Tuesday, June 18, 2024



Black philanthropy and the Divine Nine

August 12, 2020 Category: FeaturedLongPurpose


This guest column was written by Greg DeShields, executive director of PHL Diversity.


Update: This article was corrected to conform to the actual historical order of founding of the Divine Nine in the numbered list in the fifth paragraph under the subheadline "The Divine Nine and National Pan-Hellenic Council." Also, the underwriting disclosure was updated to reflect that "Black Philanthropists" editorial calendar month is being underwritten by Equally Informed Philly, a free service of Resolve Philly. (8/17/20 at 5:30 a.m.)
Black sororities and fraternities are important philanthropic entities.

The Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) and it’s PHL Diversity division are pleased to be able to provide insights regarding Black philanthropy and the Divine Nine Black Greek-Letter Organizations.

As the official tourism promotion agency for the City of Philadelphia, and the primary sales and marketing agency for the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the PHLCVB is an economic engine for Philadelphia — creating jobs and fueling the economy by bringing meetings, conventions, and overseas travelers. As an important function of the PHLCVB, PHL Diversity maximizes opportunities for the region by promoting the city as an ethnically diverse visitor destination, and connecting minority owned businesses to vendor and contract opportunities with meetings, conventions, and events.

Approximately 60% of the multicultural meetings or conventions that the PHLCVB helps bring to Philadelphia are derived from the African Diaspora, and chief among them are the annual meetings held by Black fraternities and sororities.

Black fraternities and sororities find Philadelphia to be a perfect selection for their annual events — also referred to as a Conclave or Boule — because of the strength and support offered by local chapters, Philadelphia’s convenient geographical location and rich multicultural history and communities. Black Greek-Letter Organizations’ philanthropic endeavors typically begin at the local level and spread throughout each organization with the aid of national conclaves and conferences.

The changing definition of philanthropy

Black philanthropy used to be considered an oxymoron. Today, it has been widely documented, if not fully embraced, that every racial and ethnic group has a rich philanthropic tradition supported by its religious and spiritual beliefs.

The term “philanthropy” is often used to mean large financial gifts given by wealthy individuals to organizations, institutions, or individuals. Dr. Emmett Carson, a leading scholar of Black philanthropy, has made a call to broaden this definition. This challenge includes individual giving, goods, and time; positioning Blacks to emerge as having a strong, substantial philanthropic tradition.

In fact, according to a 2012 report by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, African Americans give 25% more of their income annually than white households.

From our Partners

Currently, African American social organizations act as a major vehicle for the charitable giving of middle-class African Americans.

Virtually all Black collegiate fraternities and sororities make annual contributions to Black educational charities like the United Negro College Fund; civil rights organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and local community welfare endeavors. They also provide volunteers for community activities and are particularly involved with mentoring programs for young African Americans.

Philanthropy in Black fraternities and sororities are often focused on increasing Blacks’ participation in education, engagement in political processes, stimulating entrepreneurial ambitions, and establishing a tradition of giving through fraternity-based foundations.

It is particularly crucial to recognize the significance of Black fraternities’ and sororities’ rich traditions, building social progress, academic excellence, and lifelong affiliation with members. This culture to ensure solidarity strengthening the Black community is represented by the associated outreach programs and generational connection.

The Divine Nine and National Pan-Hellenic Council

Philadelphia Kappa Alpha Psi members. (Courtesy of PHL Diversity)

Among the numerous types of African American organizations that have, and continue to, support African American uplift, Black Greek-Letter Organizations (BGLOs) have played a meaningful role.

The nine major Black fraternities and sororities, also known as the Divine Nine, were all founded on principles designed to advance communities. Those principles include brotherhood and sisterhood, scholarship, and servant leadership. Giving among Divine Nine members and chapters is rooted in a collective commitment to Black causes.

The National Pan-Hellenic Council is a collaborative council composed of historically African American Greek-letter fraternities and sororities.

There are nine historically BGLOs that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Collectively, these organizations are referred to as “The Divine Nine.” Each of these fraternities and sororities is rich in history — ties to one or more of these organizations may be found in many college-educated Black families in the United States.

The Divine Nine are:

  1. Alpha Phi Alpha (1906) “First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All.”
  2. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (1908) “By Culture and By Merit.”
  3. Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity (1911) “Training for Leadership since 1911.”
  4. Omega Psi Phi Fraternity (1911) “Friendship is essential to the soul.”
  5. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (1913) “Transforming Communities through Sisterhood and Service.”
  6. Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity (1914) “Culture for Service and Service for Humanity.”
  7. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority (1920) “Scholarship, Sisterly Love, Service, Finer Womanhood.”
  8. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority (1922) “Greater Service, Greater Progress.”
  9. Iota Phi Theta Fraternity (1963) “Building A Tradition, Not Resting Upon One!”

Members of the Divine Nine take pride in coming together for a common purpose. Here is how they give; each organization does community service and works towards national initiatives to make change in their communities.

  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. – 2020 donated $10,000 to support the independent, tuition-free Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys.
  • Delta Sigma Theta Sorority – 2019 Scholarship and Seed, this year over $84,000 was given in support of scholarships and chapter seed grants.
  • Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. – July 2020 donated $50,000 to the National Urban League to aid the civil rights organization’s youth programming.
  • Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority – 2020 committed to raising $90,000 in honor of their Founders for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through the Girls’ Night in Campaign
  • Iota Phi Theta Fraternity – 2020 committed to raising $30,000 St. Jude Walk/Run, raising money and awareness for the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Giving during Boule and Conclave in Philadelphia

Members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. (Courtesy of PHL Diversity)

Here is how the sororities and fraternities give (and have given) while meeting in the city:

July 20-24, 2022

Philadelphia Zeta Phi Beta Sorority National Boule

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority 100 years celebration and awarding of the $100,000 Founders’ Centennial Scholarship will take place here. This is largest single recipient scholarship awarded by a historically Black Greek-lettered sorority or fraternity.

July 2020 (postponed)

Philadelphia Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Boule

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., in partnership with the Educational Advancement Foundation (EAF), announced the establishment of the AKA-HBCU Endowment Fund in January 2019. The fund was created on behalf of the nation’s oldest historically African American sorority to assist in the financial stability of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Over the course of the next four years, AKA-HBCU Endowment Fund has pledged to distribute $10 million in financial support to 96 accredited institutions. .

July 2019

Philadelphia Kappa Alpha Psi 84th Grand Chapter Meeting and Conclave

During their time in Philadelphia, Kappa Alpha Psi donated more than $75,000 to the School District of Philadelphia.

July 2014

Philadelphia Omega Psi Phi Fraternity 79th Conclave

2,500 fraternity brothers left about $9 million of economic impact in the city of Philadelphia.

BGLOs have played such an important role in history, and are continuing to flourish in the 21st century. They are able to make a huge impact on their communities and the world with the philanthropies that they support.

PHLCVB and the PHL Diversity look forward to their return to Philadelphia!



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