The University of New Mexico’s “Divine Nine,” a prestigious group of Black fraternities and sororities, was officially chartered as part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) in a ceremony held recently at the UNM Student Union Building.

With the charter, UNM became the first university in the state with a nationally recognized NPHC collegiate council. The official recognition as a council will give UNM’s Divine Nine chapters greater visibility, resources, and access to other university chapters and alumni.

The “Divine Nine” were founded at historically Black colleges and have since expanded to universities across the country. Many of these institutions began as civic action groups in response to the pressing societal demands at the time. They were seen as embodiments of the students’ initiative to contribute to the academic and political development of their schools. 

The NPHC is the governing council for nine premier historically Black sororities and fraternities known as the “Divine Nine,” including:

  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
  • Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
  • Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
  • Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
  • Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
  • Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
  • Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
  • Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.

“Black Greek letter organizations have had a strong presence in the state of New Mexico since the late 1960s with the chartering of Sigma Gamma chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. on May 1st, 1965. Since then, members of these communities have continued to be some of the strongest leaders and advocates for the Black experience here at The University of New Mexico,” said Fraternity and Sorority Life Specialist Patricia Lott. “This council will allow them to foster cooperation and collaboration among the member organizations in the National Pan-Hellenic Council, other Greek letter organizations, and student organizations at UNM. I am so happy to see this happen on our campus.”

"NPHC prides itself in being a member collective of our nine historical black fraternities and sororities, and emphasizes stronger together as a work ethic, show up, support one another, work together collectively to embody the motto, we shall be free."

– Rene Matison

Many Divine Nine fraternities and sororities have stood the test of time and have grown significantly with hundreds of chapters all around the country. Most schools supported the founding of the organizations because of the significant contributions they made to their respective schools, including new student orientation, founding anniversaries, homecoming, and other milestone events.

The event featured a welcome from Greek Life Advisor Chris Brooks, African American Student Services (AASS) Director Brandi Stone and Sr. Student Success Specialist Dannelle Kirven. Vice President for Student Affairs Eric Scott provided administration greetings. Other individuals participating included AASS Student Success Leaders Emmanuel Mitchell and Kingsley Nelson Jr. provided the Roll Call, while Kaelyn Moon and Kristian Thomas provided historical background on the chartering effort, which dates back to 2010. Black Greek life members advocated for the effort and finally succeeded with the historic charter.

Rene Matison, a four-year UNM letterman in track and field and two-time All-American, gave the keynote address. He also played one year on the UNM Football team and was a Dallas Cowboys 13th-round draft pick in 1969. Matison shared his UNM story with attendees and how he was one of the few Black students on campus at the time.

“As a member of the Black Alumni Association, we know that black people become some of our most notable and strongest engaged black alumni for this university,” said Matison, a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. “NPHC prides itself in being a member collective of our nine historical black fraternities and sororities, and emphasizes stronger together as a work ethic, show up, support one another, work together collectively to embody the motto, we shall be free.

“I'm grateful to have this opportunity to witness this historic moment at UNM. I'm beyond impressed with the work of the black graduates to achieve this successful milestone. Do all you can do, model unity, support of our New Mexico Black Greek community. If I have to put this under one umbrella—recruitment, retention, inclusion, equity, and graduation. Let us all thrive in our lives.”

The official chartering ceremony was presided over by Jessie Smith, who represented the National NPHC Office and the installation of officers by Patricia Lott.

The purpose of the NPHC is to foster cooperative actions of its members in dealing with matters of mutual concern. To this end, the NPHC promotes the well-being of its affiliate fraternities and sororities, facilitates the establishment and development of local councils of the NPHC and provides leadership training for its constituents.

For more information, visit the National Pan-Hellenic Council.