Dating back to the early 1900s when African American students were excluded from Greek organizations at predominantly white colleges and universities, Black sororities and fraternities are a living symbol of black resilience in action. These organizations inspire brotherhood and sisterhood in the pursuit of social change, and representatives can be found in all walks of all life, in all professions and workplaces, including Dallas ISD.
“It would not be a stretch to say that at every campus, in every department of Dallas ISD, there is probably someone who represents the Divine Nine,” the nine historically Black sororities and fraternities that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc. (NPHC), said Coy Archie, president of NPHC-Dallas. Archie, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., works as a campus coordinator in Dallas ISD’s Special Education Department.
“Within our district, there are numerous people who represent the various organizations, as well as campuses named after people who represented those organizations,” she said. “These organizations are active, having an impact both collectively and separately, in the Dallas school district, volunteering at schools, mentoring students from elementary through high school, and providing college scholarships.”
Jacqueline Bell, Dallas ISD bond project manager and also a Delta, agreed. “The impact of the Divine Nine organizations is greatly felt in this district,” she said. “We continue to be of service and tackle issues present in our society, such as voters’ rights, access to health care, K-12 and early childhood education, police brutality, and the school-to-prison pipeline. We use our collective power and platform to bring about positive change in the communities we serve.”
The NPHC, founded on May 10, 1930, on the campus of Howard University, consists of five fraternities and four sororities:
· Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., founded on Dec. 4, 1906 at Cornell University
· Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., founded on Jan. 15, 1908 at Howard University
· Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., founded on Jan. 5, 1911 at Indiana University
· Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., founded on Nov. 17, 1911 at Howard University
· Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., founded on Jan. 13, 1913 at Howard University
· Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., founded on Jan. 9, 1914 at Howard University
· Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., founded on Jan. 16, 1920 at Howard University
· Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., founded on Nov. 12, 1922 at Butler University
· Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., founded on Sept. 19, 1963 at Morgan State University
The Dallas council has 12 affiliate chapters: two chapters of Delta Sigma Theta, two of Alpha Kappa Alpha, two of Omega Psi Phi, and one each of Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho, and Iota Phi Theta.
“We are very visible in the community as individual organizations and collectively,” Archie said. “For example, recently, we participated as a council in the MLK Parade in Dallas. The Deltas, Kappas, Zetas, AKAs, and Sigma Gamma Rhos all brought their youth to participate. They came to enjoy the festivities of the parade and learn all about that history.”
“Each of our organizations supports youth,” she said. “As early as elementary and then through high school, students can learn how to be leaders in the community, build their self-esteem, have opportunities to present at events, and even travel sometimes with our various organizations.”
Youth mentoring and support is provided by the affiliate chapters through organizations specifically created for students. Among the sororities, the AKAs sponsor two youth groups called Encounters and Cachet; Delta sponsors the Delta Gems, the Betty Shabazz Delta Academy and the TASPers for girls, and EMBODI for boys; Zeta sponsors the Pearlettes, Archonettes, and Amicettes; and Sigma Gamma Rho has the Rhoer Club and the Rhosebuds Club. All of these groups expose students to college preparation, community service, public speaking, career exploration, social and leadership skills, college tours, cyber safety and more.
Dallas fraternities are very active with students as well. The Kappa League is the centerpiece of the Dallas Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi’s “Guide Right” program, in which youths ages 14-18 are mentored by members of the chapter and receive tutoring to help them with their studies and build life skills. Omega Psi Phi sponsors a youth group called the Omega Sparks; Alpha Phi Alpha has Alpha Merit; Phi Beta Sigma has the Sigma Beta Club. Dallas fraternities award scholarships, operate food pantries, and run coat giveaways and shopping sprees, Archie said. “The sky is the limit for what our fraternities and sororities do within the community. And sometimes our organizations collaborate with each other on these activities.”
There are physical reminders of the Divine Nine’s impact on the district, as well. Here are just a few:
· Otto M. Fridia Elementary was named for the first African American to serve as acting Dallas ISD superintendent, who was an Omega.
· Dr. Frederick Douglass Todd Sr. Middle School was named for a longtime teacher and principal, also an Omega.
· Harold Lang Sr. Middle School bears the name of a Dallas educator, school administrator, and historian, an Omega.
· Downtown Montessori at Ida B. Wells Academy is named for the noted journalist, activist, and anti-lynching crusader, a Delta.
· Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center is named for the trailblazing educator, administrator, and community leader, a Delta.
· Emmett J. Conrad High School is named for one of the first black doctors to practice at St. Paul Hospital in Dallas, a Kappa.
· Thelma Richardson Elementary School is named for the Dallas ISD teacher who was a plaintiff in the groundbreaking lawsuit to equalize salaries for Black and white teachers.
· Eddie B. Johnson STEM Academy is named for 14-term Congresswoman Eddie B. Johnson, an AKA.
· Barbara Jordan Elementary School was named for former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, a Delta.
· John Lewis Social Justice Academy was named for former U.S. Congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis, a Sigma
“So many of our Divine Nine members have had a great impact on Black history and how we celebrate it,” Archie said. Notably, Martin Luther King Jr. was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, former U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm was a Delta, and Vice President Kamala Harris is an AKA. Archie added, “So many of our past and present members are key figures in Black history and American history.”