Divine Intervention: Important Voices And Change Makers Are Getting Seats at the Tables

This story was produced as part of the 2024 Elections Reporting Mentorship, organized by the Center for Community Media and funded by the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

By Cynthia Horner


Kamala Harris had a historic win in 2020 as the first woman of color and the first woman to become the United States Vice President. One of her other significant wins, overlooked in many stories about that election, was utilizing her affiliation with one of the Black Greek-lettered organizations – her Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.’s network as electoral support. In doing so, she amplified the achievements of the ‘Divine 9’ and brought attention to a substantial group of voters of color with a powerful network across the country.. Divine intervention? Maybe. But the bottom line is that important voices and changemakers are getting seats at national and local tables through the Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs).

Acknowledging the impact of the D9, President Biden recently invited top-tier leadership from the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), a prominent Black Greek organization founded May 10, 1930, at Howard University in Washington, D.C., for a roundtable meeting. The May 17 meeting and marked the first time the leaders from each of the respective organizations would meet as a unit with a sitting President.

According to Spectrum News, Marica Harris, the international vice president of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., believed that the meeting was historical and significant because “we are here to share with the president our concerns from our members, from high school students to senior citizens.”

Chris Rey, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.’s international president, told Spectrum News just before the momentous occasion: “We want to understand what the path forward would be, if given a second term. I think that it’s important for us to understand and know so that we can take that information back to our constituents.”

Harris, who has been a member of her sorority  since her college days at Howard University and wears the AKAs signature pink and green colors has been keeping the Presidentand the campaign as well as the Democratic partyaware of the impact and power of the BGLOs whose membership exceeds two million Black members, many of them registered voters. 


Kevin M. Buist, 2020-2024 NPHC-NYC President, is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.


In an exclusive interview,  Kevin M. Buist, President of the National Pan-Hellenic Council of NYC, said of the D9’s  potential impact on the 2024 elections: “It’s no secret that some of this country’s most influential and affluent individuals are members of the D9, who have their fingers on the pulse of our nation. For a very long time, these individuals have shown the ability to organize people and energize communities across our nation that look like us.Although we count for only 12.1 percent of the nation’s population, our influence is significant, as last seen in 2020 when we were able to get Kamala Harris elected to the Vice President’s seat. I remind you, this is just one seat over from the POTUS.”Buist said that alone should show that the  “D9 and Black vote are alive and well. Those who choose not to speak with us will face an uphill battle to win seats this upcoming election cycle. With what’s going on in the country and world today, it would behoove candidates to acknowledge the influence of the D9 and Black vote.”

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is the House Minority Leader and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Photo courtesy NYC.gov

And, this electoral impact is not just on a national scale. Many of New York State’s Black elected officials rose up the political ranks, partially through their strong ties to the Black Greek community. Brooklyn Congressman and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, the highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and attends and supports BGLO’s numerous events. He was the recipient of the coveted Al Wilks Leadership Award at NPHC’s 2023 Founder’s Day Celebration in NYC.  

Congressman Gregory Meeks, the current chair of the Queens County Democrats and former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is an esteemed member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.  NYC Speaker Adrienne E. Adams often proudly wears pink and green as a member of Alpha Kappa Sorority, Inc. Several of Adams’ City Council colleagues,  Council Majority Leader Amanda Farias; Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers;  Nantasha Williams, Kevin C. Riley,  and Yusuf Salaam – a former member of the Exonerated Five who was wrongly convicted in the Central Park Jogger case -, are D9 supporters and recently feted Greeks at “Pan-Hellenic Council Day” in the NYC Council Chambers on May 9.


Honorees at NYC’s 2024 Pan-Hellenic Council Day pose with dancers and   City Council’s  Kevin Riley, Yusef Salaam , and Nantasha Williams. Photo courtesy honoree Anthony Sanford (second from left).

Harris often discusses the D9’s significance and sociopolitical impact in speeches. . During an address at Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.’s convention last summer, Harris explained: “My sorority and Delta Sigma Theta, Incorporated—were founded to build networks of support for young Black college women, to fortify the bonds of sisterhood, to serve our nation and the world, and to create desperately needed social and legal change.

Vice President Kamala Harris, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

“And let’s think back to what was happening the year this storied organization was founded.  In 1913, women were not guaranteed the right to vote.  There was not a single Black person in the United States Congress.  And in that year, more than 50 Black Americans had been lynched.  And that’s only the number that was documented. And yet, despite all of this and perhaps because of it, the founders of this sorority believed in the power of sisterhood, scholarship, and service and that they could help make real the promise of America — a promise of equality, freedom, and justice, not for some, but for all. 

Just two months after its founding, the members of Delta Sigma Theta marched with thousands through the streets of Washington, D.C., to demand the right for women to vote.  

And in 1963, Deltas from across our country were part of the March on Washington.  Side by side with Roy Wilkins, John Lewis, and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were two members of Delta Sigma Theta on that stage: Ms. Dorothy Height and one of the few women to speak that day, Ms. Daisy Bates. 

In October 2021, she discussed the importance of collaborating with the D9 leaders. “She noted: “And for those who do not know, it is leaders, historically and currently, of the Divine Nine who have been national leaders on issues like voting rights.”

“I saw a photograph, black and white — I believe it was President Truman — but a group of Black sororities who met in the White House as suffragettes, talking about the need to ensure voting rights for the women of America.  The leaders of the fraternities of the Divine Nine had a vision for what the civil rights movement should and could be and then led that movement.”

Here in New York, the D9 has worked feverishly to support candidates running for local elections. Over the past few months, the NPHC has identified at least a dozen members of the D9 who are running for public office, for positions, all of whom are deeply rooted in their respective communities and have voices that matter.

Assemblyman Landon Dais courtesy NYC.gov

Bronx resident Landon Dais, an incumbent running for the  New York State Assembly, 77th District, and a Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. member, weighed in on Black Greek-lettered organizations’ impact in NYC and how the D9 can remain at the forefront of political conversation. 

“As D9 members, we are leaders in our community that must lead by example. It’s not enough to get out and vote. We need to be proactive in the election process by engaging in the political process, from knocking on doors to phone banking and raising money. And then, after an election, we must continue to be engaged with those elected to make surethey are working for the communities that elected them. The D9, as an organized force, can change the political landscape of our communities,” he concluded.