Edited by Azizi Powell
This pancocojams post provides quotes about hand signs (gestures) that are used by members of historically Black Greek lettered organizations (BGLOs) and showcases BGLO videos that include hand signs.
This post also includes information about BGLO calls because of the close connection between historically Black Greek lettered organizations' calls and hand signs.
The content of this post is presented for historical, folkloric, and cultural purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to all those who are featured in this post and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.
This post serves as a companion to a two part pancocojams series on historically Black Greek lettered organizations calls. Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/09/black-fraternity-sorority-calls.html for Part I of that series. The link for Part II (videos of BGLO roll calls) is included in that post.
The comment section below includes links to two blog posts/articles about the use of hand signs among PWI (predominately White [Greek lettered] Institutions). The 2015 article announced a ban on the publication on social media of photographs for members of Kappa Kappa Gamma if those photographs included hand signs. Most of the published comments with that article were critical of that decision. For the folkloric record, in this post's comment section, I've quoted a small portion of that article as well as several comments.
Although I've not quoted any of the comments in that linked six page blog post, some commenters in that discussion noted that hand signs are not only the norm among historically Black Greek lettered organizations, but are also the norm among Latino/a, Asian, and multi-cultural university based Greek lettered organizations.
QUOTES ABOUT HISTORICALLY BLACK GREEK LETTERED FRATERNITIES AND SORORITIES HAND SIGNS
These quotes are given in no particular order and are numbered for referencing purposes only.
This is an excerpt from the pancocojams post on BGLO calls whose link is given above:
From http://www.afa1976.org/Portals/0/Membership_Intake_Guide_NPHC.pdf NPHC National Membership Intake Guide: A Statement About Calls & Hand Signs By National Pan-Hellenic Council
"Hand signs and calls have evolved into another historical facet of Black fraternal organization life. According to Kimbrough (2003), the concept of calls is embedded 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 arhoolies, 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."
Added 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)."
I should also note that the handshake and hand sign both feature the pinky finger.
From https://books.google.com/books?id=LHLySACMxdcC&pg=PA11&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false [Google Books]
Black Greek 101: The Culture, Customs, and Challenges of Black Fraternities (Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 2003) By Walter M. Kimbrough
..."Calls are audible sounds made by members as a means to signify or acknowledge membership in a particular organizations, or to acknowledge or “call” a member who might be in range where they could hear the call and respond. Instead of yelling the person’s name, the fraternity brother or sorority sister would use the call to get the person’s attention. These actions are also steeped in African and African American traditions. Alternately named whoops, hollers, cries, and artwhoolies, they were a form of yodeling employed in the Congo and Angola among tribes (whooping), or sung by slaves (cries and artwhoolies). Call was also the name of the practice of black vendors who peddled and advertised their products.
Being verbal customs, it is difficult to determine when or why they appeared. Discussions with older members of the organizations yield varying responses as to when calls were first used. In a dissertation, Marcella McCoy explores some customs of Black Greek-lettered organizations. The topic of calls was raised through interviews with persons initiated throughout a period of 1941 to 1994. Some of the subjects said they heard calls as early as the late 1960s, but there was a great deal of inconsistency. One of the ways used to determine the origins was to look for these phrases written in student publications. At Alabama State in 1981, the phrase “OO OOP” was viewed on a T-shirt of Delta Sigma Theta members on the campus. Three years later at Alabama A&M, the phrase “SKEE-WEE” appeared. It is probable that these calls were mid-1970s inventions, but a much more detailed analysis of this aspect of Black fraternalism is needed and warranted.
[page 123 is not available online}
[quote begins on page 123 and appears to be a description of a photo]
[Virginia?] “Beach in the early 1980s showed a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority holding their sorority hand sign, characterized by holding out the pinky finger. Even though a seventies invention, within a decade, hand signs became ubiquitous. Since that time, practically all undergraduates pose for pictures while using their respective hand signs."
eview: Black Greek 101: The Culture, Customs, and Challenges of Black Fraternities and Sororities
Posted on April 26, 2014 by ancherise Standard
..."I’m sure African American students attending predominently Black colleges as well as predominantly white colleges have seen the Black Greek-Letter Organizations around their campuses repping their organization dressed in jackets with Greek letters, line names, colors, and numbers, as well as these organizations “throwing up” their traditional hand signs, and shouting out calls while stepping during parties. This book thoroughly explains the transformation of Black Greek-Letter Organizations and the history behind what these organizations have become in our culture today. It talks about the evolution of hazing and pledging, distinguishing the two. As I’ve stated in previous posts, people have different processes. It just all depends on the chapter and organization. This book highlights that. It brings some terms to pass that you might have heard around your campuses (paper, skaters, nupes, ques, wood, etc.). It also explains and attempts to date the history of stepping, and why these organizations throw up hand signs and shout out calls."
Google Books: African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision (University Press of Kentucky, Mar 11, 2005) edited by Tamara Brown
"What is a Call?
Calls, along with organizational colors, commonly serve as introductory features to BGLOs. Calls are vocal utterances, either words or sounds, coined for use of the respective organizations...Calls can be diverse in pitch and sound, ranging from a howl or a bark to a screech or whistle. It is understood that nonmembers do not use the call, because it is viewed as offensive and disrespectful toward the organization that coined it. The call is used to acknowledge and greet another member who is some distance away, to avoid yelling that person’s name. It is used to get the attention of another member and as a form of affirmation and approval in place of applause when members of various BGLOs are present. Common usage involves one member initiating the call and the member or members being addressed replying with the same call or another responding call....
Hand signals are used to accompany or substitute for the call in many situations. It is not uncommon for members to form the symbol of the group with their hands while posing for a photograph, especially if they are not wearing paraphernalia. The same exclusive rules of ownership that applies to calls applies to the use of hand signals."
SHOWCASE VIDEOS THAT INCLUDE BGLOS HAND SIGNS
These videos are given in chronological order based on the founding date of these nine historically Black Greek lettered organizations. Note that I chose to feature a combined video of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc because that video extensively featured members of those two organizations throwing hand signs.
These videos are given without any viewer comments or any editorial comment (by me) except to note that it appears that all of these organizations have more than one signature hand sign.
Many of these videos showcase fraternity and/or sorority strolling because hand signs are often performed while doing that performance art. I tried to chose videos that were less than 10 minutes and which didn't include background music that contained any profanity or what is commonly known as "the n word". Please suggest additional links to YouTube videos that showcase hand signs as long as they meet those criteria.
Video #1: Alphas & AKAs Stroll
Charles Sueing, Published on Nov 3, 2011
Morehouse/Spelman Homecoming 2011
This video showcases members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
The Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. hand signs can be best seen around 2:09 of this video.
Video #2: The Lambda Iota Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Presents "AcademiK Probation"
Lowdown Nupes Published on Aug 19, 2016
August 27th, 2016 | University of Tennessee - Chattanooga | Kappa Alphha Psi | UTC Nupes | @lowdownnupes
Video #3: Omega Psi Phi Talented 10th District Hop and Cadillac Hop
Mr. Party Promoter, Published on Jun 13, 2016
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Talented 10th District Hop and What they Live for "Cadillacs" Hop
Video #4: 2014 UMD Block Show: Delta Sigma Theta
Shegaw MekonenPublished on May 8, 2014
The sisters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc's Kappa Phi chapter perform at the University of Maryland College Park Block Show
Video #5: Phi Beta Sigma WINS 2017 Atlanta Greek Picnic Stroll off (Official Video )#AGP2017 #DewXAgp
Atlanta Greek Picnic Published on Jun 26, 2017
The men of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc WIN the 2017 Atlanta Greek Picnic Stroll off. Saturday June 24th, Morris Brown College. Sponsored by Mountain Dew.
Video #6: Zeta Phi Beta, Tuskegee Stroll Off 2016
Kelli Lacy Published on Aug 31, 2016
Theta Beta Chapter!!! Stroll of Tuskegee Universtiy
Video #7: Sigma Gamma Rho Mu Xi Spring 2016 Probate Jacksonville State University #MovieMic Promos
MovieMIC, Published on Mar 15, 2016
#MovieMic my Alma Mater The Jacksonville State University
Video #8: Iota Phi Theta, Alpha Tau - Howard 2016 Step Show
Kaelan Laurence, Published on Oct 25, 2016
This video replaces another video of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. that was originally embedded but is no longer available.
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