Filed under: BGLOs, Sheryl Underwood, Zeta Phi Beta | Tags: NAACP, Sheryl Underwood, Zeta Phi Beta
Despite the numerous emails, both critical and complimentary…despite the harsh sentiments expressed, both pro and anti-Sheryl Underwood; some truths haven’t changed in the past few days.
As of this writing, Sheryl Underwood is still the 23rd International President of the illustrious Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
Illustrious…meaning “highly distinguished, renowned.”
It would seem that anyone truly knowledgeable of the history of Black Greek letter organizations (BGLOs) wouldn’t flinch or find fault with the juxtaposition of such a word and any/all of these organizations.
- Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Founded 1906, Cornell University
- Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Founded 1908, Howard University
- Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Founded 1911, Indiana University
- Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Founded 1911, Howard University
- Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Founded 1913, Howard University
- Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Founded 1914, Howard University
- Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Founded 1920, Howard University
- Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Founded 1922, Butler University
- Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Founded 1963, Morgan State University
All of them are distinct and unique in terms of their individual histories or their respective canonical lists of great African-Americans. This isn’t a history lesson, everyone should already know to what I’m referring.
The recent election of Sheryl Underwood has been met with respect, ridicule and outright rage among the membership body. One does not need to be a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority to correctly characterize this election as “controversial” no more than does someone need to be African-American to correctly identify racism when it appears.
Having said that, a number of members of the sorority are presently angry with The Mo’Kelly Report; for among other things, its treatment of the office and the sorority with contempt and ridicule.
Today, this isn’t about the humor that some people didn’t appreciate or “get.” This is about truth.
Comedienne Sheryl Underwood may or may not be a “good soror.” She may or may not be a “diligent worker.” She may or may not be head over heels in love with the sorority of Zeta Phi Beta, Inc. Whether she is or is not any of those things is irrelevant.
It’s irrelevant because none of which can be or should be separated from what she is overwhelmingly known for.
She is known for being one of the most vulgar, profane and vile comedians in entertainment. It’s not up for discussion or debate. The “sorors” may “also” know her for her work in the sorority but that’s neither here nor there. The very reasons why the sorority issued a “press release” to ALL urban media in regards to her election in the first place and why she became fodder in The Mo’Kelly Report in the second place had EVERYTHING to do with her celebrity and little if anything to do with anything else.
“Celebrated entertainer and businesswoman Sheryl P. Underwood was elected the 23rd International President of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated during the organization’s bi-annual business meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, June 27 – July 3, 2008. Ms. Underwood is the first professional entertainer to hold the highest elected office of a historical black National Pan-Hellenic Council. Underwood, best known for her sold-out performances as a stand-up comedienne, is now a regular on-air personality with the Tom Joyner Morning Show.”
THAT is how the press release begins.
If you can find a press release that was sent out to ALL urban media in relation to any newly elected Grand Basileus of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., the Grand Polemarch of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., or the National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc etc…
…Then point it out to Mo’Kelly accordingly.
But you won’t be able to do so, because they don’t exist. The moment Zeta Phi Beta hitched its wagon to the “star” of Sheryl Underwood and sent out the press release “celebrating” her election as the 23rd International President; Z Phi B also hitched its wagon to everything else also attached to Underwood’s “celebrity.”
Maybe some need to see it again…directly from the press release.
“Ms. Underwood is the first professional entertainer to hold the highest elected office of a historical black National Pan-Hellenic Council. Underwood, best known for her sold-out performances as a stand-up comedienne, is now a regular on-air personality with the Tom Joyner Morning Show.”
If the NAACP opted to turn over its helm to Karinne “Superhead” Steffans instead of Ben Jealous recently; the same ridicule could’ve been predicted for the NAACP. It is not about whether Steffans might have been a diligent and dedicated NAACP member and worked tirelessly in the field of civil rights outside of the national spotlight. It only matters that she is KNOWN for behavior directly antithetical to the uplifting and honor of African-Americans. Latching on to one’s celebrity means latching to one’s public persona. They are inextricably linked.
For Steffans to hypothetically become the face and voice of the NAACP, the organization would rightfully be ridiculed and disrespected, for Steffans is antithetical to the supposed ideals of any organization devoted to advancement of people of color. It does not matter what Steffans “may” have done behind the scenes in the world of civil rights.
Lookout, here comes the parallel…
An illustrious (there’s that word again) organization which is now to be led by Sheryl Underwood, whose public “celebrity” is tied ONLY to derogatory, vulgar and profane depictions of African-American women is troublesome, counterproductive and counterintuitive. It is also antithetical to the stated ideals of Z Phi B individually and BGLOs collectively.
“A community-conscious, action-oriented organization.”
With ANY level of “conscience” to “community,” the breath and depth of Underwood’s career can not be overshadowed or overlooked. Arguably only .01% can tell you that she is a member of Zeta Phi Beta, but 99.9% of African-Americans could likely tell you that Underwood is a “comedic authority” on everything from fellatio to cunnilingus and every sexual technique in between.
This is not an editorial from a moralist perspective. It is though, a viewpoint from a concerned member of said “community” referenced in the sorority’s motto. The “community” doesn’t begin and end with just the Blue and White membership. WHAT Underwood represents irrevocably impacts HOW she represents Z Phi B. HOW she represents Z Phi B, invariably impacts HOW BGLOs as a whole are perceived and HOW BGLOs are perceived impacts how African-Americans are perceived and treated.
Karinne Steffans…NAACP. Sheryl Underwood…Z Phi B. Let Mo’Kelly know if he’s going too fast.
Sheryl Underwood now is the face AND voice of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and if its voting body is either sensitive to or unappreciative of the criticism of their choice…not only are we (the community) allowed to voice our criticisms (and laughter) but also this…
We are permitted to state the undeniable fact that our organizations are known by “WHO” leads, just as much as “how” he/she leads.
It’s more than slightly paradoxical and problematic to encourage young African-American women to join an organization led by one who has made a career of disrespecting herself as an African-American woman.
And that’s coming from a Black MAN. For so, so long African-American women have asked for us to respect and protect the Black woman…well here you go. Be careful what you ask for…
It’s more than slightly hypocritical with BGLOs protesting the negative imagery and misogyny in music or the detrimental messages in media and one of its “leaders” is a “leader” in the business of negative imagery and misogyny.
Yes, people like Mo’Kelly would be slightly miffed and have a word or two to offer in critique. Imagine that.
Although some may disagree or may even be disappointed with the nature of this next statement, its truth is irrefutable. You (insert organization/country) are known by the strength and reputation of your leadership and its members/citizens are looked upon accordingly.
Zeta Phi Beta is now led by the most vulgar, profane and arguably misogynistic comedienne in all of Hollywood…EVER. If THAT isn’t a stellar recruiting tool for young impressionable women to join the illustrious Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. then nothing is. And for the negative fallout, the organization has no one to blame but itself. We…the people outside of your organization, the “community” neither voted for nor must be expected to support such a decision; and its promotion by the sorority is equally misguided and unfortunate.
TO LIGHTEN THE MOOD:
* Mo’Kelly MUST Go to Eddie and Tracey’s Wedding
The Mo’Kelly Report is an entertainment journal with a political slant; published weekly at www.eurweb.com. It is meant to inform, infuse and incite meaningful discourse…as well as entertain. The Mo’Kelly Report is syndicated by Newstex and Blogburst. For more Mo’Kelly, http://www.mokellyreport.blogspot.com.
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Morris W. O’Kelly can be reached at email@example.com and he welcomes all commentary.
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