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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?


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Lalah Hathaway Slammed By Black Greeks For Wearing Hat was originally published on

12 thoughts on “Lalah Hathaway Slammed By Black Greeks For Wearing Hat

  1. Interesting comments. I suppose those who were/are offended by the photo will have to “wait and see” if Lalah Hathaway will apologize and remove the photo, or simply ignore any critics and their demands…

  2. I have two observations as someone who decided not to pledge to any greek organization:

    1) How is the paraphernalia of these organizations exclusive to those who pledged and yet military fatigues are not off limits to those who think they may be fashionable but have not served? Or, as is more popular, do people who wear a corporate logo but do not work or invest there have less of a right to express their like, appreciation or their affiliation of said company?

    To take offense at your unique perspective but to appropriate another without according the same level of veneration smacks, to me, of hypocrisy.

    2) As the son of an AKA who pledged in the early 60’s, I had to ask my mother about the current practice of branding that is done by some within some black Greek organizations. I was told (by a Kappa) that it was a sign of their dedication to the fraternity and that he would be a kappa until he died so the brand was appropriate for him. My mother had a very different reaction. She said “brand? Like they do cows? Like they did slaves?” It was clear to me that that practice did not herald from her time when the Greeks on her campus were more about making sure that all the other blacks were looked out after and helped forward. My personal belief is that appropriating the practice of branding while eschewing tattooing which may be practiced by the “white fraternities” is wrong-headed and also dangerous both physically as well as culturally. How can you say that you need to be respected as a free individual when you are voluntarily allowing someone to burn their logo into your skin to show your lifelong affiliation?

    Overall as a society we should take the position of “you do you” more than impose your own rules on others. I guess what I’m saying is that what Ms. Hathaway did was out of her personal experience and perception and not necessarily seeking approval of anyone else. In my mother’s college years,They did not have things like Twitter and Facebook to tell others why their individual world view or decisions were invalid or without merit.

    • Guest12 on said:

      I have a co-worker who is an AKA, and yesterday, I asked her what the protocol was for others wearing their paraphernalia who are not members. She said there are rules about how to discard paraphernalia but no one follows it. When some passes away, it’s usually the family that packs up the belongings. Not actually knowing what to do with mom or dad’s “stuff”, it usually ends up at the goodwill or thrift shops. She said it’s not that serious.

    • Guest12 on said:

      I agree with you and Jelan. Herein lies the problem. “The fact is that frats and sororities were designed to be exclusionary; to be separatist and elitist.” “Divide and conquer…” Just plain stupid. I served in the military for 13 years and went through far more training, etc. than a sorority would ever put those women through, and I’m proud that I’m a veteran, but you won’t see me berating anyone for wearing cammo gear. Some people need to get a grip.

  3. specialt757 on said:

    Well I understand the criticism of Ms. Hathaway wearing the hat/letters. Maybe people like me don’t see the harm, but the sororities and fraternities do and that’s what’s important. These are their organizations, the rules are set, and they obey them, if they want to maintain membership. It would be no different than someone wearing Eastern Star of Mason paraphilia who are not members, just because their mom or dad were. It’s all about respecting their rules, point blank. Members of these organizations feel passionate about this, they worked hard and have to pay dues and Ms. Hathaway didn’t. Membership affords privileges and she’s not a member.

    • Well, the fraternities and sororities need to get over themselves. All Lalah was doing was showing respect to her father, even if it meant putting on her father’s fraternity hat. She has possession of it, but they probably would take issue with that alone as well. As Jelan Cato stated below, no different than gangs claiming people can’t wear certain colors. Absolutely ridiculous. And as a poster above stated, those who serve in the military do far more in terms of service than some Greek organization anyday — FAR MORE!

  4. Ok well do you have someone Greek in your family that killed their self? That’s what her father did. If she wants to remember her parent that way let her. She’s not violating.

  5. Christina Allen-Crowder on said:

    Sorry Lalah (and others) but a shout out would have been enough. It is not us being petty – but there is a reason people say “membership has its privileges”. That is a fact. You don’t get to wear the colors or letters if you’re not a member – Period. If you let this go pretty soon everyone will want to throw on our colors and letters “in honor of someone”…who doesn’t have someone Greek in their family? She should have known better. I earned my pearls! #AlphaKappaAlphaSororityInc

    • Your argument is pathetic. Are you Greek as in descended from Greece? The fact is that frats and sororities were designed to be exclusionary; to be separatist and elitist. When blacks decided to create their own organizations because they couldn’t get into the white ones, they just transmuted those same ideals unto their black brothers and sisters. Simple mindedness! Divide and conquer has always been a most effective way to undermine and repress the black nation and it persists as an efficient means to this day. This whole things is stupid. Same premise bloods and crips use to destroy their communities; can’t throw up colors and signs and all this lettering. My people forever suffer/perish for a lack of knowledge.

    • And this is why I have zero respect for sororities and fraternities. You all are no more special than everyday folks who work hard in life, give back to others, but don’t ask for nothing but maybe a little respect in return. Difference is, most people don’t need permission or approval to do so. #MuchRespectToMyUnsungHeroesSansTheNeedFor’Pearls’

  6. Wearing the hat was for her father. Everybody needs to calm down. She was not claiming anything. It was her acknowledging her father. Her father was an amazing artist

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