African-American Greek Chapters: Small in numbers, strong in bonds


Junior political science major Camara Thomas introduces himself and explains why he joined his fraternity Phi Beta Sigma at the Multicultural Greek Info Night on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. “I wanted to look out for those around me and I felt Phi Beta Sigma gave me that opportunity,” Thomas said.

Jenna Kuczkowski

They chant, they step, they stroll and they make themselves known. 

Out of the 29 Greek chapters at Kent State, there are six chapters on campus that are part of the nine historically African-American chapters in the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC).

NPHC is a collective organization of the historical African-American, Greek-lettered sororities and fraternities. The council was established May 10, 1930, in an age where racial segregation plagued African-Americans as they fought for equal treatment and opportunities.

“African-American Greek life started because blacks weren’t allowed to join white Greek organizations at the time,” said Kiara White, Sigma Gamma Rho chapter president and junior Pan-African Studies major. “There was just this dire need for these women to be able to come together and work on how we can give back in a great way and allow people to really do that.”

The six NPHC chapters represented at Kent State are: Delta Sigma Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Zeta Phi Beta sororities and Phi Beta Sigma, Omega Psi Phi and Iota Phi Theta fraternities.

Jasmin James, Delta Sigma Theta chapter president, said Greek chapters that are a part of the NPHC, often called “Divine Nine,” are very social, action and community service oriented. She said the basis of the organizations are their service, brotherhood, sisterhood and academics.

“Last semester, we did the Kent City Clean Up on the day after Kent Halloween downtown and helped pick up things like trash and debris left on the streets,” James, a senior psychology major, said.

James also said her sorority participates in trips to the Akron Food Bank to help pack boxes of food that are distributed to local shelters and volunteers at the Campus Kitchen Project, which is a nationwide organization on campus dedicated to providing healthy meals for those in need.

The NPHC also raises awareness on campus about a variety of issues including suicide, AIDS and domestic violence, in addition to fundraising for these causes through different events they host each semester, White said. The NPHC chapters can often be seen on the first floor the Kent State Student Center promoting their tables and collecting donations for the different causes they support.

The NPHC doesn’t discriminate, so everyone can have a chance to join. White said that brothers and sisters of all colors and sexualities are allowed to join, and there are no restrictions or requirements to join a sorority or fraternity that is historically African-American.  

Earlier this month at the Multicultural Greek Info Night, it was expressed that not only that anyone can join but also how important minority Greek chapters are and what they have to offer.

“Being at a predominately white institution, we don’t get looked at a lot. And by we, I mean the ‘Divine Nine’, because there’s a lot of other competition, even in the NPHC, because other groups have hundreds of members, and we average about five or more in our chapters,” said Brandon Morton, Chapter Polaris of Iota Phi Theta. “So in a setting like these events, it gives us a chance to reach out to those who are really interested in these organizations that aren’t as seen.”

Morton, a junior philosophy major, said he loves being a part of the brotherhood.

“Personally growing up, I didn’t have brothers, so the brotherhood is a major aspect to it as well as how they continue to be who they were before they became Greek, and that really appealed to me as a man,” he said.

Contact Jenna Kuczkowski at [email protected].