For over 100 years, African Americans have been serving their communities in various facets. Much of this desire to serve the black community was birthed in the early 1900s. When the children of former slaves set out on the journey to further their education at some of the most elite institutions of higher learning in America, many of these students found themselves socially isolated and unwelcomed by their white counterparts.
Jim Crow laws made it virtually impossible for a person of color to join a white sorority, fraternity or social club. These students had a yearning for a well-rounded education and a passion for service to all of humanity, regardless of the color of their skin or the content of their character.
The idea of blacks attending college was almost unheard of in the early part of the 20th century. Furthermore, the notion of an all-black fraternity or sorority was simply intangible. But all the doubt and dissonance came to a halt in 1906 when the first black Greek lettered organization, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, was founded on the campus of Cornell University. Soon after the founding of this prestigious organization, eight other fraternities and sororities began establishing chapters nationally and internationally.
On May 10, 1930, on the campus of Howard University, in Washington, D.C., the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) was formally organized. Collectively, these organizations are referred to as “The Divine Nine.”
Recently, fraternities and sororities have gained somewhat of a “bad reputation,” specifically those within the NPHC. Many have credited this misconception to hazing incidents that have made news headlines. However, the good that these organizations provide to their respective communities at-large far outweigh the bad.
According to a study conducted by East Carolina University, “all but two of the United States presidents since 1825 have been members of a fraternity. Thirty percent of our congressmen and congresswomen are Greek, as are 40 percent of our senators and 42 percent of our Supreme Court justices.” Interestingly, 71 percent of Greeks go on to graduate college, as opposed to 50 percent of non-Greeks.
My purpose for writing this letter is not for self-gain or self-gratification, but to simply educate the general public on all the great contributions members of The Divine Nine have made to our community. When you join a black sorority or fraternity, you become part of a rich tradition of academic excellence and social progress.
Many of the greatest scholars, athletes and political activists in American history are alumni. These Divine Nine organizations have helped mold and shape many individuals into becoming upstanding public servants. I credit the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. for teaching me the true meaning of Brotherhood, Scholarship & Service.
The NPHC operates under one common goal: community outreach. I’m a firm believer in giving a person their accolades while they can still receive them. Below is a brief highlight of some Greeks who have made significant contributions to the St. Petersburg African-American community.
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Founded 1906, Cornell University:
- Asst. Chief Luke Williams – Command Chief for Uniform Services Bureau, SPPD
- Clarence Givens – Retired Pinellas County Educator & Administrator
- Charlie Williams – Retired Pinellas County Educator & PTEC Administrator
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Founded 1908, Howard University:
- Judge Patrice Moore – Sixth Judicial Circuit Court Judge
- Dr. Kanika Jelks-Tomalin – Deputy Mayor of the City of St. Petersburg
- Deborah Figgs-Sanders – Executive Director of the Childs Park YMCA
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Founded 1911, Indiana University:
- Dr. Charlie Colquitt – Pharmacist & Professor
- Kori Monroe – Contractor & Owner of Irok Construction
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Founded 1911, Howard University:
- Rep. Darryl Rouson – Florida House of Representatives, District 70
- Rev. Frank Peterman Jr. – Pastor & Former Secretary for the Florida Dept. of Juvenile Justice
- Marlin Heyward – St. Petersburg Police Sergeant, Street Crimes Division
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Founded 1913, Howard University:
- Nikki Gaskin-Capehart – City of St. Petersburg Director of Urban Affairs
- Barbara Shorter – Retired Pinellas County Educator & Administrator
- Dr. Deborah Green – First female pastor of a Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Founded 1914, Howard University:
- Chandrahasa Srinivasa – Minister & St. Petersburg City Clerk
- Thomas “Jet” Jackson – Athletics & Therapeutic Recreation Manager, City of St. Petersburg
- Toriano Parker – Owner of Parker Financial Services & Founder of Advantage Village Academy
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Founded 1920, Howard University:
- Brandi Williams-Macon – Asst. Principal at Douglas Jamerson Elementary School
- Mary Turner – Former Board of Directors member at Johnnie Ruth Clarke Health Center
- Emma Cavin – Retired Educator, Administrator & Mary Kay consultant
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Founded 1922, Butler University:
- Melonie Harris – Property & Casualty Insurance Agent at Wallace, Welch & Willingham
Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Founded 1963, Morgan State University:
- Glen Gilzean – Former Pinellas County School Board Member