Featured, Theory & Essay

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Divine Nine

I attended a wedding last Friday. It was a great event. Good food, a live band, a great DJ, and it featured a bride/groom first dance that, if someone uploads it to YouTube, has a legitimate chance of going viral. And, since both The Wife Person and I knew both the bride and the groom, there were dozens of people there we also both knew, which made it feel more like the most expensive college party you’ve ever attended than a wedding.

Also, the bride is a Delta; the groom an Alpha. And, if anyone has ever attended a wedding featuring a member of the Divine Nine, you know there will be some strolling, some chanting, and some seemingly random unintelligible shouts that continue to seem random and unintelligible until you realize seven different people are doing it. Basically, it’ll feel like some Illuminati-ass shit.

Usually, my first reaction to this is annoyance. I get annoyed when 37-year-old men find the need to stroll at daytime potlucks, or when I get an email from a Delta and her signature is a bunch of bedazzled midget elephants constructed to spell her name, or when a Kappa says “Hi.” But this was different. There was so much intergenerational love involved that it all felt cool. So cool in fact that I felt a way I’ve never felt before about any frat/soro-related activity.

Jealous.

In college, pledging was never on my radar. I don’t have any family members who belong to any frats/soros, there were no Black chapters at my school, and being on the basketball team was already sorta like being in a frat. I already was able to cut the lines at parties, I already was mandated to do community service, and I already had a bunch of cool sweatshirts with my name on them. I just didn’t really see the point in paying to have people beat you into friendship and I’d thumb my nose at people who did. Also, I think geography played a huge role in my perception. I’m a Northerner and from what I understand, frats/soros are a much, much, much bigger deal in the South. And by “the South” I mean “anything below Pennsylvania.” There it seems like joining a frat/soro is what the cool kids did. I, however, felt it was something the uncool kids did to be cool.

Since then, my feelings have grown much less cynical. Much of this is due to my adult interactions with frat/soro members, Deltas specifically. I’ve befriended and dated a number of them, and I’ve seen first hand how their memberships weren’t crutches or props as much as a large network of support and fellowship. And I can’t really fault another Black American for seeking a safety net to help them navigate through America. Obviously, the typical freshman considering pledging Que might be thinking more about panties and parties than post-graduate partnerships. And perhaps the frats helping to organize protest marches, or the soros who mobilized to support Loretta Lynch were those horny and half-baked 18-year-olds when they first pledged too. In fact, I’m sure they were. But if a social decision an 18-year-old makes ends up being a net positive as an adult, a less than positive intent for making the decision just doesn’t matter as much.

And while I have no intent on pledging any grad chapters, attending that wedding and watching those Black women and men — some in their 20s; some in their 70s — stroll and chant and dance with each other like they all were on the same line, made me get a little verklempt. I get it now.

(But, I still don’t get the damn elephants.)

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • NoPlaysOff

    Everything I knew about Greek life going into college I learned from School Daze, A Different World. Even then, my attitude towards it was between meh and gtfoh. The people I encountered on campus initially did not help bend the needle in any way. Seeing dudes who were losers in high school turn into Dean Big-Brotha-All-My-T’s seemingly overnight just seemed fake to me. It wasn’t until I got more involved, met more people and, honestly, dated some D9 ladies, that all of that changed. Now I am looking for a grad chapter in my area. Go figure.

  • Madame Zenobia

    “Or when a Kappa says Hi”…writing my life with your post. 

    As a non-greek who, this fall is marrying a Greek (crazily enough a Kappa, God has a terrible sense of humor) who also has a lot of Greek friends and family I can honestly say the one thing I am ALREADY dreading about the reception is all the high pitched variations of “OOOO” sounds, the strolling, the barking and the canes. I have been to D9 weddings, I’ve seen the youtube videos. I am 87% sure at some point my reception is going to become a step show and I’m not excited about it.

    I guess I’m the opposite, because I am a Northerner but Greek life has always been on my radar and STILL never interested me. The older I get, the more it annoys me. Grown people hopping around, the constant need to coordinate certain colors into every outfit, constantly making weird noises still irritates me in my thirties as it did in my late teens, early 20s. Maybe more so now because in my head they should have grown out of it.

    All that being said, while I’m not jealous of Greeks. I appreciate what it is to them. It’s great that these institutions have survived over a century (or closing in on it, or staring at it from a distance – Iota). I’m glad they exist for the people who love them, respect them, cherish them and covet them. It’s great that those traditions exist and continue to get passed on. And while those 20 minutes (more or less) at my reception will irritate the ever-loving beJesus outta me, if one of the kids at my wedding sees it and it inspires them to learn more about the history and traditions of these organizations or the work and impact the members of these organizations have had on American life, then I am more that happy to grin and bear it. (Or sneak to the back for two more shots.)

    • Val

      “It’s great that these institutions have survived over a century (or closing in on it, …”

      One hundred and seven years and still going strong! (1908 – 2015)

      • Fe

        Skee-Wee, my Soror!
        ZK, UT Chattanooga, Spr 96

        • KB

          My ex pledged that chapter, Spring 04

      • AlwaysCC

        i keep forgetting…and then you remind me *sigh* lol

      • LeeLee

        Skee-wee! I need to reactivate. It’s been on my mind for awhile and I just need to do it. I turn ’15’ in December!

        • SororSalsa

          Skee-Wee sorors!

          I need to reactivate. I turned 12 last month. I have a subset of soror friends and hopefully we can motivate each other to get it together.

  • Brandon Allen

    Hi.

  • Brandon Allen

    In all seriousness. Greek life is not that serious. I feel like that we give it a lot of power which leads to a lot of unnecessary foolishness internally and also disdain externally. In reality it’s all about people trying to get ahead in life. I’m from the north and a kappa and the South just takes everything to an unnecessary extreme, but that’s not only greek life. As a morehouse grad, A lot HBCU have a similar ridiculousness.

    • HeyBooHey

      I’m a Hampton grad and I’d have to agree on “the South just takes everything to an unnecessary extreme”. I thought it was just at our school where they go extra harder than what appears to be necessary. You literally pledge/get hazed for every and any organization you wish to join

      • DBoySlim

        As you should

        • HeyBooHey

          Nah, I’m talking outside of Greek life, that’s it’s own entity. But you haze people when they wanna join the org that gives campus tours bruh?

          • DBoySlim

            My bad I thought you meant D9. I saw this happen on my campus also. Most of it was an attempt to be Greek like and involves people who want to be Greek being prepped for pledging. It doesn’t help that there are so many members involved in everything. Shoot I got hazed on a choir tour. It was hilarious.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      “Greek life is not that serious.”

      Go sit in the corner young buck. Greek life at HBCU’s was EVERYTHING pre Jim Crow and Civil Rights movement. You were not renting out a spot for your party off campus. Your Greeks were the incubator for leadership; several doctors, lawyers, educators, are members of the Divine 9 and created their own networks so you could leverage them. The same Greek system that raises thousands of dollars for scholarships and other social programs. Let me get off my soapbox.

      PS

      Northern Greeks go hard in the paint too. Ask anyone who’s come through the SUNY system.

      • Brandon Allen

        You’re miscontruing me. I’m saying all the xenophobia is from a social stand point. People have all these negative opinions that stem from stupid stuff. Ie Hazing/Mean girls style social interaction. When the reality is that the whole divine nine came about from black people trying to better themselves thru social organization. But on the flip side a lot of modern Greeks ain’t about that whIle some are.

        • Sigma_Since 93

          Most folks only view Greek life from an undergraduate standpoint and that’s the problem; nobody focuses on someone like me (out of school 10+ years and Greek) unless I’m at the step show or the wedding.

          The difference between the Divine 9 and White Greeks is perpetual membership; we have it and they don’t.
          Folks are still putting in the work locally and Nationally. The question is are the people you know who are Greek, are they putting in work or not?
          ALL Divine 9 Organizations are about that life.

          • Brandon Allen

            Exactly.

        • jolly

          Ha, only because you mentioned hazing then added a genderized qualification a LA your mean girls reference of social interactions, I must add that while some sorority girls love and embrace that elitist brand of social interactions a la ” you can’t sit with us”, 1) many do not and it’s not a phenomenon that can even be generalized to only women.
          I witnessed some petty Alpha/Kappa interaction recently it was sad. But also they were young. All that to say Greek men can be hella petty socially / “hazing” wise call them mean boys…2) Finer Women Don’t Haze

          • Brandon Allen

            I mean.. okay. Men can be petty…women can haze. Im not saying that’s not true. A lot of it is people extrapolating college foolishness into the work and lives of grown professionals helping the community.

      • Keisha

        Preach!!!

  • NomadaNare

    Lol. Never have and never will despite all the Greek up and through my family (except for my parents, go fig…). If you can’t do it alone, then you can’t do it. Bottom line, I don’t need to be part of your club, you need to be part of mine. I’m rarely looking for new members.

  • Val

    It’s never too late, Champ. I have a friend who is pledging in grad school. As you said, it’s a great network for all sorts of things.

    • AlwaysCC

      i know lots of people who pledge to help build a network in their career choice. whatever works!

  • Trill Mickelson

    I’ve only been to two D9 weddings. In the first, the bride was an AKA, and I thought they were about to sacrifice a baby or something, no bull. The second one (Delta) was a lot less weird and cult-ish, although it was complete with the random calls and barking from other frats/sorors in attendance.

  • Andie

    I’ve only ever wanted to join one…because I thought it would make me seem more normal. I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t have the desire to join anything. My mom desired it, my sister desired it. (they never joined anything) But what was wrong with me? I’m just glad I didn’t go after it…just to feel like I fit in.

  • miss t-lee

    Never had the desire to join. I have an auntie and cousin who are Deltas.
    I do get a kick out of seeing the guys and girls stroll though.

    • AlwaysCC

      i hope you realize how awesome your aunt and cousin are lol

      • miss t-lee

        Well, they are. :)

    • cmon t! you know you wanna be down with the Red gang! join us :) a throat punch stroll would be a great way to enter a room lol

      • miss t-lee

        LOL!!!! YES! That would be so hype.

  • KB

    All this Nupe slander <<<<<<<<<<<<<

    The biggest positive I've gained from being greek is the networking and connections made, both inside and outside of my fraternity. As I type this I'm on a plane headed back to Atlanta from the DR with my road dawg/bestfriend (a que) who rolled with me to celebrate the birthday of my homegirl (an sgrho) who put the trip together. I've met some really great people as a result of being greek and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. It has its ups and downs and like anything in life is what you make of it.

    YO!! 1911

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