Divine Nine Organizations Mobilize with the NAACP During Election Season
Video courtesy of 11Alive News Atlanta
By Maria Morales
While the country is divided among red, blue and purple, those won’t be the only colors voters will see when they go to the polls on Nov. 3. Voters can also expect to see the black and gold, pink and green, blue and white, gold and purple, blue and yellow, red and white, and brown and yellow colors of the Black Greek-letter fraternities and sororities also known as “the Divine Nine.”
With a combined total of 2.5 million members in the U.S. and abroad, the Divine Nine organizations provide a ready cavalry of volunteers to provide ground support to the NAACP on Election Day.
“No more talk of what we’re doing as individual organizations,” said David Marion, Ph.D., chairman of the Council of Presidents of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) Council of Presidents and grand basileus of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. “This is a coordinated plan to get out the vote, and we’re coordinating with our partner. Who’s our partner? The NAACP.”
NPHC is the governing body for the nine major Black fraternities and sororities that comprise the Divine Nine: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.; Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.; Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.; Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.; Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.; Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.; and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc.
Together, the Black Greek-letter organizations have created the GOTV (“Get Out The Vote”) campaign in conjunction with the NAACP to mobilize their members on both the national and local levels.
Partnering with local NAACP chapters, the Divine Nine have been holding voter registration drives and conducing no-contact canvassing on foot and in car caravans through predominantly Black neighborhoods. The NAACP provided the Greek-letter organizations with a toolkit, training and resources for their volunteers to help assist in reaching low-frequency voters and voters in battleground states. In addition, Black fraternity and sorority members have offered rides to the polls and will continue to do so through Nov. 3.
On Election Day, as they have during early voting, NPHC members will be monitoring polls outside and inside the voting centers. They want to ensure that Black and brown voters are not being intimidated or turned away at the polls. Members were also encouraged to sign up to be poll workers. The groups received training from the NAACP on how to spot and report voter-suppression tactics.
Each organization developed its own informational campaign using social media to engage their members. Some organizations enlisted the help of their famous members to get the word out such as Omega Psi Phi, which held a “Final Stretch” virtual town hall on Oct. 27 with Omega members and comedians Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Rickey Smiley.
The NAACP and the four sororities – Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta and Sigma Gamma Rho – also partnered with Oprah Winfrey and the OWN Network’s “Own Your Vote” campaign. Winfrey hosted virtual town halls in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and Minnesota focused on engaging Black women on ballot issues critical to their everyday lives.
Black fraternity members are participating in the “Black Men Vote” initiative which has a goal of getting one million Black men to the polls. The NAACP will hold an intergenerational conversation with men of faith on Sunday, Nov.1. The event includes several members of the Divine Nine.
Planning for the presidential election began in September 2019 with an unprecedented call with the presidents of all nine organizations, moderated by syndicated radio show host Sybil Wilkes, formerly of The Tom Joyner Morning Show, on behalf of the NAACP. While each organization has its own voter initiatives with the NAACP, it was the first time the organizations united to form a singular strategy in collaboration with the NAACP, Marion said.
While neither the NAACP nor the NPHC organizations can endorse candidates, the NAACP has provided the Divine Nine with crucial, up-to-the-minute information on ballot initiatives, redistricting and other voting issues by state.
The NAACP also helps facilitate the NPHC’s legislative days on Capitol Hill and in statehouses, when each Black Greek-letter organization meets with elected officials regarding the Black agenda. They also use the NAACP’s legislative report card, which looks at an elected official’s voting record on bills impacting key issues such as criminal justice reform, housing, education, healthcare reform and support for HBCUs.
Similarly, the Divine Nine also participated in the GOTC (“Get Out The Census”) campaign in partnership with the NAACP to combat common misconceptions among African Americans regarding privacy and safety, and to encourage the African American community to complete the census.
The Divine Nine organizations have a deep, historical connection to the Civil Rights Movement and to the NAACP. For example, W.E.B. Du Bois, a co-founder of the NAACP and creator of The Crisis, was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha. The ties between the NAACP and Black Greek-letter organizations are renewed regularly with memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between the NAACP and each organization, and between the NPHC and the NAACP.
“The Divine Nine are legacy partners,” said Karen Boykin-Towns, vice chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors and a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. “In 2020, we’ve worked with them like never before to ensure that our communities complete the 2020 census, register our community to vote and then turn out the vote for this year’s election.”
The Divine Nine organizations have historically been on the front lines of social activism alongside the NAACP, whether it’s been in the areas of health, education or civic engagement, she noted.
“We cherish these partnerships,” Boykin-Towns said. “These organizations are key members of our society and our culture and they, too, are focused on the same issues we are in uplifting our communities.”