A panel of six Divine Nine members spoke about their experiences of being affiliated with the historically black fraternities and sororities. The event was in the University Center on Feb. 5.
The Divine Nine is a group of nine historically black Greek organizations — 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.
“Everything that I ever thought I might want to be as a woman, I saw in those Delta women,” said Tammy Jenkins, the president of Allentown Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., who saw herself in older members of her sorority as a young teen.
Similarly, Mikel Brabham, the member of Mu Pi Sigma Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority said she was interested in Greek life because she wanted to find a way to connect with others.
“I wanted to find a sense of belonging,” Brabham said.
Many of the panelists were first-generation college students, and their Greek experiences have shaped not only their college life, but careers and experiences after graduation.
Devin Dobson, ’07, is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi. He said he got his first job right out of college after one of his fraternity brothers referred him. Dobson said being a member has changed his life.
A Florida native, Dobson was hesitant about joining the Lehigh community because he thought there was a lack of diversity. However, he found his place within his fraternity.
The connections that the Divine Nine share are rooted in deep history. The panel members teased and laughed with each other throughout the two hours, demonstrating this connection they share regardless of being strangers.
“There is that immediate connection, that bond that we share, without even knowing (each other’s) name,” Jenkins said.
For Jaciel Cordoba, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and now a news anchor for Channel 69 News, one of the elements that shaped his experience was the knowledge of members that preceded him.
Xaymara Rivera, ’20, attended the panel and said she wished more students showed up to learn about the Divine Nine.
She said she believes it’s a subject that is quite unknown to many Lehigh students, which is surprising given the large number of students involved with Greek life within the school.
Since February is Black History Month, Rivera said it is important to educate ourselves on groups such as these. She said she thinks it shouldn’t be thought of as just a month-long event, but rather talked about and considered all year.
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was an Alpha Phi Alpha. For a number of the panelists, being a member of their organizations not only built community, but was an act of civil rights.
Dobson reflected on the cultural history that the Divine Nine represents.
“We are still in the civil rights movement right now,” Dobson said.
Within the Lehigh community, Rivera said she feels there is a gap between the smaller group of people of color and the larger, predominantly white group of students.
“There is a disconnect, especially with the small amount of people of color,” Rivera said. “It is understandable, but it shouldn’t be accepted.”
All the panelists agreed that within their communities, the most important part is to continue the positivity, changes and connections that they are associated with. Throughout the two-hour panel, hazing and the negative characters that are sometimes related to Greek life were mentioned.
Dobson and Jenkins concluded the panel by speaking on the development of their organizations and their core goal of creating change.