‘Divine Nine’ sororities, fraternities provide lifelong community for members

Delta Sigma Theta, one of the Divine Nine sororities at Baylor, performing in Phi Beta Sigma's Homecoming Stroll Off. Katy Mae Turner | Photographer

By Caitlyn Meisner | Copy Editor

The Divine Nine sororities and fraternities, seven of which are active on Baylor’s campus, have provided a sisterhood and brotherhood promoted through service and a sense of belonging.

Many of the Divine Nine organizations were founded at Howard University in 1930 at a time when Black students were not allowed to join Greek-letter organizations at white institutions. 37% of the female population at Baylor is a part of a sorority, whether that be a National Pan-Hellenic Council, Unified Greek Council or the Panhellenic Council. Of those, 37 women are members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, which constitute the Divine Nine organizations.

The sorority chapters that make up the Divine Nine at Baylor include the Nu Iota chapter of Zeta Phi Beta, the Rho Eta chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, the Pi Mu chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha and the Xi Chi chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho.

Of the male population on campus, 19% are a part of a fraternity. Of those, 22 men call the Divine Nine their home away from home. The fraternity chapters include the Tau Alpha chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, the Xi Sigma chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi and the Nu Zeta chapter of Phi Beta Sigma.

Houston sophomore Makayla Williams, president of Zeta Phi Beta, said it was important for her to find a safe space. According to Baylor’s Institutional Research and Testing, minority students make up 38.3% of the student body.

“Especially [because] I attended a predominately white high school that was also a Christian private school, it was hard to find representation both in and outside of the classroom,” Williams said. “Coming to Baylor, one of my biggest things was, ‘OK, how can I find these safe spaces where I’m surrounded by people who look like me, who want to bring more diversity to Baylor and want to serve their communities in different ways.'”

Williams said she immediately felt welcomed by the women who reached out to her because she felt like she was truly a part of the Baylor family. She said she wanted to embrace the spaces that were created for her and were meant to uplift other minorities.

Houston junior Chris Kariuki, a member of Phi Beta Sigma, said he chose a Divine Nine fraternity over an Interfraternity Council organization because he always felt out of place at predominately white institutions.

“I have no problem adapting, but it’s nice to have a community that looks like you and have the same struggles as you that you can go to about,” Kariuki said.

Dallas junior Myia Fox, president of the Rho Eta chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, said she has always “been big” on joining groups of women who look like and can relate to her.

“Culture is a big deal for me, especially if you’re going to spend a lot of time doing work and speaking to each other,” Fox said. “It’s important to relate to each other and to be surrounding yourself with like-minded women and [have] similar backgrounds.”

Fox said at Delta Sigma Theta, sisterhood is a lifetime commitment to community, no matter where she is.

“I have gone to grocery stores, been at work and forgot I was wearing my Delta Sigma Theta bracelet, and have met other women who have literally welcomed me with a hug,” Fox said. “Where else can you experience something like that? You’re complete strangers, but are relating in the fact you both joined an organization that values sisterhood and loving each other as Black women.”

Williams said she hopes her sisters remember that once they graduate, they will always have a sisterhood.

“I think the biggest thing is just knowing that you’ll always have someone in your corner no matter what,” Williams said.

Jalen Harding, a recent alumnus from Chicago, said the brotherhood and participation in his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, never stops.

“This is a lifetime membership,” Harding said. “Once you graduate, continue to embody those objectives that you joined for, be a servant to your community and continue to be a great person.”

Harding also said its comforting to always have a group of people that have his back on campus.

“They always will be there to look out for me,” Harding said. “If I need anything, I know I can call on them whether it’s personal, with school, or job searches. I just know I can always have people to utilize as resources, as family and as friends.”

Kariuki said his membership in Phi Beta Sigma has helped him develop both professionally and personally, which are “instilled in [him] permanently.”

New Orleans senior Shelynbria Jackson, president of both the Xi Ci chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho and the NPHC at Baylor, said she was drawn to the Divine Nine organizations because of the cultural aspects.

“There’s deep history rooted in all nine of those organizations,” Jackson said. “Being an African-American woman, I definitely resonated with that population solely due to the history and cultural ties [of] the creation of these organizations.”

Jackson said she wanted to join the NPHC specifically because these organizations were created for minorities.

“We do come from a minority population,” Jackson said. “That’s literally the reason that our organizations were founded. That’s not necessarily something to shy away from.”

Jackson explained that since the Divine Nine were founded because of political and racial issues, so she believes it’s important for everyone to embrace their historical foundations.

Williams, Fox and Jackson all said they felt like they were a part of something bigger than them and a network that reaches far beyond the “Baylor bubble.”

These women said they’re proud to be surrounded by a group of Black women that are constantly pursuing excellence and the betterment of their sisters.

“We genuinely exist to serve and uplift Black women,” Fox said.

Each organization will be hosting events throughout Black History Month. Readers can check Connect to see when and where each are being held.