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What Is The Divine 9?

A group of Zeta Phi Beta members walk down the street in a parade. They wear matching blue and white Zeta Phi Beta crewnecks.

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

So you’ve embarked on a beautiful new journey of college! How exciting!

You’re wrapped up in all the new invigorating experiences that you’ll have a chance to indulge in and you’re so excited to get to see what activities and organizations you can participate in on your campus.

One day, as you’re walking on your lovely campus, you hear chants and calls. You see stepping and strolling and people cheering, laughing, and looking like they’re really enjoying themselves.

You see groups of young women and men proudly wearing specific colors, with bright bold Greek letters across their chests. Your interest is immediately piqued.

You wonder to yourself…who are these people? Well I can tell you exactly who they are – they are proud members of The Divine 9. 

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering…what in the world is The Divine 9? It’s most likely a term you’ve never heard before.

The Divine 9 is a name used to refer to the 9 Black Greek Letter Organizations that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council (N.P.H.C.) founded on May 10, 1930 on the campus of Howard University. This council consists of 5 fraternity organizations and 4 sorority organizations being: 

  1. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. Founded on December 4, 1906 on the campus of Cornell University. 
  2. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Founded on January 15, 1908 on the campus of Howard University.
  3. Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated. Founded on January 5, 1911 on the campus of Indiana University. 
  4. Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated. Founded on November 17, 1911 on the campus of Howard University.
  5. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. Founded on January 13, 1913 on the campus of Howard University.
  6. Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated. Founded on January 9, 1914 on the campus of Howard University. 
  7. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated. Founded on January 16, 1920 on the campus of Howard University. 
  8. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated. Founded on November 12, 1922 on the campus of Butler University.
  9. Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Incorporated. Founded on September 19, 1963 on the campus of Morgan State University. 

The history of Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLO’s), like the one I’m a part of (Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated), dates back to the early 1900s when African-American students were excluded from Greek organizations at predominately white institutions.

These organizations under this council work together and individually to ensure that change and progress is made within the Black community.

Black students began to form their own Greek fraternities and sororities to promote community bonds, increase their professional opportunities after college, and provide service to the Black community.

While White Greek organization member activity ends at the close of their college career, the goal of Black Greek-Letter Organizations, BGLOs, is to inspire people to continue the work after college. BGLOs provide opportunities for those who have already graduated college to join post-grad.

As educated members of the Black community, Black Greeks are able to expand over multiple chapters across the nation and educate, inform, and serve their community beyond their campuses.

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The foundations of many BGLOs were created on the premises of regarding education as a key of liberation as seen with the first establishments of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

As Howard University (the founding campus for the majority of these organizations) grew traction and began to be a prominent higher education institution for Black men and women, the principles and pillars of many organizations to come were centered around service, sisterhood/brotherhood, and scholarship. 

All my life, I’ve been taught the importance and necessity of Black people empowering each other and of Black women empowering and uplifting each other. I’ve been told that you will never live a good life if you don’t center yourself around helping others.

My parents instilled in me the values of service and family, family by blood and family through basic human connection.

It was these very principles that have guided me throughout my childhood and now my adulthood. It was these very principles that encouraged me to engage in community service. It was these very principles that sparked my desire to become a civil rights attorney.

It is the principles that Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc embody, the principles that have been inside me long before pursuing an organization as great as this entered my heart and mind.

I was first exposed to Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. three years ago. My aunt, a member of the organization, took me to a talent show at a local high school that was being hosted by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

It was here that I first saw scholarship, service, sisterhood, and finer womanhood being exemplified in real life. It was the genuine relationships that had been created amongst these women that fostered a sense of longing in my spirit. A longing for a sisterhood, a longing for people who would support me whenever and however.

It was the joy of giving back to their community that fostered a sense of hope in my heart, a hope that Black people can give back to their community, hope that we can be our own resource and not have to depend on the likes of our counterparts.

It was the embodiment of being a fine woman that stirred in me the desire to be the best me I can be. To be a woman, a Black woman, who is unapologetically myself. To be a woman that strives daily to be the best version of herself and encourage others to do the same.

It was no surprise to me when I saw the same things being embodied at the Alpha Chapter at my institution, Howard University. It was of no shock to me to see a group of women doing exactly what their founders designed for them to do: attain high academic achievement, give back to their community, love each other and other people, and be the best you can be.

It was then that my feeble desire became hunger. It was here that I realized I have the potential to be a part of an organization as great as this.

My whole reason for pursuing higher education is to attain the skills and knowledge I need to be an asset to the Black community, to submerge myself in “people-loving” work.

Becoming a Zeta, a finer woman, has allowed me to do just that. Given the rich and deep history of these organizations and my own personal reasons for becoming a member of Zeta and at large, a member of the N.P.H.C., it is here that I strongly suggest any person of color who sees these organizations on their campus to truly take a deeper look.

Please attend events, talk to the members of these organizations, do your own private research, and find the organization that speaks most to you. It will change your life the way it has changed mine!

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Author: Elise Blake

Hello!! My name is Elise Blake and I am currently a junior political science major with a concentration in pre-law, and a minor in legal communications at the ILLUSTRIOUS Howard University. My goal for this blog is to shed light on all things afro-centric that matter in the realm of college as well as just simply giving you all as much knowledge as I can. I am looking forward to sharing with you all my experiences and giving out any tips/advice that I believe will be useful to you!