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Monday, April 15, 2024

The UF Divine Nine celebrates Black History Month

Brothers and sisters gather for events all throughout February to celebrate their heritage

Plaques are seen representing the National Pan-Hellenic Council on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024.
Plaques are seen representing the National Pan-Hellenic Council on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024.

From the day it was created, Black History Month has been tied to historically Black fraternities and sororities. Carter G. Woodson, a 19th-century scholar who is credited as the founder of Black History Month, was a brother of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

This month, the brothers of the Omega Zeta Chapter of Omicron Psi Phi Fraternity gather to celebrate Woodsen’s legacy and Black History Month.

“Most people don't really understand [Black history] because they didn't go through the struggles, or they weren't the ones who went through the pain and the suffering to get there,” said Jahkari Smothers, basileus, or chapter president, of the Omicron Zeta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi. “They're just the ones that are reaping the benefits.”

The National Pan-Hellenic Council, or Divine Nine, is a coordinating body that consists of nine historically Black fraternities and sororities: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity.

Smothers said for Black History Month, his fraternity is hosting a golf tournament Feb. 24. The fraternity will offer a scholarship to first-year UF students and community college transfers. 

Smothers said it’s important for students to educate themselves and know their history.

“As a community, we need to celebrate our history and know it, because if not, we'll be doomed to repeat it,” he said. “Teaching Black history in schools is necessary, and teaching all histories is necessary so that people know where they come from, and they will really take the time to appreciate the things that they do have now.”

The Divine Nine promote academic excellence for African American students on predominantly white campuses. It also provides them with a space to address pertinent issues within the Black community, said Ammir Thomas, vice president of Theta Sigma Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Thomas said there are four national programs his fraternity focuses on: Go-to-High-School, Go-to-College; A Voteless People is a Hopeless People, Project Alpha and Brother's Keeper.

The projects are meant to educate, distribute resources and provide companionship for community members.

The Divine Nine also has its own traditions, such as stepping and strolling. Stepping and strolling is a collective, choreographed dance between a specific fraternity or sorority, often consisting of clapping and stomping in a rhythm.

“We use [stepping and strolling] as a symbolic way to honor our ancestors in a way in which we express ourselves as well,” Thomas said.

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For Black History Month, the UF Black Student Union organized 28 days of programming. All Black organizations are able to program with the BSU to host any event of their choosing. 

Roggernsy Jacotin, president of the Theta Sigma Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, said his fraternity is hosting an event with the Black Student Union Feb. 23 called the Golden Night of Unity. 

The event is meant to help alleviate homelessness by bringing the community together to collect clothes and assemble care packages, Jacotin said.

“I think our main focus as a chapter is to help the most underserved populations as possible,” he said. “A lot of time, we feel like [the homeless] population is neglected, and we just want to give back.”

Contact Annie Wang at Follow her on X @wynwg.

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Annie Wang

Annie Wang is a first-year journalism major and a University General Assignment writer for The Alligator. In her free time, she enjoys reading and writing reviews on Goodreads.

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