Elsie Cooke-Holmes (left) lives in Plano Texas and pledged Delta Sigma Theta at the University of Memphis. Mishia Thomas (right) is vice-president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council of Memphis and has been a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority for 33 years. (Photos: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

National Pan-Hellenic Council of Memphis President Darrell Catron and his delegation beat out the favored city of Baltimore and won their bid to bring the 2019 Biennial National Pan-Hellenic Council to Memphis.

Swagged out in their Greek colors, members of the “Divine 9” – moniker for the nine African-American sororities and fraternities – mixed and mingled on the mezzanine of the Downtown Sheraton Hotel Thursday evening. Socializing across the aisle with other organizations, an unmistakable spirit of unity was struck early.

Mellow musical stylings of singer Kashief J’air Johnson and acoustic guitarist Steve Bethany created “chill” vibes with some Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Bobby Womack, and Frankie Beverly.

An informal presentation of national leaders, words of welcome from local heavy-hitters and presentations to 2019 NPHC honorees rounded out the conference’s inaugural event.

“It is a great day for all of us to be together,” said Everett B. Ward, Alpha Phi Alpha president and head of the National Council of Presidents.

“In this present political climate, it is time for us to come together. We won’t be separated by our colors, but united by the color of our skin. We are black first. We’ve got a president trying to take us back to Jim Crow and Jane Crow. And we ain’t going. We’re going to fight this fight so future generations will not have to fight the same fight.

“We lost the great (Baltimore Rep.) Elijah Cummings, but we are making a promise to his memory. We will continue the fight for equality and justice for all. Our colors are one – black, black and black again.”

Noted Memphians offered their own words of welcome to the Greek convergence.

“We welcome you to Memphis. And as a member of the Shelby County Commission, I say from North Main to South Main, spend some money in Memphis.” — County Commissioner Willie Brooks

 “We are honored to welcome you to Memphis. Eat some barbeque and take part in the festivities. And enjoy the many things our city has to offer.”  — Judge Teresa Jones

 “I welcome you on behalf of Federal Express. I am Rose Flenorl in Global Citizenship and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Obama said, ‘Stop focusing on being something and focus on doing something.’ Let’s plant trees under whose shade we will never sit. They will be for future generations.”

 “It is my great honor and pleasure to welcome you all to the great city of Memphis. My name is Calvin Anderson, president of The New Tri-State Defender newspaper. …We bring a daily and weekly message to inform and inspire our community. On behalf of the Tri-State Defender, I welcome you to our town.”

The National Pan-Hellenic Council, Incorporated (NPHC) is composed of nine (9) International Greek letter Sororities and Fraternities: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. They are “The Divine Nine.”

The NPHC conference is scheduled every two years, and a different host city is chosen each time. The gathering will extend through the weekend.

The political agenda has been set to focus on two major issues: getting out the vote in 2020 to get change the administration in the White House and to ensure that the census adequately represents communities of color.

Strategies and plans of action will be devised for Greek leaders to take back to their hometowns for a national concerted effort in mobilization.