In full disclosure, I'm a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., one of the Divine Nine Black fraternities and sororities that are comprised of more than 6,700 undergraduate and graduate chapters worldwide.
The late Rep. John Lewis was a Sigma; he often got into "good trouble." Kamala Harris, vice president of the United States, is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha. Nikki Giovanni is a member of Delta Sigma Theta, as was Mary McLeod Bethune. Zora Neale Hurston was a Zeta Phi Beta. Rep. Robin Kelly is a Sigma Gamma Rho. Langston Hughes and Roy Wilkins were in Omega Psi Phi. Rep. Bobby Rush is an Iota Phi Theta.
Those are just a sampling of the esteemed members of Black fraternities and sororities—organizations that happen to be open to people of all races, despite being founded at HBCUs. (My chapter adviser at Fisk University, Dr. O'Connell, was a white man.) Sure, they're known for partying and socializing, yet each group is also a service organization with mottos like "Culture for Service and Service For Humanity" (Sigma), "Greater Service, Greater Progress" (SGRho), and "Achievement in Every Field of Human Endeavor" (Kappa).
These aren't secret organizations like Skull and Bones, which Ron DeSantis would know from his days at Yale (he's rumored to have been a member) or the Porcellian Club at Harvard, where the Florida governor attended law school. The Divine Nine organizations meet secretly but act openly with their step shows, charitable events, and service projects. They wear their logos and fraternity/sorority attire, conduct meetings on campus grounds, and march on their respective yards. They are symbols of pride that produce leaders; their members become educators, scientists, doctors, lawyers, businesspeople, creatives, politicians, and other changemakers.
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One could wonder if House Bill 999, recently proposed legislation from Rep. Alex Andrade, R-Pensacola, intends to cancel these organizations or at least limit them to off-campus activities. The bill aims to defund DEI programs and remove CRT curriculums in Florida's higher education. The wide-ranging bill would also allow tenured professors to be fired at the will of their respective board of trustees; DeSantis has already begun installing like-minded, anti-CRT board members at schools in his state. The writings are on the wall.
Take a look at House Bill 999's intentionally vague language and it's easy to see how student organizations could come under attack if they trigger DeSantis' CRT radar, which is frankly set off by simply being Black and aware. The legislation would remove organizations that "promote, support, or maintain any programs or campus activities that... espouse diversity, equity, and inclusion or Critical Race Theory rhetoric."
An amendment was introduced to protect Black fraternities and sororities. It was rejected before the Florida House voted the bill through by a tally of 12-5, with representatives voting along party lines. The bill is set to soon be voted on by the state's senate. If passed, it would support DeSantis' political crusade to bury American history's most unsavory chapters and eliminate DEI initiatives.
That Ron DeSantis is capable of trying to do away with or suppress Black, Greek letter organizations is without question. This man gave us "Anti-Woke,” and "Don't Say Gay" legislation, along with book bans and teacher firings. The Republican-controlled state legislature gives him whatever he wants, and the spineless Florida Supreme Court supports him. The remaining question is, will he be successful? That depends on the public pushback and how he thinks it affects his chance to become president. DeSantis may not have noticed the support of the Divine Nine for Kamala Harris when she campaigned for both president and vice president. Let him impact even one Black fraternity or sorority, and he'll FAFO.
This post originally appeared on Medium and is edited and republished with author's permission. Read more of William Spivey's work on Medium. And if you dig his words, buy the man a coffee.
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