"Divine 9" Sororities, Fraternities Strive to Make Hillsborough County Better
The sororities and fraternities that make up the Divine 9 were founded during Segregation. Along with churches, they were among few institutions where African-Americans legally could organize and express themselves.
Each Divine 9 sorority or fraternity is unique. Together, they strive to improve prospects for everyone regardless of race, gender, or heritage. Hillsborough County has strong chapters of each of the nine organizations: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority.
Founded mostly at historically African-American colleges and universities, these Greek organizations are not merely campus social groups. The real work begins after graduation, at chapters in cities and towns throughout the nation and in some foreign countries.
"It's a lifetime commitment," says Elaine Bryant, president of the Hillsborough County chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. "We are expected to ascend while continuing to be of service to all of mankind."
A handful of Divine 9 sororities and fraternities have received recognition from the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners. Lesley "Les" Miller Jr., who retired as the board's chairman in 2020, belongs to the Kappa Alpha Psi. Notable national figures in Divine 9 sororities and fraternities include Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison (Alpha Kappa Alpha), Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall (Alpha Phi Alpha), and Jesse Jackson and Michael Jordan (Omega Psi Phi).
Like Bryant, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris belongs to Alpha Kappa Alpha and has benefited from her involvement. A member of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, also known as the Divine 9, AKA is one of the nine public-service focused, largely African-American sororities and fraternities that strive to help their communities while encouraging each sister or brother to fulfill their potential.
Harris attributes much of her success to what she learned from AKA sisters during and after her undergraduate studies at Howard University. "Throughout your life, you find friends who become family and - like family - they help shape you and your life experiences," Harris told USA TODAY before she was elected the nation's first African-American woman vice president. "For me, that was the women of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. who became my sisters."
Bryant says she and her sisters in AKA's Hillsborough County chapter are extremely proud of Harris. "It's an amazing feeling to have a Black woman as the second most powerful person in the most powerful county in the world," she says. "Hopefully now some more doors will be opened."