Since 2014, students in the lecture course, Black Fire, have completed end of the year projects that explore the complexity of the African American experience at the University of Virginia. The projects range from experimental film to traditional oral history interviews to podcasts. In 2017, Trevor Hinkle and Grant Schwab completed a podcast for their project. Their description of the podcast is below.
Black Men in a White Fraternity: Exploring the Perspectives of Black Members of an IFC Fraternity
For our final project, we decided the best way we could provide a perspective into the “black experience” at UVA was to interview members of our predominantly white social fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi. The Alpha Mu chapter of Delta Sigma Phi is an Inter-Fraternity Council (or “IFC”) fraternity at UVA. References to “mainstream” fraternity life at UVA are generally references to the IFC, which consists of 30+ chapters that are all predominantly white. While most members of Delta Sigma Phi are white, the chapter was recognized by the UVA Student Council as the most racially diverse IFC fraternity on grounds for the fall of 2016. Currently, Delta Sigma Phi has a number of different races and ethnicities represented within the brotherhood, including two black members, Khari Williams and Alexandre Fall (both Class of 2018).
For this project, we wanted to hear the stories and perspectives of the four current and former black members of Delta Sigma Phi (most often referred to as Delta Sig) that were members at some point during our four years in the fraternity. Our conversations with them center on race as it relates to their experiences as part of the IFC and with Delta Sigma Phi in particular. We talked to Byron Thompson (Class of 2014) and Jordan Lassiter (Class of 2016) via Skype, and we spoke to Khari and Alexandre in person. All of these conversations were individual, i.e. not a group forum with all four brothers. During these conversations, we talked about a number of topics, including how race plays into the IFC recruitment (“rush”) process, personal relationships to “black” institutions and UVA’s African-American community as members of a “white” fraternity, how race is treated within the brotherhood of Delta Sigma Phi, and views towards traditionally black fraternities governed by the National Pan-Hellenic Council at UVA (i.e. the coordinating body for the nine historically African American fraternities and sororities).
Our final product is a series of interviews in “podcast” form, in which we (Grant and Trevor) introduce the project and each guest briefly before playing the interviews sequentially. Each of the four
interviews lasted roughly 20-30 minutes, and the project concludes with a short reflective conversation from the two of us about the interviews. Ultimately, we’re excited to share Khari, Alexandre, Jordan, and Byron’s perspectives!
Note: The segments’ beginning time markers are as follows:
❖ Alexandre Fall – 3:25
❖ Jordan Lassiter – 33:15
❖ Byron Thompson – 57:45❖ Khari Williams – 1:24:00❖ Closing Thoughts – 1:53:00