Brianna Edey is the current president of the Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) and the University of New Mexico chapter of Zeta Phi Beta sorority. When asked about what makes the “Divine Nine” —a collective of historically Black Greek letter organizations, with eight of the nine active at UNM — unique compared to other organizations, she narrowed it all down to its rich history.
“In fact, our (individual) organizations were created because we weren’t allowed in existing councils,” Edey said.
All of the Divine Nine organizations were founded throughout the 1900s, when Black students in the United States were often ostracized and banned from joining primarily white Greek organizations on college campuses, according to Edey.
These Black Greek organizations were built by and for the “students who were the target of racism and in need of support as they matriculated on their campuses,” Edey said. “Organizations went beyond this to serve their community and create projects that would address issues directly affecting the Black community as a whole.”
In these same communities, Black students found “brotherhood and sisterhood in the pursuit to bring about social change,” and it allowed for African Americans to align themselves with “other individuals sharing common goals and ideals,” according to the National Pan-Hellenic Council.
According to UNM's African American Student Services (AASS), the Divine Nine are the “embodiments of the students’ initiative to contribute to the academic and political development of their school.” The Divine Nine didn’t just open the door for more Black Greek organizations to flourish, Edey said, but allowed for other multicultural Greek organizations to form.
“A unique quality is the impact the Divine Nine makes on Greek culture,” Edey said. “By bringing traditions that are deeply rooted in our ancestry to Greek life ... these traditions have been adopted by councils founded after (the Divine Nine), such as the MGC.”
The creation of the MGC was a result of an emergence of multicultural fraternities following the civil rights movement of the ‘60s, bringing forth a new pride within marginalized communities — African Americans, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, etc. — as stated on the national MGC website.
Similar to how Black students sought out environments of solidarity within their college campuses, “multicultural fraternal organizations share a similar history,” according to the MGC.
Each organization is unique in the sense that they each carry their own set of values. Delta Sigma Theta sorority., for example, has core values of scholarship, public service and sisterhood, according to their official website. All sororities and fraternities within the Divine Nine also share two major values: academic excellence and service to the community.
Multiple members from Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity were awarded the “Advancing Our Community Award,” which is awarded to Greek life members who have displayed “continued service throughout their years at UNM,” according to the UNM Fraternity and Sorority Life website.
Every year, UNM’s Divine Nine members join forces with AASS to provide a jam-packed February for Black History Month, and 2021 is no different despite pandemic-related challenges.
Alpha Phi Alpha member Miles Blakemore emceed a Black History Month kickoff brunch on Jan. 30, and Divine Nine members showed up in numbers at a CROWN Act town hall meeting on Feb. 4.
Future events include a social media event for Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a discussion of hip hop and the Black Lives Matter movement with Georgia State University Africana studies professor Lakeyta Bonnette-Bailey and more informational events. The full event calendar can be found on the AASS website or their Instagram account.
Ana Gutierrez is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @anaixchel_