Women find empowerment in many forms. In college for the African American woman many find it in the sisterhood of the “Divine Nine” Sororities.
In the early 1900’s black fraternities and sororities were created to provide brotherhood and sisterhood for African-Americans attending college. Blacks were not welcome in the other established Greek Letter Societies so they created their own.
The Pan Hellenic Council also known as the “Divine Nine” was founded May 10, 1930 on the campus of Howard University. But before the council was created the Greek organizations individually were created. The Divine Nine consist of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity founded in 1906, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, founded in 1909, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity founded in 1911, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity founded in 1911, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority founded in 1913, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity founded in 1914, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority founded in 1920, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority founded in 1922, and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity founded in 1963.
The ladies of the “Divine Nine” have produced many leaders and provide a great service of serving this nation and the world. They have all had their share of controversy but their commitment to service and excellence has outweighed them all.
The first sorority to make up the “Divine Nine” are the ladies in salmon pink and apple green Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. The organization recently became the first black Greek organization to trademark the famous call “Skeee Weee” and have a membership of over 170,000 active members. Famous members include Loretta Divine, Toni Morrison, Wanda Sykes, Star Jones, Vanessa Bell Calloway, and Phylicia Rashad.
The ladies in crimson and cream are known as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. One of the founders first acts involved their participation in the Women’s Suffrage March in Washington D.C., March 1913. The sisterhood currently has a membership of over 200,000 predominately African-American, college-educated women. The Sorority currently has 900-plus chapters located in the United States, Tokyo, Japan, Okinawa, Japan, Germany, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Seoul, Korea, and St. Thomas and St Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Famous Delta’s include K Michelle, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Kym Whitley, Mara Brock Akil and the civil rights icon Dorothy Height.
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority are the ladies in royal blue and white. According to the official web site, “The purpose of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority is to foster the ideas of service, charity, scholarship, civil and cultural endeavors, sisterhood and finer womanhood. These ideals are reflected in the sorority’s national program for which its members and auxiliary. Famous Members: Sheryl Underwood, WNBA Camille Cooper, the late Esther Rolle, Sarah Vaughan, Syleena Johnson, Dionne Warwick, Towanda Braxton.
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. was organized on November 12, 1922 in Indianapolis, Indiana by seven school teachers. The group became an incorporated national collegiate sorority on December 30, 1929. According to the official web site, “Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority’s aim is to enhance the quality of life within the community. Public service, leadership development and education of youth are the hallmark of the organization’s programs and activities. Sigma Gamma Rho addresses concerns that impact society educationally, civically, and economically.” Famous members include Hattie McDaniel, MC Lyte, Kelly Price, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Mother Love and Victoria Rowell. Their colors are royal blue and gold.
We asked some Los Angeles Sentinel readers why they pledged and what it meant to them?
Patrice Marshall McKenzie
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Spring, 1997, Rho Chapter, University of California at Berkeley
Alpha Kappa Alpha women have been progressive voices for social change and stalwart champions for improving the social stature of women since its inception in 1908. My earliest mentors and role models in my family and academically were Alpha Kappa Alpha women, so their leadership and commitment to service were emulated for me for as long as I can remember. Moreover, the Alpha Kappa Alpha members at Berkeley were outstanding campus leaders. I knew that I wanted to affiliate with women who shared my values for advancing the leadership opportunities for women and building stronger communities.
For the last 20 years, Alpha Kappa Alpha has continued to teach me critical lessons in leadership development, advocacy, service and sisterhood. I have learned the importance of being a leader among peers as well as the vital skill of facilitating and leading multi-generational teams. Ultimately, the leadership experiences I have gained through Alpha Kappa Alpha have benefited my professional career in more ways than I can count.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Pi Chapter at UCLA
Delta Sigma Theta has always been a special part of my life. My mother is a Delta so I knew from a young age I wanted to be a part of the group of intelligent, hard working and kind women I admired so much. As a young girl, I saw first-hand the dedicated and diligent work they did in the community, how accomplished they are and I witnessed true examples of sisterhood. As a teen, I was heavily involved in the Volunteers for Delta program, I was able to develop my public service experience and understand the importance of sacrifice and giving to others. When I arrived at UCLA, I began researching and attending Pi Chapter programs. Knowing that Delta is a lifetime commitment, I wanted to align myself with the likeminded, classy, involved and scholarly Deltas I met on campus. I knew Delta and its mission was a perfect fit for my personal and professional goals. As an only child, I was so excited about the opportunity to have sisters all over the world.
Yvonne Brown -Burries
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
Nu Lambda Chapter at UCLA
I pledged because I was so impressed with the community service activities that the Zetas were involved in on UCLA’s campus. Before attending UCLA, I never heard of Zeta Phi Beta. I only knew about AKA’s and Deltas. After one of my good friends became a Zeta, she introduced me to the rest of the Zetas on campus. They were extremely friendly. They had such great comradery with each other, with other sororities & with their brothers, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. The Zetas welcomed me even before I made the decision to join.
I became a Zeta on October 5, 1992. I will be celebrating my 25th Zetaversary this year. I was #3. Nu Lambda Chapter at UCLA.
Currently I am a member of Omicron Rho Zeta Chapter (Inglewood Graduate chapter). I am a Life Member. This chapter was founded by Past International President Sheryl Underwood. Sheryl was also my graduate advisor when I was at UCLA.