Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Juneteenth Salutes ‘The Divine Nine’ in 2011

             The Greek Alphabet and its numerical influence may be a little too difficult for some people to comprehend, but its English equivalent has become the hallmark and symbol of social, ethical, scholastic, and economic standards for the nation’s  historically Black Greek Letter Organizations collectively referred to as “The Divine Nine.”
            The fraternities and sororities comprising The Divine Nine are: Alpha  Phi Alpha Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity.  
            The Divine Nine, a phrase coined by author Lawrence C. Ross Jr. in his book “The Divine Nine: The History of African-American Fraternities and Sororities,” will be saluted in 2011 during the 18th annual Juneteenth Freedom & Heritage Festival in historic Douglass Park in North Memphis.
            The three-day festival will kick off June 17-19 and feature a plethora of entertainment (poets, performing artists, storytellers), musical acts (R & B, hip-hop, old school, classical, Neosoul, and gospel), food vendors, games, exhibits, horseback rides, kiddy rides, and more.
            Admission to the park is free.
            Glynn Johns-Reed, founder of the Juneteenth Freedom & Heritage Festival, said the Divine Nine continues to play an integral part in shaping the lives and future of African Americans on college and university campuses and beyond. Its principals and ideals are still relevant today, she said.
            “For African Americans on black college and university campuses, it’s (Black Greek Letter Organizations) a way to set yourself apart,” said Johns-Reed. “The root of the organization is to uplift the black community. [And] I still see that and  a lot of involvement in the community as relevant today.”
            Although other Greek letter organizations are thriving just as well, Johns-Reed said the Black Greek letter fraternities and sororities were founded out of necessity to combat racial discrimination and segregation, and promote unity, camaraderie, academic excellence, interaction, and community service.
            Last year in July, Delta Sigma Theta held its convention in New Orleans, which confirmed Johns-Reed’s belief that fraternities and sororities have been true to their mission statement. "They made a major impact in New Orleans,” she said. “And wherever these sisterhood and brotherhood organizations go and whatever they do, they will make an impact.”
            The Divine Nine is also a collaborative of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc., an umbrella organization formed May 10, 1930, on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., and incorporated in 1937 in the state of Illinois. The headquarters is located in Decatur, Ga.
            According to the Council’s Web site, each member organization maintains its autonomy, “strategic direction, and program agenda.” The Council still abides by its 1930 mission: “Unanimity of thought and action as far as possible in the conduct of Greek letter collegiate fraternities and sororities, and to consider problems of mutual interest to its member organizations.” 
            Most people have never heard of The Divine Nine, Johns-Reed opined. “This (the Juneteenth Freedom & Heritage Festival) will  be an opportunity for Memphis to learn more about them. I feel good about the decision that we made to honor them next year.”
            For more information, contact Glynn Johns-Reed at 901-385-4943.

A Few Facts About The Divine Nine:

            • Alpha  Phi Alpha Fraternity, founded Dec. 4, 1906, and incorporated in 1908; Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Official Colors: Black and Old Gold. Official Symbol: Sphinx. Official Web Site: www.alphaphialpha.net. National Headquarters: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; 2313 Saint Paul Street; Baltimore, MD  21218. According to the official Web site, “The objectives of Alpha  Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. are to stimulate the ambition of its members; to prepare them for the greatest usefulness in the cause of humanity, freedom, and dignity of the individual; to encourage the highest and noblest form of manhood; and to aid downtrodden humanity in its efforts to achieve higher social, economic, and intellectual status.”
            • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, founded Jan. 15, 1908, and incorporated in 1913; Howard University, Washington, DC. Official Colors: Salmon Pink and Apple Green. Official Symbol: Ivy Leaf. Official Web Site: www.aka1908.com. National Headquarters: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; 5656 South Stony Island Avenue; Chicago, IL  60637. According to the official Web site, “Alpha Kappa Alpha  is a sisterhood composed of women who have consciously chosen this affiliation as a means of self-fulfillment through volunteer service. Alpha Kappa Alpha cultivates and encourages high scholastic and ethical standards; promotes unity and friendship among college women; alleviates problems concerning girls and women; maintains a progressive interest in college life; and serves all mankind...”
            • Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, founded Jan. 15, 1911, and incorporated in 1911; Indiana  University, Bloomington, IN. Official Colors: Crimson and Cream. Official Symbol: Kappa Diamond. Official Web Site: www.kappaalphapsi1911.com. National Headquarters: Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.; 2322-24 North Broad Street; Philadelphia, PA  19132-4590. According to the official Web site, “Membership in Kappa Alpha Psi is a lifelong dedication to the ideas and lofty purposes of Kappa Alpha Psi, which considers for membership only those aspirants whose personal, social and academic qualifications are acceptable to both the College and Fraternity.”
            • Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, founded Nov. 17, 1911, and incorporated in 1914; Howard University, Washington, DC. Official Colors: Purple and Gold. Official Flower: African Violet. Official Web Site: www.omegapsiphifraternity.org. National Headquarters: Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.; 3951 Snapfinger Parkway; Decatur, GA  30035. According to the official Web Site, Omega Men flourished because of the ideas and intellect of its founders. “The Founders selected and attracted men of similar ideals and characteristics. It is not by accident that many of America’s great black men are/were Omega Men. To this date, there are very few Americans whose lives have not been touched by a number of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.”
            •Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, founded Jan. 13, 1913, and incorporated in 1930; Howard University, Washington, DC. Official Colors: Crimson and Cream  or Red and White. Official Flower: African Violet. Official Web Site: www.deltasigmatheta.org. National Headquarters: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; 1707 New Hampshire Avenue, NW; Washington, DC  20009. According to the official Web Site, “The Grand Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. 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 Island.”
            • Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, founded Jan. 9, 1914, and incorporated in 1930; Howard University, Washington, DC. Official Colors: Royal Blue and Pure White. Official Symbol: Dove. Official Web Site: www.pbs1914.org. National Headquarters: Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.; International Headquarters, 145 Kennedy Street,NW; Washington, DC  20011. According to the official Web Site, “[The] Phi Beta Sigma has blossomed into an international organization of leaders. No longer a single entity, the Fraternity has now established the Phi Beta Sigma Educational Foundation, the Phi Beta Sigma Housing Foundation, the Phi Beta Sigma Federal Credit Union, and the Phi Beta Sigma Charitable outreach Foundation. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., founded in 1920 with the assistance of Phi Beta Sigma, is the sister organization. No other fraternity and sorority is constitutionally bound as Sigma and Zeta..”
            • Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, founded Jan. 16, 1920, and incorporated in 1923; Howard University, Washington, DC. Official Colors: Royal Blue and Pure White. Official Symbol: Dove. Official Web Site: www.zphib1920.org. National Headquarters: Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.; National Headquarters, 1734 New Hampshire Avenue,NW; Washington, DC  20009. 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 groups provide voluntary service to staff, community outreach programs, fund scholarships, support organized charities, and promote legislation for social and civic change.”
            • Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, founded Nov. 12, 1922, and incorporated in 1929; Butler University, Indianapolis, IN. Official Colors: Royal Blue and Gold. Official Flower: Yellow Tea Rose. Official Web Site: www.sgrho1922.org. National Headquarters: Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.; International Headquarters, 8800 South Stony Island Avenue; Chicago, IL 60617. 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, civilly, and economically.”
            • Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, founded Sept. 19, 1963, and incorporated in 1968; Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD. Official Colors: Charcoal Brown and Gilded Gold. Official Symbol: The Centaur. Official Web Site: www.iotaphitheta.org. National Headquarters: Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.; Office of the Grand Polaris, 3001 Hewitt Avenue, Suite 390; Silver Spring, MD 20906. According to the official Web Site, “As Iota Phi Theta continues to grow, so will its commitment to make meaningful contributions to society in general, with particular emphasis in the African-American community. Throughout America, Iota Phi Theta has come to represent excellence in all areas. The Fraternity is, and shall forever remain dedicated to its founders’ vision of ‘Building a Tradition, Not Resting Upon One!”

Noted African Americans in Greek Fraternities and Sororities

            Historically Black Greek Letter Organizations are known for their initiation ceremony, tradition of service, handshake, song, stepshows, Greek symbols, emblems and colors. Some frats and sorors, past and present, include local Memphians Mayor A C Wharton Jr., Alpha Psi Alpha; Johnnie R. Turner, Delta Sigma Theta; Deidre Malone, Alpha  Kappa Alpha; Joe Ford, Alpha Psi Alpha; Sandra H. Burkes, Alpha Kappa Alpha; Dr. Willie W. Herenton, Alpha Psi Alpha; Dr. Cozette R. Garrett, Delta Sigma Theta; Fred Jones Jr., Omega Psi Phi; Velma Lois Jones, Alpha Kappa Alpha; Ruby J. Payne, Delta Sigma Theta; O.C. Pleasant Jr., Kappa Alpha Psi; and Rochelle Stevens, Delta Sigma Theta; Brenda JoySmith, Sigma Gamma Rho; Mary Church Terrell, Delta Sigma Theta; Judge Bernice Donald, Zeta Phi Beta; Benjamin Hooks, Omega Psi Phi; Anfernee Hardaway, Kappa Alpha Psi; and Apostle Bill Adkins, Kappa Alpha Psi. 
            Other noted frats and sorors: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Alpha  Phi Alpha; Michael Jordan, Omega Psi Phi; Felicia Rashad, Alpha Kappa Alpha; Wilt Chambelain, Kappa Alpha Psi; Cicely Tyson, Delta Sigma Theta; Mary McLeod Bethune, Delta Sigma Theta; W.E.B. Dubois, Alpha  Phi Alpha; Thurgood Marshall, Alpha  Phi Alpha; Paul Robeson, Alpha  Phi Alpha; Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Alpha  Phi Alpha; and Andrew Young, Alpha  Phi Alpha; Dr. Ralph Abernathy, Kappa Alpha Psi; Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., Kappa Alpha Psi; Rev. Jessie Jackson, Omega Psi Phi; Bill Cosby, Omega Psi Phi; Les Brown, Phi Beta Sigma; Blair Underwood, Phi Beta Sigma; Morris Chestnut, Phi Beta Sigma; Bobby Jones, Phi Beta Sigma; Desi Arnez Hines, Iota Phi Theta; Vaughn Booker, Iota Phi Theta; Calvin Murphy, Iota Phi Theta; Bobby Rush, Iota Phi Theta; Marian Anderson, Alpha Kappa Alpha; Dr. Mae Jemison, Alpha Kappa Alpha; Rosa Parks, Alpha Kappa Alpha; Gladys Knight, Alpha Kappa Alpha; Camille Cosby, Delta Sigma Theta; Ruby Dee, Delta Sigma Theta; Minnie Ripperton, Zeta Phi Beta; Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Siga Gamma Rho; Lee Chamberlin, Sigma Gamma Rho; Shirley Caesar, Delta Sigma Theta; Alice Childress, Sigma Gamma Rho; Esther Rolle, Zeta Phi Beta; Mother Love, Sigma Gamma Rho; Dionne Warwick, Zeta Phi Beta; Dorothy Height, Delta Sigma Theta; Brenda Pressley, Sigma Gamma Rho; and Nancy Wilson, Delta Siga Theta.

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