By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
BRIDGETON – Damita White she saw what was going on in the streets in Cumberland County and other places involving African Americans and felt more could be done – by herself and others in the community.
An attendance officer at Quarter Mile Lane School in Bridgeton is a member of a Delta Sigma Theta sorority connected with the “Divine Nine,” the group of Black fraternities and sororities that comprises of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc.
She felt that marshaling active and nonactive fraternity and sorority members for good could be a powerful too in helping other. Thus the Divine 9 of Cumberland and Salem County was born in October.
“The purpose of the group is to bring active and inactive members of the various African American Greek letter organizations together with their resources to host events and programs that are needed in our community,” White said.
What is The Divine 9
From: Black Greek.com
There are nine historically Black Greek letter organizations (BGLOs) that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Collectively, these organizations are referred to as “The Divine Nine.” Each of these fraternities and sororities is rich in history – ties to one or more of these organizations may be found in many college-educated Black families in the United States.
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Founded 1906, Cornell University
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Founded 1908, Howard University
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Founded 1911, Indiana University
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Founded 1911, Howard University
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Founded 1913, Howard University
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Founded 1914, Howard University
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Founded 1920, Howard University
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Founded 1922, Butler University
Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Founded 1963, Morgan State University
“Due to my work in the community and school system I wanted to see something different within my community with members that are leading by example. We are losing to many of our babies to the streets and organizations are fighting over money and power but not effectively applying the funds where needed,” she added.
The Divine 9 has no officers. White and Erica Williams-Mosley, a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority, are leading the organization. Williams-Mosley recently won re-election to the Bridgeton Board of Education and is director of operations/compliance officer for Gateway Community Action Partnership.
In September, White was endorsed by New Jersey delegates to the Representative Assembly for the National Board of Education Board of Directors.
“I know the Divine 9 sororities and fraternities have similar missions which is sisterhood/brotherhood, scholarships and service,” White said. “I wanted to get back to ‘The Cosby Show‘ and ‘A Different World‘ days where young black and brown children desired to go college as well as become a part of a fraternity or sorority.”
White said she has been pleased with the initial response to the Divine 9 and is looking forward to the group growing even more. The group cleaned slave and civil war soldier cemeteries in honor of Veterans Day and donated baskets to about 25 families for Thanksgiving.
“I believe that people have gotten involved because they, too, understand that there is a need of positivity and productiveness within our community as well as it takes a village to raise a child,” White said.
“You cannot just verbally teach your children but you must show them how to be productive citizens. Currently there are about 17 people involved in the D9 group and we are looking for it to grow,” White said.
White said fraternities and sororities can also provide meaningful role models for students looking for guidance and people to look up to.
“I would say that being a role model is very important,” White said. “There were wonderful African American leaders and role models in our community. I let my students and community know that you can make it no matter you are from and challenges you may have.
“I always use myself as an example which helps to earn the trust and respect of those I come in contact with,” White said.
White said in the near future, she hopes the Divine 9 will continue to fill that role for local youth.
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