July 12, 2008

Greek Week: ‘A Family Reunion’

By Nicole Norfleet, Philadelphia Daily News

Jul. 12--TO MANY in the Philadelphia region, the words "Greek Week" may evoke memories of loud parties, lewd conduct and fights on the streets. But this year's Philly Greek Week is not that kind of party.

"We still get a bad rap even to this day about some of the things that happened several years ago . . . Some people don't want to open their eyes and see the Greek Week for what it is," said Danita Wisher, president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council of Philadelphia, the organization that represents the nine traditionally black fraternities and sororities in the city.

Greek Week concludes today with the 34th annual Greek Picnic at Belmont Grove, Belmont Mansion and Chamounix drives in Fairmount Park from noon to 6 p.m.

Greeks and non-Greeks are invited to show off their talents, whether they are stomping the yard or barbecuing chicken.

"Consider it a family reunion," Wisher said.

More than 5,000 people usually attend the closing picnic, and Wisher expects this year to be no different.

Today, fraternities and sororities can participate in a number of competitions, including best barbecued chicken and best-decorated plot.

Most traditionally black sororities and fraternities don't have Greek houses on campus, Wisher said, but instead have a designated plot of land on campus. At the picnic, each group selects a plot of land to decorate using the fraternity or sorority's colors and symbols, making it resemble its campus plot.

Another tradition of black Greeks is stepping performances. Although organizers didn't plan an official step competition this year, there will be an exhibition step show at today's picnic.

"That's how it started," Wisher said. "There were not trophies and prizes and money back when it started . . . You just wanted bragging rights. We are just trying to go back to the basics."

Other events this week included a basketball tournament, a karaoke night, a dance competition and a book drive.

"These kinds of activities even at the local level, they give the various organizations a chance to mingle and socialize with each other in a relaxed setting," said Spencer Bruce, 50, of North Philadelphia, deputy executive director of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

The book drive solicited books that will be given to people in prison who have children. The inmates will be filmed reading the books on videotape.

The videos are then given to their children so that they can read along with them, Wisher said.


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