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Divine Nine members honor Black History Month through service

On a sunny Saturday morning in February, the Food Depository buzzed with energy as 95 members of the Divine Nine sororities and fraternities arrived for the second annual Divine Nine Repack Competition in celebration of Black History Month.

The National Pan-Hellenic Council, commonly called the Divine Nine, is composed of nine historically African American fraternities and sororities, or Black Greek-letter organizations (BGLOs). The first BGLO, Alpha Phi Alpha, was founded in 1906 at Cornell University as a response to discrimination against Black students within traditionally white Greek organizations.

Within a few decades, the other eight organizations were formed and the Divine Nine was born. Today, the organizations separately and collectively support the common goals of leadership, scholarship, service and social justice.

Members of the Divine Nine fraternities and sororities visit the Food Depository for the second Annual Divine Nine Repack

Members of the Divine Nine fraternities and sororities visit the Food Depository for the second Annual Divine Nine Repack. (Photos by Joshua Taylor for the Food Depository)

Food Depository employees who belong to BGLOs hosted the first Divine Nine repack event last year to mark Black History Month. They invited members of each Divine Nine fraternity and sorority to compete to see which group could repack the most food. With nearly twice as many participants this year, members worked in their respective organizations to repack one of three foods: apples, beans or bread.

“They (the Divine Nine) are here because of their shared goals of service and the goals that overlap with the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s mission, which is to end hunger,” said Jill Rahman, Food Depository chief operating officer and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

“We believe that because of that shared goal, this is a great opportunity for us to partner," Rahman said.

A fraternity member dances.

The Food Depository was full of energy as members of the Divine Nine showed off their dance moves.

The sound of each organization’s calls and chants filled the warehouse as the teams worked quickly to repack their respective foods into boxes. Volunteers, many dressed from head to toe in their fraternity or sorority’s colors, often broke into singing, dancing and enthusiastically shouting their calls and chants.

“This is a great event,” said Steve Ross, member of Phi Beta Sigma.

“This is our second year attending and we are just so excited to participate in friendly competition and ultimately help the Greater Chicago Food Depository to get this food out to people."

The volunteers worked hard until the last second of the competition. Then they turned up the music and danced while warehouse staff counted the boxes to determine the winner: Zeta Phi Beta.

All together, the volunteers from the Divine Nine sororities and fraternities packed 390 boxes, or 26,452 pounds of food, all of which was distributed to our partner food pantries, soup kitchens and other programs in the days following the event. Their hard work, camaraderie and unmatched energy made the day memorable for all involved.

Members of Zeta Phi Beta sorority celebrate their victory.

“This event is one of the most fun days of the year,” said Alpha Kappa Alpha member Monique Batteast. “I am so proud to be a part of the Divine Nine, and I am proud of all the people who came out today to serve their community in honor of Black History Month.”

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