Back in September of this year I spent a wonderful evening with friends from my undergraduate days at LSU. Some of us hadn’t seen each other in many years, but the old affection was still there. Friendship is a tricky business. Try too hard and you smother it. Neglect it and it fades away. But sometimes you get it just right, and nearly thirty years later you’re still tighter than the skin on boudin.
I don’t know what black Greek life is like on today’s campuses, but in 1987 it was an obsession for me and several of my classmates: Mark, Cornell, Al, Dean, Dave, Ron, Ked, Gueric and Sean. As eager, wide-eyed freshmen, we’d spend hours talking about whether we’d pledge and which organizations we wanted to pledge and whose members were most impressive. Kappa Alpha Psi, Phi Beta Sigma, Alpha Phi Alpha or Omega Psi Phi? Zeta Phi Beta, Delta Sigma Theta or Alpha Kappa Alpha? Choices!
One day, Gueric asked a dorm suitemate which way he was leaning and the guy answered that he just wanted to be a “regular assed negro” (which, as Ked remarked, was strange because this guy was supremely gifted and talented, but I digress…). From that day, Sean dubbed our group “Rho Alpha Nu” and the Rhos have been rolling ever since.
If asked, I’m sure each of us would have our own theories of what brought and kept us together through LSU and beyond. I’d say we were each other’s family away from family, that crucial support system during a time when, as young men and women, we were struggling to define and claim our newly independent selves. Our parents might not understand our struggles, but a fellow Rho would – and often did.
A few of the Rhos eventually pledged fraternities and a sorority, but our friendship was never based on any of that. In fact, what was special about Rho Alpha Nu was the notion that no matter where we might go or what we might do, Rho was always home and we were always equals. In Rho, we could be ourselves, no posturing or facades needed.
It’s been said that true friendship is love in action, and Rho Alpha Nu is most certainly that. It is a relationship both strong and elastic, withstanding the inevitable conflicts and distances that challenge human bonds. Almost three decades later, the memories, respect and affection last even when contact and closeness are lost. Rho, then and now, lies at the heart of who we were, who we are, and who we still strive to be.
Long may it endure.
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