Women of historically Black Greek organizations explain importance of their service
The Divine 9 are historically Black fraternities and sororities that were founded on college campuses between 1906 and 1963. Many were founded because Black students were not allowed membership into white organizations at the time.
To celebrate Women’s History Month, News 12 New Jersey sat down with the women of the Divine 9 to talk about carrying on the legacy of their founders long after graduation.
While social activities are often part of Greek life, for members of the Divine 9, service to one’s community is also a big part of that and it’s a lifetime commitment.
“It’s important to have those aspects of service being embedded into your community and these are the things you’re teaching and coaching those that are coming behind you whether they joined as an undergrad or they joined in a graduate chapter,” says Dr. Crystal Joye, of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.
Of the nine historically Black Greek organizations, four of them are sororities.
“I believe the founders believed that it was important, and subsequently, members of the organization, probably all of the organizations, that it is important to uplift the community in which you live,” says Gail Smith, of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
This is why many will continue to serve long after graduation. For others, it is the family ties.
“I come from a long line of Deltas in my family, so the history was always there,” says Julie M. Hunter, of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
“My mother was a member of the chapter…my mother’s father was Phi Beta Sigma. My father’s father and my father were Kappa, so Greek life has always been a part of my existence,” Smith says.
Earlier this month, Florida House Bill 999 was passed. It partially aims at restricting cultural activities at universities and colleges. As the fate of organizations centered around diversity, equity and inclusion hangs in the balance, the women of the Divine 9 say they want to stress the importance of their organizations - not just in undergrad, but post-grad as well.
“In the African American community, there are specific and special issues that every community hasn’t had to address over the centuries over time. And having that special understanding and being able to work together and stand on the shoulders of those who came before us is very important,” says Smith. “I think it’s significant you may have greater influence, certainly greater insight into how to address problems that are plaguing our community.”
Each organization has grown exponentially since its founding over a century ago. There are hundreds of chapters and hundreds of thousands of college-educated women across the country and across continents who are continuing the work their founders started.