Will you speak: A dilemma for the Divine 9?

BY GOLIATH J. DAVIS, III, PH.D., Contributor

PINELLAS COUNTY — In the name of honesty and transparency, I must acknowledge I am “Non Phi Non” (no Greek affiliation) and have been known to challenge Divine 9 members for what I consider insufficient activism as it relates to the education of Black scholars. While some raise monies for scholarships and award them accordingly, far too often, many of the recipients are not individuals of real need.

Now before some of you attack me for this statement, I am speaking based on my experience. Not all Greek organizations can be painted with the same brush, so my observations are not intended as generalizations. However, I am reminded of the guidance from my mama and great-grandma: “a hit dog will holler.”

There is quite a bit of hollering now by some Divine 9 members. The MAGA Republicans and our “anti-woke” governor are working on HB 999, which is being written to prohibit public colleges and universities from offering courses on race and gender and spending funds on activities that promote diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Additionally, there is a raging debate surrounding the continued existence of African-American Greek organizations on state college and university campuses. Members of the Divine 9 at FAMU are speaking out, and the governor’s office has stated the organizations are safe.

On a local level, the governor’s policies, supported by Mothers of Liberty and MAGA Republicans, adversely impact Black and white scholars in Pinellas County. My question for the local Divine 9 organizations and individual members is, “will you speak?” I ask this question in light of my past observations and your current dilemma with HB 999.

  • When COQEB, the UHURU Movement and the NAACP launched the fight to close the Black-white achievement gap, did you speak?
  • When the “Failure Factories” series was published, did you speak?
  • When for three consecutive years, seniors at Lakewood High School were not on track to graduate, did you speak?
  • When they created bogus Concordance High School Diplomas that relegate African-American scholars to lives of persistent struggle, did you speak?
  • When they banned Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and the film about the Ruby Bridges story, did you speak?

And now that DeSantis and the MAGA crowd are pushing through HB 999 to prohibit the Divine 9’s raison d’etre — diversity, equity, and inclusion — and ban your Greek organizations, sororities and fraternities from public colleges and universities, the salient question is “will you speak?”

Speak not for the Divine 9 but for the scholars in Pinellas who need your voices, support, guidance and unwavering advocacy. After all, students at FAMU are fighting HB 999.

To be biblical, are we not our brothers and sisters’ keepers? Or, are you so consumed with “I’ve got mine attitudes,” middle/upper-class elitism, social events, luxury cars, high price homes and titles that you’ve forgotten all of God’s children deserve to be recognized, valued, and protected?

None of us can afford to ignore what’s happening in the country, especially in Florida. Perhaps it is time for personal and organizational introspection to assess whether or not you are doing enough organizationally or personally.

After all, we are clearly under attack, and an all-hands-on-deck response is required. Call your school board representative or Superintendent Kevin Hendrick to express your support or displeasure with policies and practices impacting our scholars. This is undoubtedly a way to make your voices heard. Additionally, attendance at school board meetings is also possible.

Nothing about this column is intended to be self-righteous or judgmental; rather, it is a call to action. While DeSantis and others are trying to erase our history and the invaluable contributions to America made by our courageous forefathers and foremothers so we could excel, it is time we honor them. It’s time we do for others what was done for us. It is time to speak, act, and advocate.

We are who we are and where we are today because of the blood, sweat and tears shed by our ancestors from Africa, who persevered in the bowels of slave ships and on plantations. It is time to pay it forward and speak for students. The educational system is failing, and the MAGA movement is working to deprive us of our history and legacies.

Let us not forget a lesson from Frederick Douglas: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

All our voices are needed now — will you speak?

One Reply to “Will you speak: A dilemma for the Divine 9?”

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