When Renee Lewis went to get her last eyeglasses prescription filled, the elderly white doctor looked at her t-shirt and said, “Alpha Kappa Alpha? Isn’t that that sorority that Kamala Harris is in?” Lewis said she beamed with pride as she replied, “It sure is, and we’re going to help her win the White House.”
Lewis’ pride is being felt not just through Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the sorority Harris joined in 1986 at Howard University. It’s being felt across the Divine 9, a coalition of Black fraternities and sororities, which has roughly two million members nationwide.
In her historic speech accepting the vice-presidential nomination for the Democratic party, Sen. Harris introduced “The Divine 9” and others from historically Black colleges and universities. The shout-out echoed worldwide.
As the first HBCU graduate and the first member of a historically Black Greek letter organization named to a major party ticket, Harris’ nomination has created a groundswell of enthusiasm among Black Greeks.
The Divine 9, which is officially known as the National Pan-Hellenic Council, represents, as the name suggests, nine predominately Black Greek letter organizations: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. Each has graduate and undergraduate chapters in the U.S. and abroad. Now, many of those members are rallying to champion a Biden/Harris ticket to victory.
“Overwhelmingly, Divine 9 members are politically engaged and active. However, the fact that Senator Kamala Harris, the first woman of African and Asia descent, is on the ticket as Vice President and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, has further galvanized Black Greeks,” said local activist Twila Dotson, a member of the Missouri City-Sugar Land Chapter of AKA. “The unified effort of the Divine 9 is nothing short of AMAZING! People who are not members often have a misrepresentation of who we are and what we do. It is a belief that we are purely social and sadly, do not get along. Nothing can be further from the truth. While indeed there is healthy competition among the organizations, the unity, cooperation and collaboration among these college-trained men and women is what all of our founding members dreamed was possible.”
Across the country, members of the Divine 9 are mobilizing to raise money for the Biden-Harris campaign, buying gear in their colors, from t-shirts to face masks and lawn signs, and turning up plans to get out the vote in November. They’re proving they are a formidable network.
“Kappa Alpha Psi is definitely behind her, she has our vote,” said member Randall C. Pippen Jr., who attended Howard University with Harris and served with her on student government there. “I’ve talked to Omegas and Deltas who support her, and Deltas have shared the social-media post of ‘Deltas for Kamala.’ The support is across the board.”
Because the sororities and fraternities are tax-exempt, they cannot endorse Harris or make donations, but many are making personal contributions to the campaign and many — some first-time donors — have joined a social media campaign to make donations in the amount matching when their groups were established.
“Senator Harris’s ‘shout-out’ during her speech ignited a fundraising and voting initiative that has without question proven to be priceless to the ticket,” said Dotson. “Members of the various organizations were challenged to send the amount of their founding year on a weekly basis. Therefore, on average I am still sending $19.08 multiple times a week. When this ticket wins the election, the campaign will have to give great credit to the efforts of the Divine 9 for not only voting and fundraising, but registering new voters, assisting at the polls, transporting voters and encouraging the masses to vote.”