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Where Are the Divine Nine?: The Push for Black Greek Life on Campus

The Divine Nine are nine sororities and fraternities that have been historically African American.

via wikipedia.org

The Divine Nine are nine sororities and fraternities that have been historically African American.

By Taylor Nicole Rogers, Dining Editor

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Viral recruitment videos of blonde girls chanting in matching T-shirts might be the first images of sororities that pop into your mind, but that’s only a stereotype of one side. There are nine historically black Greek letter organizations across the country that present an entirely different image of Greek life, and they’re just starting to take root at NYU.

Commonly known as the Divine Nine, these nine sororities and fraternities — Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Iota Phi Theta — have been largely absent at NYU until recent years. In 2013, a group of five African-American women initiated the two-year process of chartering a chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho at NYU. For Gallatin junior Wendy Koranteng, who was part of the second line at NYU and now serves as the chapter’s president, the sorority made all the difference in her NYU experience.

“Coming to NYU my freshman year, I hated it,” Koranteng said. “It was such a culture shock since I went to school in an underserved community. When I came to NYU, it was like, ‘Where is everyone that looks like me? Where is everyone that acts like me?’ I felt so different, an uncomfortable type of different, not a special kind of different. But once I joined [SGRho], I felt a special kind of different. Membership has offered me a safe space.”

Last semester, a second Historically Black Greek Letter Organization, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., was chartered on campus, offering a similar experience to male students. Chapter president Chevaun Samuels was inspired to start the chartering process after meeting Alphas at an informational panel on the Divine Nine hosted by the fraternity.

“We just want to advocate for our community,” Samuels said. “Being a predominantly black organization at a predominantly white institution is hard to navigate, but we want to be able to come on campus and work with administrators, especially the admissions committee, to make sure that people know that we are on campus and that there is a space for black and brown folks to be able to come together. If I knew that this organization was on campus as a freshman or as a senior in high school, that would definitely make my decision to come to NYU.”

Though NYU has taken steps in the past year to promote diversity initiatives, many students feel that pushing for equality in the classroom among current students is not enough, stating that diversity needs to be found in student life activities as well. SPS sophomore Shannon Morgan grew up watching the Divine Nine at nearby Howard University and always dreamed of joining a chapter when she went to college.

“Searching for a Delta Sigma Theta chapter at each university I looked at was part of my college process,” Morgan said. “Coming to NYU and seeing that there are only now officially two Divine Nine organizations on campus was beyond disappointing. Why are there so many white sororities and frats, but the black students only get these two?”

Morgan is not the only student who believes NYU’s relationships with Divine Nine leaves something to desired. A group of nearly a dozen women led by Wagner senior Rahani Green has been working with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to allow students to join a city wide chapter of a Divine Nine sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, although little progress has been made.

“This isn’t just a student affairs issue, it’s a diversity and inclusion issue,” Green said. “The greater NYU community needs to know that this is something that’s very important to black students and that it’s something that goes beyond college.”

Last week, university administrators agreed to a meeting to explore the possibility of NYU students joining the New York City chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. after being contacted by members of the local Delta Sigma Theta organization. This brings the possibility of NYU women being a part of the chapter closer to reality, but Green still believes that the administration could do more.

“There are so many students that are interested, and if I’m writing a check to NYU for $70,000, they should be more mindful of what students like me want,” Green said. “It’s the same with the free menstrual hygiene products. Those were women that said, ‘We want this on our campus, so give it to us.’ There are black women that are saying the same thing.”

CORRECTION: Language in this article has been updated to accurately reflect that Alpha Phi Alpha hosted an informational panel on the Divine Nine.

Email Taylor Nicole Rogers at [email protected]

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7 Comments

7 Responses to “Where Are the Divine Nine?: The Push for Black Greek Life on Campus”

  1. Britton T. Burdick on November 29th, 2016 1:05 pm

    I’m happy to see more organizations join the NYU Fraternity and Sorority Life community.

    There is no questioning the important role the Divine Nine have played in the history of the Greek system and think their presence on campus can only be a good thing.

    However, I was disheartened by the suggestion that there are “many white sororities and frats, but the black students only get these two.” There are plenty of fraternities and sororities at NYU that would be happy to call you brother or sister.

    Fraternally,

    Britton T. Burdick
    President, 2013-2015
    Phi Kappa Sigma at NYU

  2. Dee on November 29th, 2016 9:50 pm

    This article is factually incorrect and completely ignores several city wide chapters that have served the NYU community for decades. This should be updated immediately.

  3. Kyra on December 2nd, 2016 12:16 pm

    Hi Taylor — although I understand the sentiments, I found the erasure of citywide NPHC chapters troubling.

    As an NYU Freshman I had many of the concerns you raised in your article, which is why when I became a member of Lambda Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated in the fall of my Sophomore year I worked on increasing D9s presence at NYU.

    Lambda Chapter’s annual Divine 9: Informational which we host with CMEP and more recently CMEP and BSU is one of many programs Lambda Chapter has held at NYU since I became a member. The event, which recently saw its third year is absolutely not a “meet the greeks” but a an educational panel for New York University students to hear about the historical contributions of New York Greek Chapters, some of which boast legacies dating back to 1909, and engage with the members of these esteemed organizations. Lambda Chapter has also been at the forefront of pushing for a university-wide policy revision to accommodate the needs of students of color at NYU and the citywide chapters they wish to pursue.

    Lambda Chapter, chartered April 22,1922, is the oldest NPHC and MGC Chapter with current NYU undergrads. To erase my chapter’s contributions to the fight for D9 presence at NYU in an article questioning the presence of black Greeks at NYU is incredibly problematic.

    If you would like to talk more about Black Greek Lettered Organizations and New York citywide Greek involvement to add nuance to this article I am more than happy to help. Tremendous headway has been made over the past 3 years through the hard work of student leaders that should not be diminished or ignored, nor should the systemic and historical reasons explaining many Black Greek Lettered Organization’s refusal to charter chapters specific to NYU.

  4. Andrea D. on December 2nd, 2016 1:24 pm

    Taylor,

    You have effectively erased and silenced an important perspective in this matter: the voice of city-wide chapters and the history of these chapters in NYC and at NYU. I’m not a member of any of these organizations and I know that I can not speak for them either. However, I have been involved in the movement and present in meetings with NYU administration on the matter, and I think it is important that you hear my perspective on the article.

    The biggest issues are misrepresentation of certain organizations and the lack thereof representation for city-wide chapters. It is important to understand the legacies and prominence of each of these organizations within in the city and nationally. What may begin as an innocent opinion or minor discussion about any organization, can become problematic when made public and/or published, especially when one is not a member. These chapters do exist and there have been NYU students in them. However, there are a lot of politics that go into what it really means to be a part of any of these organizations as an NYU student and what it means for the organization to be “recognized by”, not “brought to”, NYU. That is what I and many others, both Greek and non-affiliated, have spent a lot of time understanding and working towards. The extent of our work goes far beyond these comments and includes terminology that takes time to understand before one can properly relay the message publicly.

    So, I say this because the tone of disappointment and the mention of “little progress” being made is quite hurtful and completely inaccurate. This has been a strenuous process for those of us working day in and day out to make change. What started with the Divine Nine informational, a program by the Lamda Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. in partnership with CMEP and BSU, three years ago, has developed into something greater. In fact, we’ve made major progress — including securing a university-wide policy change that now allows for citywide recognition at NYU, and I wish your article would have highlighted that and made more people aware. The question of “Where Are The Divine Nine?” is a long winded, complex answer that I and many Greek members would have loved to clarify that with you. In talking about “The Push For Black Greek Life” it would have amplified your article if you were more inclusive and respectful of all perspectives involved.

    The lack of accuracy and erasure in this article complete counteracts this movement and the issues we’re working against. In the future when writing about highly politicized issues related to marginalized communities, I urge you to research and reach out to members of said communities for the bulk of your information.

    Thank you,
    Andrea D.

  5. Lee on December 9th, 2016 11:34 am

    Hi Taylor,

    I am not affiliated with any greek organizations, however I think this is an excellent article and raises awareness that the amount of sororities and fraternities for African American students that are currently on campus most definitely leaves something to be desired. I recently spoke with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and they stated that as of current citywide chapters are not recognized at NYU. However, I know that the citywide chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. is recognized at NYU. If that citywide chapter can be recognized at NYU then why can’t the others?

  6. Makeda on December 10th, 2016 6:53 am

    It’s wonderful that the content in this article has been updated, however it is still largely incorrect. The panel on the Divine 9 was not hosted by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. but was hosted by Lambda Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. This article depicts an astonishing lack of due deligence.

  7. Zakeenah Smith on August 24th, 2017 4:52 pm

    I attended NYU class of 2001 and I was very disappointed at the fact that there were no sororities that were a viable option for me as a place where I could have felt included as a woman of color.

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