Black Fraternities and Sororities

The ‘Divine Nine’

On Jan. 9, Phi Beta Sigma commemorated its 102nd anniversary. On Jan. 13, Delta Sigma Theta lauded its 103rd anniversary. Jan. 15 was the 108th anniversary of Alpha Kappa Alpha. Happy Birthday, AKAs! Jan. 16, Zeta Phi Beta honored its 96th anniversary. Iota Phi Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho, Omega Psi Phi and Alpha Phi Alpha will do their 53rd, 94th, 105th, and 110th anniversary things on Sept. 19, Nov. 12, Nov. 17, and Dec. 4 respectively. On Jan. 5, Kappa Alpha Psi — of which I am a proud member — celebrated its 105th anniversary and in the Philadelphia region held a typically smooth and swanky Kappa Founders Day Banquet again this year at the impressive Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill. But we can do better. In fact, all Black fraternities and sororities can and must do better.

Instead of us, members of the Divine Nine, i.e., the organization of Black fraternities and sororities officially known as the National Pan-Hellenic Council (founded in 1930), constantly giving our money to white convention centers and hotels in order to hold banquets, weddings, conferences and similar gatherings, why don’t we all come together and build our own damn convention center and hotel? The cost is absolutely no problem. In fact, the Baltimore Convention Center and Exhibition Hall, for example, cost only $200 million to build along with another $200 million for the cost of the adjacent and enclosed skywalk-connected Baltimore Hilton Hotel. The Kappas have about 150,000-200,000 members, which is approximately similar to each of the other eight members of the Divine Nine, all of which have annual membership dues of about $500.

So let’s do the math. If you multiply $500 times 200,000 Kappas, for instance, you have $100 million. And if you multiply $500 times 1.8 million (based on the nine organizations having approximately 200,000 members each), you theoretically have $900 million, which is nearly $1 billion in a single year. Obviously, though, every member doesn’t pay dues. But if only 10 percent do, you have about $100 million in just one year. As I mentioned, the Baltimore Convention Center and Exhibition Hall together with the Baltimore Hilton Hotel cost only $400 million. Or instead of that hotel, we could replicate the 408-room, 43,000-square-foot Crowne Plaza Hotel used by the Kappas. That costs a mere $25 million, which means the aforementioned $400 million price tag would be reduced to $225 million. We could build a $225 million – $400 million Divine Nine Convention Center & Hotel in about three years or so. Not only would we use it for our own separate glamorous and professional events but, more important, we could rent it out to the public and make a whole lotta money. That’s real Black power!

Before I end this week’s column, please bear with me while I address something called “Black Greeks” or “Black Greek organizations” or “Black Hellenic” (which is a synonym for Greek) councils. The first collegiate Black fraternity was clearly Alpha Phi Alpha, of which the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a member and which is the fraternity I respectfully acknowledge as the pioneer among the Divine Nine, having been founded in 1906 at Cornell. However, technically speaking, the first actual Black fraternity was Sigma Pi Phi — better known as the Boule — founded in 1904 in Philly and its members consisted of men who already had received college and professional degrees at the time of their induction. The foundation of all the Black fraternities, sororities and the Boule is Africa, specifically Egypt (correctly called Kemet) in North Africa.

At least 2,000 years before the Greeks did their fraternity thing, the Egyptians had originated their “Wisdom Teaching” and their “Sophia” (meaning sophisticated) rites of passage, which the Greeks tried to copy with their own pledge program. The Greeks referred to the Egyptians’ thing as the Mystery School. That’s because when the Greeks asked the Egyptians what they were secretly doing, the Egyptians politely told them that it was none of their business and that it would remain a mystery to them. While the Greeks’ pledge program lasted for weeks or months, the Egyptians’ rites of passage — which included a mental obstacle component, ritualistic ceremony, secret passwords and handshakes, and mostly cultural and spiritual enlightenment — lasted for years.

So why do the Greeks get all the credit for the fraternity-sorority system? Well, the short answer is mutual commercial trade that eventually led to a takeover as a result of Greek scheming, duplicity, aggression and then weaponry that was more massively destructive than any on the planet. The Greeks not only stole much of Egypt’s wealth. They also stole and plagiarized much from Egypt’s public and secret libraries, including most — but fortunately not all — of its “Wisdom Training” and “Sophia” documents.

By the way, it wasn’t just the fraternity system that was stolen and plagiarized by the Greeks. It was the so-called “alphabet,” too, beginning in 600 BC. The Greek alphabet has African roots, specifically from the Egyptian “demotic” symbols. These symbols are similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics (correctly referred to as medu neter). The word “demotic” comes from the word “democracy,” which means “from the people.” And that meaning came about because this ancient “demotic” script was used by the common Egyptian people.

Enough about yesterday’s history for now. Let’s get back to today’s economic self-sufficiency. In regard to the Divine Nine Convention Center and Hotel, I already reached out to the following Black professional groups: the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers; National Organization of Minority Architects; National Black Contractors Association; and National Bankers Association. And they’re willing to provide assistance via suggestions and advice. Are you, Alphas, AKAs, Delta, Iotas, Kappas, SGRhos, Sigmas, Ques, Zetas, and National Pan-Hellenic Council? If so, please contact me at Let’s stop renting and start building convention centers, hotels and wealth. In other words, let’s do for self!

The words from David Walker’s Appeal, written in 1829, and the words of Christopher James Perry Sr., founder of the Tribune in 1884, are the inspiration for my “Freedom’s Journal” columns. In order to honor that pivotal nationalist abolitionist and that pioneering newspaper giant, as well as to inspire today’s Tribune readers, each column ends with Walker and Perry’s combined quote — along with my inserted voice — as follows: I ask all Blacks “to procure a copy of this … (weekly column) for it is designed … particularly for them” so they can “make progress … against (racist) injustice.”
Michael Coard, Esquire, can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. His “Radio Courtroom” show can be heard on WURD900AM.

Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune

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