For those of you familiar with Greek-letter organizations or specifically, Panhellenic, you know paraphernalia is not to be taken lightly. Anything sporting the crest of sororities and fraternities is only expected to be worn by people who pledged.
But Lalah Hathaway was clearly not in the loop about the ground rules, as she was slammed for posting a selfie in an Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated bucket hat to her Instagram account on Friday.
The caption simply said, “#daughterofAlpha #daughterofsoul” in honor of her late father, the iconic singer Donny Hathaway, who pledged the fraternity at Howard University in the ’60s, years before his untimely death. The hat was allegedly given to the singer by a fan after a concert in Washington, D.C.
Almost immediately after posting, there was backlash about Lalah crossing the line in wearing the paraphernalia. “I’m sorry Lailah, but this isn’t yours to choose to wear,” one commenter said on Instagram “Bro. Hathaway belonged to a fraternity, something we all took oaths to uphold, and regardless of anyone’s connection to it, if you’re not a member, you don’t have a right to the privileges.”
Another said, “That’s not repect, that’s not what u do. Send a shout out or happy founders day. Wearing their gear is disrespectful #facts”
On the flip side, others were defending the singer. “I respect members of greek, but not pettiness,” one commenter noted. “This clearly was not meant to be disrespectful. Some of these comments are very insensitive and unkind.”
There was so much of a discussion about the photo, that one person suggested taking it up with the office of the organization to get their thoughts on the photo.
While those that admonished the multiple Grammy award-winning singer probably had good intensions in honoring their frat, there’s a thin line between informing and being all the way disrespectful. It must be noted that although the hat didn’t have “Daughter of Alpha Phi Alpha” explicitly printed on it —because it was a gift— she noted it in the post.
In addition this: The post was honoring her father, who she would than likely love to share her success with right now. So any form of love-filled tribute, can be considered fair game. It’s her truth, her discretion and her father.
Author Veronica Wells of MadameNoire poignantly addresses this in her critique piece. “I know the Greeks have their rules,” she says. “And I know they’re probably hoping that Lalah Hathaway doesn’t represent a slippery slope, where any and everybody can wear the letters of a group they not only love, but also worked very hard to be a part of. But as musician Kevin Whalum, another Alpha, so poignantly mentioned, it’s about humanity above colors.”
What are your thoughts on Lalah’s tribute photo?