Latin fraternity discusses importance of Black and brown unity

President of the Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Derek Hernandez spoke on his experience at Quinnipiac and how cultural organizations can bring out conversations about unity between Black and brown communities.

Hernandez organized an event Sept. 30, to show the history of various social movements. This was followed by a discussion with audience members about what Black and brown unity means to them.

Derek Hernandez is president of Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity. (Photo contributed by Derek Hernandez)

The event was held to further educate students about the history of various movements and to engage in conversation with peers about the challenges that they may face. He does this through his role as Lambda Theta Phi president.

“We are at a predominantly white institution, and I want to educate our broader community and make sure that everyone is having the opportunity and the chance to not only learn about different people but speak to different people that may not look like them and have the same ideology as them,” Hernandez said. 

As a Brooklyn, New York native, Hernandez said his social environment before coming to Quinnipiac was composed of people with many different backgrounds.

“They call New York the melting pot for a reason,” Hernandez said. “I went to public school in New York City and there was a mix of everyone in school: white, Black, Asian, Hispanic and Caribbean students. It was kind of a culture shock coming here.” 

Hernandez encourages students to meet new people and get involved in the Quinnipiac community to make a change. He said it’s up to people to create the experience they want and meet others similar to them. 

“I feel like part of it is on you to get out there and create your own experience to get out what you put in,” Hernandez said. “College is the time when you’re continuously challenging your peers and continuously challenging your ideology.” 

Ja’Vielle Foy, a senior political science major and president of the Black Student Union, attended the event and explained the importance of having these organizations on campus for students of color. 

“There (is) a small concentration of Black students at a predominantly white university,” Foy said. “There’s a lot of Black and brown faces that just need somewhere to express their experience on campus. These organizations were created as a safe space.”

As leaders of cultural organizations, Hernandez and Foy demonstrate the merger of two communities that have previously come together in the face of similar struggles.

Hernandez spoke on the history of social movements where both the Black and brown communities formed organizations to increase resources and representation for minorities in the U.S. He discussed the importance of history in relation to present-day issues. 

“I feel like we can’t have these conversations without knowing where everything started,” Hernandez said.

Two college students founded the Black Panther Party on Oct. 15, 1966, in Oakland, California. They created a 10-point program that would serve as a new way of operating to provide freedom, employment benefits, better education, housing opportunities and solutions to end police brutality.

The 1960s saw the emergence of another liberation organization. The Brown Berets formed in California to push for educational reform, farmworker rights and the end of police brutality.

Hernandez explained how both organizations became aware of each other’s efforts and formed an alliance. 

“In 1976, brothers from the Black Panther Party and the Brown Berets came together and realized we’re going through the same struggles, the same oppression and we’re parallel to each other right now in everything that we’re fighting for,” Hernandez said. 

The event ended with a discussion of unifying both parties as an official agreement and touched upon their treaty titled “The Treaty of Peace, Harmony and Mutual Assistance.” 

The Black Panther Party and the Brown Berets communities came together organically. Hernandez said understanding the historical impact these organizations had after their unification can influence a new connection among today’s generation. 

“Obviously these organizations no longer exist today,” Hernandez said. “… but we know we could make that change and bring back this Black and brown unity that happened in our communities.”