How The Divine Nine Is Mobilizing The HBCU Student’s Vote
The presence of the Divine Nine on college campuses works to uplift Black student voices across the country.
April 01, 2022 at 1:58 pm
When Black people have been shut out of our democracy, past and present, Black sororities and fraternities have always made time and space to lift up our voices. We’ve got us. Always have, always will.
The National Pan-Hellenic Council, also known as the “Divine Nine,” has consistently had a significant impact on the Black community in the voting process. Today, the Divine Nine advocates for equitable voting rights and fights against voter suppression legislation on a national scale.
The mere existence of the Divine Nine is a statement about Black people’s collective power. I would know because I’m a member of Spelman College’s chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the first Black sorority. These organizations were created to support the Black community and fill the holes that society left all around us. When the first Black fraternity was founded in 1906, it was unfathomable for Black people to create a space like this for ourselves. In fact, Black people were being lynched for things smaller than collectively organizing in 1906. There is nothing that white supremacy fears more than Black people mobilizing and voting, which is why there are continuously new barriers to the polls.
The Divine Nine has had a huge impact on mobilizing voters across the country, but most importantly on college campuses. Students who are members of these organizations are leaders on campus, and the decisions they make have influence on other students. Our leadership is vital at our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) because HBCU students often face more barriers to voting than students at predominantly white institutions.
On top of that, HBCUs are underfunded. Most do not receive enough national or state funding to fully support the school and must rely on an alumni endowment. With more dedicated financial resources, HBCUs could have an even greater impact than they already do on democratic engagement. Without funded democracy centers or full-time civic engagement staff at HBCUs, Black sororities and fraternities have filled the gap from the lack of state and national support for our institutions.
In 2022, the biggest barriers that exist for HBCU students’ access to the polls are gerrymandering, inaccessible polling site locations and student identification cards that are non-compliant as voter ID. Taking the latter issue, at least half of the HBCUs that still exist are private institutions, however, several states have laws that do not consider private schools’ identification cards a valid form of voter identification at the polls. This disenfranchises thousands of HBCU student voters from voting in a state they actively live in.
One such law specifically impacted me as a Spelman College student in the Atlanta University Center. As an Ambassador for The Andrew Goodman Foundation, my job was to help mobilize and register students to vote, but it became extremely difficult to do so with this voter ID barrier. Students had access to a polling site, but could not use it without the proper voter ID.
Today’s Ambassadors in The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s HBCU Cohort, particularly ones in fraternities and sororities, are breaking down barriers and supporting national campaigns produced by the sororities and fraternities’ national leaders. In April 2021, the National Pan-Hellenic Council released a statement that denounced the voter suppression tactics that were created after Georgia’s 2021 Senate Runoffs. States like Georgia, Arizona, and others were and still are enacting restrictive voting laws ahead of the upcoming 2022 Midterm Elections.
The presence of the Divine Nine on college campuses works to uplift Black student voices across the country. The Divine Nine leaders have made it their duty to bring awareness to the various obstacles that exist when Black people try to exercise their voting rights, and they have continuously created space and given students a platform to organize. With the upcoming 2022 Midterm Elections, I know Divine Nine leaders will be mobilizing the Black youth vote on campuses across the nation again. Make sure you are ready for your state’s upcoming primary election and make your voice heard.