BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The National Pan-Hellenic Council, made up of historically African American fraternities and sororities, was founded in 1930 at Howard University in Washington D.C.
It evolved during a period of time when African Americans were being denied essential rights and privileges afforded to others.
Now, each has grown to develop organizations making a positive impact in their communities all across the country.
They call themselves the ‘Divine 9’. These nine sororities and fraternities make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council and while each organization serves the community with their own goal in mind, all nine have a primary focus to serve through community awareness and action through educational, economic, and cultural service activities.
We’re taking a look at the council’s four local sorority chapters.
“We are here to be of service to our community, we take great pride in that, we work hard to deliver services that we know will benefit our community toward the better,” said Linda McKnight.
Starting with the Bakersfield Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Chapter President Linda McKnight said they emphasize the importance of education through the ‘Mrs. Fashionetta Mentoring Program’.
“We take young ladies, and we mentor them for a period of about three months and help them learn about scholarships and career paths.”
For the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated Organization: “We are all about sisterhood, scholarship, service, and social action, and we are really about promoting service in the community,” said LaMeka Ross.
Bakersfield Alumnae Chapter President LaMeka Ross said the organization raises awareness on World Aids Day, where they acknowledge those living with HIV and aids while helping those in need.
“We also donate, whether it’s a meal, baskets, or gift cards. [What] we’ve done this past year is give them to families who have been impacted.”
While each organization works separately, they all have one common goal.
“We’re always looking to recruit and making sure students know that they have us here and we want them to be a part of us and we’re here if they need us or have issues, they want to deal with,” said Holly Mitchell.
President of the Bakersfield National Pan-Hellenic Council Holly Mitchell said the council is also involved in many activities: “We give scholarships each year to African American graduating seniors. Last year we gave out six scholarships, we do this every year and it’s coming up a time to do it again.”
For Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated: “Our four principles - scholarship, sisterhood, service, and finer womanhood were a socially conscious action-oriented organization.”
Member Michelle Shaw said the organization does not currently have a chapter here in Bakersfield, but they work closely with the local council.
“One of our signature program’s is Z-Hope, Zeta’s helping other people excel and the importance of that is we want people to be healthy whether that be mental health, whether that be physical health.”
The council’s fourth sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated: “We were the first Black sorority to be founded, to be chartered at Cal State Bakersfield back in 1970 and we’ve been serving the community ever since 1960.”
President Natasha Harris said the organization also focuses on education and partners with the Jamison Children’s Center. “Some of the things we focus on is operation book bag, that’s ensuring that our teachers have the supplies they need in order to teach our youth.”
They are happy to be doing it, “Just really making sure our youth, our youth are supported, really mentoring and making sure we are getting our youth involved and making a positive tract to do more and breaking that prison pipeline.”
Now looking at five local fraternity chapters.
“Alpha Phi Alpha happens to be the oldest Black Greek fraternity in the country.”
By working on their four major programs. Clifford Manning said the local Bakersfield chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated is dedicated to improving the Bakersfield community.
“We’re involved with the March of Dimes, but I guess our signature event is our scholarship program. We annually award four scholarships to high school students here in Bakersfield.”
For the council’s Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated, Frederick Prince said, “We have what we call our principles, which are manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift.”
They also collaborate with many non-profit organizations. “We provide different mentoring programs, and we also provide services for feeding the homeless as well as a voter registration drive that we do.”
Mitchell said even though each organization works separately, the fraternities and sororities all have one common goal.
“One of the big things that I think all of us support, and you hear a lot of now and you’re probably hearing a lot of at this time during Black history, is the supporting of our Black universities. I think each of us shows support for that and I think it’s a good opportunity for them, for young people to say, ‘yeah I can do that’ and ‘I see these individuals who are involved in this, and this could be me’.”
Other fraternities that joined the National Pan-Hellenic Council is Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated that joined in the council in 1931, and the Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Incorporated which joined as the council’s ninth member in 1997.
“I think there has been a lot of benefits for having fraternities or sororities in our communities because together we are uplifting our community as a whole and although we may have different programs that we all cater towards, they are all catering towards uplifting our communities,” said Prince.
Each sorority and fraternity says someone’s involvement with the chapter does not end in college but stays with them as a lifelong commitment.