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An independent day school educating students PreK-Grade 12

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Students Learn About the Divine Nine as Black History Month Gets Underway
Divine Nine

Upper school students at King School enjoyed a King Talk on the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), a council composed of nine historically African-American fraternities and sororities known as the Divine Nine. Director of Marketing Lakeya Graves delivered the King Talk on Tuesday, February 7, in the Performing Arts Center, coinciding with the start of the annual observance of Black History Month. 


“Historically, Black organizations like the Divine Nine are life-long memberships; they have chapters all around the world, and I’m still an active member in a local chapter,” explained Graves, who is a member of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated and serves as King’s Staff Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Coordinator.

According to the NPHC website, “the primary purpose and focus of NPHC member organizations remain community awareness and action through educational, economic, and cultural service activities.”

Graves and her sorority focus their campaigns on issues that disproportionately affect Black women. Initiatives include prematurity, heart disease, breast cancer, elderly care, women veterans, and supporting families with autistic children.

Other members of the NPHC include Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated, and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Incorporated. 

Collectively, explained Graves, these sororities and fraternities list among their membership leaders and changemakers such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Toni Morrison, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Al Rocker, Reverend Al Sharpton, John Robert Lewis, Kamala Harris, and many more notable personalities who have had an impact in a variety of fields and industries.

“These organizations have been a central resource for support and service in the educational advancement and strengthening of social bonds among Black students, entrepreneurs, and professionals,” Graves said. “People can become a member through undergrad, through a graduate chapter, or they can become an honorary member,” she added.

In addition to learning about the origin of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, students learned about Stepping, an African-American dance in which the participants use their entire body as an instrument to produce complex rhythms through footsteps, spoken word, and hand claps. 

According to the African American Registry, a non-profit organization that hosts a comprehensive online database of African American heritage, Stepping gained its distinctive style after the 1739 Stono Rebellion in South Carolina. In its aftermath, lawmakers outlawed drumming to prevent communication among enslaved people. Percussive dance emerged as the slaves replaced the drums with their bodies. 

Stepping is widely performed by fraternities and sororities that belong to the National Pan-Hellenic Council, drill teams, churches, and step dance groups. Lakeya Graves closed her presentation by showing the students a video of one of her Stepping performances as a student at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, while participating in a competition at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. 

“I could see the impact her presentation had on many of the students in attendance,” said King School’s Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, Dr. Clyde Beverly III. “This was another fine example of how we aim to educate, engage and empower with what we do here at King.”

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Beverly explained that Black History Month, traditionally celebrated in February, was founded by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926 to improve societal and racial relations. 

“I believe that Black History Month is relevant today as it was in 1926 because Black History is American History, and we all benefit from increasing our knowledge,” he said.