By Jackie Bueno
Preface: In honor of Black History Month, I have chosen to highlight Black students from UC Berkeley that have been proactive in taking on leadership roles to address issues of inequity on campus. For the second feature of the month, I am highlighting Patty Midy, a Haitian-American womxn that became the first-ever Haitian-American President of her chapter, Alpha Chi Omega at UC Berkeley.
Patty Midy, a junior at UC Berkeley, is someone who I greatly admire. I met Patty during my term last year as Panhellenic’s VP of Community Development, when she was Alpha Chi Omega’s (AXO) Community Development Representative. Through her time on this committee, Patty demonstrated her strong leadership abilities at each and every Community Development meeting, all of which included selflessness and a visible passion to improve Greek Life’s knowledgeability and practices of equity.
Some of Patty’s accomplishments include pitching the idea to show the award-winning Moonlight last spring at her own chapter house in addition to her contributions for the presentations on equity during Fall 2017 Recruitment and the presentation and implementation of the survey on race in the community. Patty is now Alpha Chi Omega’s Chapter President for the 2018 school year. I have no doubt Patty is someone who will go far in life, and I’m forever grateful that I met her, for she is a leader who inspires others to become better and is a role model to other womxn of color.
Here is our interview:
Jackie: Describe the neighborhood you grew up in.
Patty: It was varied because I grew up in a lot of different places. I don’t think I spent a lot of time in the same place. For example, I was born in Brooklyn. Stayed there a couple of months. Then my family moved back to Haiti where I grew up. I then moved to Sunrise, Florida and lived there until the third grade. My family then moved to Coral Springs and moved back to Haiti, then moved to Texas for a year. I then spent my first two years of high school in Sunrise and my last two in Haiti.
Jackie: Why did you move around so much?
Patty: I guess my parents’ initial plan was for us (my siblings and I), to grow up in Haiti but because of all the political turmoil there, we left Haiti. For instance, when I lived in Texas, it was just me and my brother living at my aunt and uncle’s house without my parents.
Jackie: How do you think your upbringing has shaped you as a leader today?
Patty: My biggest leadership trait today is that I don’t hold on too tightly to things, which is a good and bad thing. For example, I think it’s important to take in what people tell you. Especially in the position I’m in. I think sometimes people don’t realize the ways their words can come off. Umm, and so as someone who’s learned to not hold onto things to tightly, I’ve learned to let go of the harshness that can come from people. Also, I’m good at communicating with all types of people because I’ve met people from so many different places, which I think is a good skill to have.
Jackie: Why did you decide to go to Cal?
Patty: I wanted to get as far away as I physically could (laughs). Not because I hated it or anything. I just had a lot of negative experiences that were weighing on me, and I had a lot of strong convictions about who I was as a person like my beliefs and my values. Such as open-mindedness and acceptance for all types of people, and like you know, I don’t know what it’s called but making people do things outside of the box and think differently than their own beliefs. All those things were important for me and I wasn’t really getting that in high school. Cal was definitely that for me. At that moment I was just like, this is where I wanna go and I knew it for many years. Berkeley, California - that’s where I have to be (laughs).
Jackie: What motivated you to go Greek?
Patty: That’s a good question. I had kind of a rough freshman year. Between not getting housing and personal things going on that year. By the end of the year, I became exhausted by all of the things going on. Coincidentally, I had a lot of friends in Greek life at the time, and I would see that they had this really amazing support system.
I really wanted a community that I could call home, especially being so far from home, which I think is hard because you’re physically so far away. So I and a really good friend of mine decided to rush together. And then she dropped halfway through, but I was under the whole mindset that I already paid for this thing, and I’m going to finish this. By the last night, I was bawling my eyes out at Alpha Chi Omega, and going Greek just seemed like a good decision. It just seemed like “Let’s go for it type of thing,” ya know?
Jackie: What motivated you to run for President of Alpha Chi Omega (AXO)?
Patty: My position on Comm Dev had a lot to do with it. In my position as Comm Dev, I got really close to exec, just because the position was so vague where the power balances would lie, I would get to speak to exec about everything happening. For me, I was still realizing ways that we could improve upon things.
I would think, “What if we did this instead of that?” I always had these ideas, so that was definitely one part of it. I think the second part of it was feeling like it was a role I felt I could take on. This sounds so weird, but I was like, “No one who looks like me has ever held this position before. I am mentally capable of taking on this role. Why not? I know I have the skillset to take on this role. Why shouldn’t I do it?”
Jackie: How has your experience been in this role so far?
Patty: Difficult (laughs) - but not in bad way. Just difficult that like, umm, you can never be 100 percent ready to take on this sort of role, no matter how many things you’ve been told. There’s always going to be surprises. Even though it’s been difficult. It’s been really beautiful and eye-opening. I think the greatest example of this is that my exec board consists of some of the strongest people I know. I see it in the way that they’re really dedicated and use their leadership skills to boost other people up. I feel like I’m learning about another side of my chapter such from the wxmen who lead this chapter. Overall it’s been really positive.
Jackie: You told me you take pride in the fact that you identify racially and ethnically as a Black/Haitian female in the Greek community. How do you think your identity will play a role in your leadership style as President of AXO?
Patty: I like this question. Something I really don’t think a lot about. I think it’s difficult because on one hand, as a Haitian womxn, we’re always taught that we need to be very strong because Haitian wxmen are the ones who get sh*t done or whatever. But, umm, as strong as they are, socially, they’re still behind because of the gender gap.
Back home, some of the strongest wxmen I know, it’s like, place them in a room full of men, and they had to push and push and push to get to where they are. And seeing these wxmen push and push against these imbalances, I think pushed me to become the type of womxn who doesn’t take flack, in many ways from society.
Some people might be surprised by this become some of my friends think of me as chill. I think my culture has instilled in me, like, really knowing who you are and not allowing other people to step on your toes. Part of being chill is being comfortable with who you are, and I think I’m also someone who has strong opinions about what is right and what is wrong. And as a leader, I try to use that to guide the decisions I make.
Jackie: How do you think your identity will help shape the culture in your house?
Patty: Our biggest thing about this house, I guess is the way we want this house to move forward. We want it to be a place where people aren’t afraid to grow and to gain what Alpha Chi has to offer, which for us is support, especially in a world right now where it’s difficult to gain support from others and other wxmen.
Our strongest belief is that it’s not exclusive to anyone.
This means we’re opening the door and letting people who want to come in come in. A big part of this is making sure that when that door is open, they see wxmen that look like them. And when you think about it, that’s like, the first visual thing. I’ve heard a lot of wxmen that have said, “When I came to AXO, I saw a lot of wxmen that looked like me,” whether that’s racially or someone wearing their pride bracelet during recruitment or their Birkenstocks. There’s just so many different personalities in this house. I really think it’s important that we show different personalities, and that it becomes a place where people show off who they are and can be part of a sisterhood that recognizes and supports who they are.
Jackie: What factors do you think have allowed your house to be so in tuned overall about social issues the Greek community faces?
Patty: I’ll give a shoutout to Zoë Brouns here because I think Zoë really really, like, other wxmen of color in this house, and other queer wxmen, all of them, but especially Zoë was one of the people that really talked to me about AXO. When I came in here, things weren’t always this way. And Zoë talked to me about getting other wxmen to change and getting people to understand different points of view. And personally I feel that the values we hold, our national values, if we’re going to get this deep, the fact our own nationals have discussions about what womxnhood looks like, diversity, etc. shows people that it’s okay to have these conversations, and then that means taking action as a result.
And I think Zoë did a really great job of that, like moving from just one conversation like this from moving to one conversation to another to have Queeks and our Comm Dev position.
I think people having these different identities and coming in and taking it in as their own shows us how much we believe in this - having these different identities.
On the other hand, I don’t want to say it’s exclusive to us because any house that has positive values assigned to it, which every house here should be, has the potential to have this change.
Our biggest thing is we’re all we’re all humans beings who have the same values and beliefs. Let’s just celebrate that. I don’t think there’s like a special formula or anything.
Jackie: What are your thoughts on the fact you took on a leadership role in a community that’s predominantly white?
Patty: Greek life is not something I recommend for every single person, but I think that if you’re willing to put up with that and acknowledge the fact that there’s issues, then go for it. There’s definitely moments where I’ve been uncomfortable. There’s microaggressions, plain acts of racism - you will have to deal with those, and that’s the sad reality. But I also think that I look at a space that people tell me I don’t belong in, and I decide, “No. Like who are you to tell me I can’t share this?” But again, I don’t think it’s for everyone.
I think it’s difficult because we talk about being diverse and inclusive. For example we know that there is a difference between being a diverse house and an inclusive house and that one doesn’t always come with the other. You need to also know what it means to be inclusive. Like asking yourself how can I be a better ally and prevent these acts of racism from happening in our community? I’m someone who’s very, very aware I could’ve been in NPHC and chose to be part of PHC.
Jackie: What advice do you have for people of color who look at these spaces and don’t feel like they’re made for them?
Patty: Oh my gosh, let go of imposter syndrome! It’s so real (laughs). Like, I get that all the time, especially, being in CED where I’m one of few black students, and feeling, like, dang, am I supposed to be here? And like it’s really, really really hard to let go of it. But call yourself out and make yourself aware of it. Like I literally mantra myself, which is so cheesy, but sometimes you really need it. I belong here as much as the next person.
All of the places that have excluded us have done it for a reasons. One of these reasons is that all of these places have acquired benefits and privileges that we did not have as people of color in general and once you recognize that, then ask yourself, “Why don’t I deserve those benefits and privileges as well?” Yes, you do. I think it’s really important to recognize, what can I get out of this? And I deserve to get whatever they’re getting as well as well.
Jackie: What do you think are the Greek community’s most pressing issues on race?
Patty: One, a hesitance to talk about race. I think because some houses skirt around the issues, and they have the conversation only once a year, and it’s forced by PHC. And even then, you know.
I think number two selling themselves short of their power and their ability because again, I think every house has the ability to change what their house looks like I guess. People aren’t aware of how much power they actually have to make to make their spaces be more accessible to different types of people. I really wish I could I go out to parties and have a lot less microaggressions. That would be chill…(laughs). I think especially, now that I’m President, I hope that when people see me, they’ll be a lot more thoughtful when they see a black person trying to get into a party, and stop to think about what microaggression they might do.
Jackie: How do you think Restorative Justice can help address the issues Greek life faces?
Patty: I think dialogue is incredibly important. And now that I know that, it’s really cool. Dialogue is super important to move things forward. And one of my favorite things about being in this house is that I can tell people if you ever have questions about being black, I say, “Come and ask me!” Some people I know grew up in a town where they never saw black people. And we make assumptions that people are just being ya know, racist, or just being ignorant, and yes, sometimes they’re just being racist and horrible, But sometimes, they just don’t know better.
And I think it’s really beautiful to explain to someone why something occurred hurt someone else.
I think this makes a huge difference. We can be angry and we have a right to be upset, but people will only listen to that anger for so long and people start to say this or that.
But if you help someone to understand that “Hey, this isn’t just about you. How would you like it if…?” Again, I don’t think it’s for everyone. I definitely tell people not to ask all people of color “How does it feel to be black?” because even though I don’t mind, that doesn’t mean other black individuals won’t mind too.
But in the same way, not everyone has to be in this conversation, whether it be like white people in greek life or people of color. I think people of color have so much to go through already that asking people to take on another thing is so much. I think it’s so important RJ works to find people who are emotionally ready to take on this conversation and ready to find a solution instead of just talking the talk.
Jackie: What kind of legacy do you want to leave as President?
Patty: Eec! This question. Weighs on me so much. Every. Day. When I was first elected, I was really afraid of this thing I made up called Obama-syndrome. I’m gonna tell you what I think it is.
Everyone got so excited when Obama was elected, but at the same time being President is a very difficult and tasking job that asks a lot of you. And you know, once he left, there were certain groups, very loud groups of people, that thought a black person should never be elected again. And I’m so afraid of making mistakes that would hurt people of color after me. So that can be really tasking, but aside from potentially messing things up, I’d really love it if it doesn’t become about me becoming the first Black president of this house.
I’d really just like AXO to be known as a house of respect, that talks about what it means to partake in womxnhood and sisterhood, what it means to become better allies to talk about LGBTQ+ community, a house that celebrates everyone for their own culture, for their own stories and something I actively want to push for. I don’t mind being known about that. I think in Greek life, we think about “What is our house known for?” and that’s something we think about.
Jackie Bueno is a senior at UC Berkeley studying Sociology. For further inquiries or if you would like to be featured, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.