or symbol.

"perp" – perpetrate [pretend to be something you are not]

Location: Bourbonnais Il. 60914
"Okay, so I've been reading this thread, and one thing bothers me. When ManndingoNupe made the comment that a particular question about his call was wrong. First of all there are people on this board who are Greek, and wouldn't know that asking a question like that was disrespectful. I belong to an NPC sorority and we don't have calls. So, if I had seen that or read about that somewhere I would assume it would be okay to post something here, and get a reply.

In NO way would I be trying to offend you. I would be attempting to enlighten myself. I have read so many posts where BGLO members are appreciative of the insight they receive from GLO's. So, If I wanted to know something about a BGLO I would probably post it here. If that info. was privy, then a polite response, not that of anger, would suffice.

I love this board for one main reason I learn so much about things I never knew."

Thanks to all those who I quoted in this post.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welclome.

1 comment:

  1. I just happened upon several comments in the viewer comment thread of this video of Winston-Salem State University's stomp and shake cheerleading squad's call being similar to an [un-named] sorority's calls: "WSSU CHEERLEADERS FOR MTV (watch in High Quality)

    I believe that that sorority call the commenters referred to was that of Sigma Gamma Rho, Inc. However, the commenters who wrote in support of WSSU refuted that there was any connection between that squad's calls and the call of that sorority.

    Here's one of those comments:
    lilpimpok, 2012
    in reply to AORaines
    They don't "eyyuppp" to mock sororities. They do it because the "eyyuuup" is more like an accent for the cheer. Its just to give the cheer a little more life and flavor. The majority of HBCU cheerleaders incorporate the "eeyyuup" in their cheers but of course it originated from the mighty WSSU cheerleaders A.K.A Cheer Phi!"
    HBCU= Historically Black Colleges And Universities

    A.K.A. in that quote means "also known as".