Counter-clockwise from top, left: Chi Psi Omega members Mocca Kerr, Samantha Mercer, Diana Nutter and Mel Dixon; Dixon presents a fundraising check to Nathan Smith of Regional AIDS Interfaith Network; Kerr volunteers at the local food bank.
Their motto is “Forged in fire, from the ashes we rise,” and Mel Dixon, Mecca Kerr, Samantha Mercer and Diana Nutter are bound and determined to make a positive impact.
The four lesbian women of Chi Psi Omega Fraternity say they were inspired to create their new group after not-so-pleasant experiences in another.
“We’d all pledged and crossed into another LGBT Greek organization that just didn’t work out for us,” says Nutter, the fraternity’s treasurer. “So, we decided to start our own.”
Chi Psi Omega isn’t a collegiate fraternity. The group’s members say that doesn’t really matter.
“I don’t really think there’s a big difference between social and collegiate fraternities,” says Dixon, Chi Psi Omega’s events chair. “We’re all out here for the same cause. I do think with us being a social fraternity we can reach more people outside of a school and do more in a community.”
But, the fraternity does differ from other traditional Greek organizations. Unlike other groups for women, Chi Psi Omega isn’t called a “sorority” and they refer to their members as “brothers.” The group, the co-founders say, is meant to provide a comfortable place to interact with and support other dominant, lesbian women. Regardless of the differences, the results are the same and the group’s members stress unity and community service.
“Our purpose is to come together for all the community — not just the gay or straight communities — and try to bridge the gaps,” Nutter says.
Founded in June, the group has already participated in an array of fundraisers and community service projects. They’ve held a carwash benefit for the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN) and was able to raise money for school supplies for children at Elon Homes. They’ve even joined the city’s Adopt-a-Street program, pledging to take care of Hamilton St. — right in front of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte at the NC Music Factory.
“Community service is huge for me,” says Mercer, the fraternity’s president. “It’s the small things we do that make a big impact in the community.”
Chi Psi Omega has embarked on a mission to recruit new members. They say the group needs to grow so that it can have a larger, more positive impact.
Kerr, the group’s chief pledge officer, says spreading messages of equality and awareness is now more important than ever.
“There are lot of obstacles right now,” she says. “From bullying to some of the things that people are trying to write into law, I want to be here to stand up against discrimination.”
Kerr says it’s comforting knowing other members of the group are just as committed to such a cause.
“It’s best to partner with people who have the same vision as you,” she says.
Solidarity, Dixon says, is a strong, communal feeling. Once you get it, it’s hard to let go.
“At first I didn’t really consider myself being in a fraternity,” she says. “I just never saw that being something I’d strive for. Once this came to me, I felt the bond and the brotherhood and it was truly something I never experienced or felt before.”
Dixon thinks it is good to have groups of LGBT people who can serve as role models for younger members of the community.
“It’s good for younger LGBT community members, for them to see what we are doing and for them to know that we are out here to turn to if they want to be a part of something like this,” she says.
Ensuring inclusive fraternal spaces is important, especially when so many collegiate organizations continue to face issues of homophobia.
“As far as the Greek organizations at Clemson, I thought it would be difficult to be a member,” says Mercer, who is a Clemson University graduate. “Around the time I thought of pledging I was just coming out. I didn’t think it would be an easy transition for me being an open lesbian and being in the traditional Greek organizations.”
Chi Psi Omega recently held an open house at the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte. They are still looking for members. They hope they can enlarge their membership roles before the holidays really set in. One of their upcoming projects will depend on it.
The group is also ramping up their “One Community Cares” initiative now. It’s particularly fitting, as November is Homeless Awareness Month. They’ll collect donations in order to purchase supplies for care packages with blankets, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other toiletries. The packages will benefit clients of Crisis Assistance Ministry and The Salvation Army’s Women and Children’s Shelter. Chi Psi Omega also plans on hand-delivering packages to local homeless residents, as well. Those interested can donate as little as $10, $20 or more.
Such community-focused work is rewarding and life changing, the members say, and they hope others will join them in their causes for good.
“We are preaching awareness and tolerance and making a difference,” Kerr says. “I joined this effort because I wanted to leave my mark on society and wanted to be a part of something great.”
She adds, “I’m joining this fight with others who will do that with me and we’re making a difference.” : :
info: Learn more about Chi Psi Omega Fraternity at chipsiomegafraternity.org.