Divine Nine Greeks thrive despite low enrollment

Historically Black fraternities and sororities stay active on campus through robust community support and philanthropic ideals.


ABOVE: Junior Judah King and Justin Carr at the Student Involvement Fair. BELOW: All members of VWU’s Alpha Kappa Alpha at the Involvement Fair.

Laila Jones|Marlin Chronicle

Four Greek organizations from the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), an umbrella council that comprises nine historically African American fraternities and sororities, have a presence on campus.

These organizations, despite their combined membership comprising nine people, still have a strong spirit and passion for what is, to many of them, a century-long tradition of community support and outreach.

Junior Judah King, president of VWU’s Phi Alpha chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, founded in 1906, appreciates the opportunities of the fraternity. Alpha Phi Alpha is the oldest intercollegiate historically African American fraternity, of which King is currently the only member of the VWU chapter. 

“I’ve always wanted to give back in some sort of aspect or way, and this fraternity is a great way to do it,” King said. He mentioned volunteering at a food bank with the alumni chapter of Norfolk, as well as other volunteer activities, such as a voting drive. 

King appreciates the support from the alumni chapter. “As one person, you can only do so much,” he said.

Other organizations share this commitment, including Alpha Kappa Alpha, a storied organization founded in 1908, of which the chapter on campus contains three members. 

“We recently did a clothing drive for two organizations,” said junior Kaiya Jenkins, president of Alpha Kappa Alpha. Jenkins estimated that they gathered about 60 pounds of clothing for both charitable organizations.

All three members, Jenkins, sophomore Madison Hayes and senior Leiah Stokes, were brought in by the alumni chapter of the organization in November of last year because there weren’t any currently enrolled members to bring them in. 

“It’s like our ‘job,’ giving back to the community,” Hayes said.

Referring to its tradition and community of alumni engagement with their Greek organizations, the National Pan-Hellenic Council proudly states on its website, “This is a Lifetime Commitment!”

Justin Carr, an alumnus of Norfolk State and member of the Norfolk Alumni Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, was on campus Feb. 6 to help with the Meet the Greek event. 

Carr said that he helped out to “promote brotherhood,” and proudly wore his Alpha jacket. He was happy to discuss the history of his organization, of which he was very knowledgeable. 

Carr said that notable members of the fraternity have included Thurgood Marshall and Jesse Owens. “Everywhere you go, it’ll be an Alpha man in your history lesson,” Carr said. “Martin Luther King, he was an Alpha.”

When asked about intake struggles, he mentioned several requirements the fraternity has. Members have to be registered to vote and COVID-19 vaccinated.

Both Carr and King mentioned an Alpha slogan, “a voteless people is a hopeless people.” To that end, one of the longest lasting Alpha events is voting drives. 

“We had to fight for significant values to even get the right to vote,” Carr said. “A lot of fraternities like to put a lot of work into making sure we uphold that right today.” Carr praised King for his involvement in the school voting drive, as well as the voting registration efforts of the fraternity. 

With a tight-knit community across the country, members of these organizations join for the camaraderie it offers.

Another historically Black sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, was founded in 1920. The campus branch has two members, but a wider community. 

“You know someone just by being in the same org,” Destiny Gaspard, a junior and the vice president of Zeta Phi Beta, said. She said that she really enjoyed “having people out there that I know.” This is an experience Gaspard said the sorority provided her.

“If I need to call somebody, they’re always there for me,” Christopher Mitchell Jr., a senior and polemarch—a position equivalent to president—of Virginia Wesleyan’s Kappa Alpha Psi, said. He is the polemarch of the Eta Omega Colony Chapter at Virginia Wesleyan, a five-year-old colony of the fraternity that has been around for over a century. Mitchell described his line brothers, who he learned the history of the fraternity with, as “lifelong brothers.”

Students involved in these organizations don’t tend to see membership numbers as an issue.

“We don’t do recruiting,” King said. He described a recruitment process that focused on knowing prospective members well. “We want to get to know you as a person first,” he said.

“When people think of this organization, they think of good things,” King said. He said one of the factors of recruitment was that he wanted to uphold that reputation. 

Jenkins and other NPHC fraternity and sorority members didn’t see their numbers as low at all, in a small school like VWU where even the largest Greek organizations have a few more than a dozen members.

“We don’t expect hundreds of girls,” Jenkins said. “It’s a small population.”

Despite the low enrollment numbers of the nine historically Black Greek life organizations at VWU, each chapter is determined to continue spreading community support and outreach.

By Victoria Haneline