BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - More than 100 years ago, young African American women strived to uplift their community in a positive way. Black Greek-lettered organizations known as the ‘Divine Nine’ allowed them to do that.
Here on the Gulf Coast, there are many people involved in those organizations that serve their community and carrying on the history. You hear the chants mainly on college campuses and you see the strolls, but most importantly for the organizations, it’s the service Black Greek-lettered sororities provide to communities nationwide.
All this made possible after a young woman in 1908 paved the way.
“Our founder is Ethel Hedgeman Lyle who had a vision of creating an organization to represent the African American woman,” said Bridgette Parks, Vice President of the Theta Zeta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. There were no sororities available at that time for us to be a part of.”
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. is the first of four Black sororities. A few years later came, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho, all with a vision to promote scholarship, sisterhood, and service.
“Our very first public act was to participate in the women’s suffrage march,” said Dr. Carla Evers. “And you can still see us doing those types of efforts today.”
Evers serves as the President of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Mississippi Gulf Coast Alumnae chapter.
All three women said the organizations continue the legacy of uplifting Black communities through countless service hours. Like women of Sigma Gamma Rho, providing an extra hand at soup kitchens and even laying wreaths at the Biloxi National Cemetery one year.
DeNondrea Sims is a member of Beta Xi Zeta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. Sims said all of their hard work reflects one thing.
“Excellence,” Sims said. “Black excellence. Rather it’s scholarly, academically. Whatever organization you’re a part, we want to say you can because our founders did. See some of us are making and opening up doors to opportunities that our girls have never been able to experience.”
Bridgette Parks said she wants young girls to know anything is possible, especially after her sorority sister Vice President Kamala Harris made history.
“Regardless of what you look like, it feels amazing to help young ladies that look like me realize that the sky is the limit and their opportunities are boundless,” said Parks.
All three women emphasized how important it is for undergraduate members to keep their grade point average up, at most at a high B.
“We have graduate advisors responsible for guiding the young ladies,” said Parks. “They are required to participate or put on a community service event, parallel with any party to stroll or have fun. The work is required prior.”
Many fraternity and sorority members look forward to ‘strolling’ as it is a form of dancing that Black Greek-lettered organizations put together and perform. Dr. Evers said people may see opportunities for fun, but it’s always a party with a purpose.
”You can’t ever forget you’re in college for a reason and the primary reason is to exit with our degree,” said Evers. “We are role models for the youth that comes after us.”
All three women said no matter which organization you’re apart of, you’ll never feel alone because believe it or not, you’ll find one of your ‘sisters’ anywhere you go.
“There’s no place you can’t go that you won’t find someone who is a sister,” said Evers. “There’s this immediate bond when you see one another you know that you have someone who has your back.”