If it seems like almost every African-American fraternity or sorority is hosting a Founders Day program this month, it’s because they probably are.
Of the nine National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations – affectionately called “The Divine Nine” — five were founded in January, four of them more than 100 years ago. And while the Divine Nine often share friendly rivalries among themselves, they come together at each other’s programs to pay respect.
Recently, dozens of “black Greeks” joined the Memphis Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi in celebrating their 108th anniversary Saturday morning at the Hilton Hotel on Ridge Lake Blvd.
Darrell Catron, a Kappa man who also serves as president of the Memphis Metropolitan Area Pan-Hellenic Council, challenged men of all fraternities to step up and mentor young boys who need a father.
“We need to step up and take these children under our wing,” Catron said. “We have to do something about our young men being demonized in this country. We can pray until we faint, but we’ve got to rise up and do more. Fourteen-year-old boys should not be tried in court as an adult for capital murder.”
Though the words may be different depending on the fraternity or sorority, all were founded to provide an avenue of service and social enrichment for African-American students who were not allowed to join the segregated white Greek organizations.
On Jan. 13, the Shelby County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. hosted Memphis-area sisters together for a Founders celebration at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Cordova.
On Tuesday, Jan. 15, the ladies of the Alpha Alpha Gamma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. gathered to celebrate 111 years of AKA. FedEx executive and AKA sister Rose Jackson Flenorl delivered the keynote address to her sorors and supporters during the program held at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Raleigh.
And on Saturday, Jan. 19, Memphis area chapters of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity will host a joint Founders program at New Life of Memphis at 6825 E. Holmes Road. Though Phi Beta Sigma was founded in 1914 and Zeta Phi Beta in 1920, both were established as brother-sister organizations at Howard University, which is why they celebrate together.
The keynote speaker will be the Immediate Past International President of Zeta Phi Beta, Mary Breaux Wright.
As is customary at NPHC Founders Day programs, there’s a brief ceremony acknowledging all nine organizations. At the Kappa Founders program, representatives of each organization came up to light a candle while the group’s members stood in the audience as their fraternity or sorority hymn was played.
“We’ve always united around common causes and concerns,” Catron said. “All black Greeks have historically been involved in bringing about social change, equality and justice for all people. We must continue that record of service, especially in these times. Brothers, we have got to do more. We must be determined to mentor and teach our young boys and girls who don’t have their fathers.”
Featured guest speaker, Dr. Kevin R. Murriel, echoed those sentiments.
“We must be concerned about the lives of our children being cut short,” said Murriel. “Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland and so many others whose lives were taken by people who are supposed to protect and serve them. We will never know the things they might have accomplished had they lived.
“It is our responsibility to build a movement that addresses fatherlessness in our community,” Murriel continued. “We must keep our children safe from the ‘R. Kellys’ of the world. We cannot rest while an entire generation is growing up with fathers. We must step up and become agents of change because black men and women are still six times more likely to be incarcerated some time in their lives.
“No one is free until we are all free. We must become drum majors for justice. There must be more to us than social activities, because, brothers and sisters, you know we do love to have a good time. But we cannot rest as long as people call the police on blacks who are profiled while enjoying a day at the park, barbequing, trying to get into our homes, and shopping at a grocery store. It is up to the Divine 9 to change this narrative.”
(Lee Eric Smith contributed to this report.)