In 1906, seven Black students attending Cornell University came together to create a Greek fraternity for African American men called Alpha Phi Alpha.
It was founded at the beginning of the 20th century when Black people were facing immense hardships regarding education and university inclusion. After its foundation, students from universities across the nation began to form their own Greek life organizations. These sororities and fraternities are known today as the “Divine Nine.”
With the last Black fraternity created in 1963, these organizations have been aiming to uplift the Black community while providing easier access to inclusion and community.
More than a century later, IU senior Aahron Revell is the treasurer for the Gamma Eta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha. Alpha has had prominent members in the past such as Lionel Richie, and Revell said he takes pride in his organization.
“There’s a lot of people I can say I’ve met in my time being in the chapter who are truly role models,” Revell said. “You try to hold yourself to a standard that makes not only yourself proud, but the people before you and the people that look up to the fraternity.”
Alpha Phi Alpha’s vision statement lists the core values as “service first, respect, embracing diversity, integrity, and perseverance.” Revell said his favorite aspect of being a part of Alpha is the emphasis on service.
“Being able to ask ‘What’s something you feel is necessary for other Black people on this campus to be able to enjoy their time and feel more acclimated and like a family?’ is one of my favorite things to do,” Revell said. “I love putting on events and being able to have a platform.”
Revell said he enjoys being an advocate for his community and being a part of an organization with similar interests.
“I have Black male friends who are in white fraternities and they said it was fun while it lasted, but they didn’t get what they hoped out of it,” Revell said. “There are a lot of small things about transferring into the real world you don’t get without having someone that looks like you and shares a lot of experiences you’ve had to support you.”
The organizations within the Divine Nine intend for Black students to form personal connections with people who have similar backgrounds. Today, there are many new organizations built on similar values.
IU senior Jorge Ortega is a member of Mu Beta Lambda. Mu Beta Lambda, founded in 2012, is a minority business fraternity with predominantly Black and Latino members.
While it is business-oriented, Mu Beta Lambda builds off of the values the Divine Nine set in place. Ortega said the diversity in his fraternity is important.
“We have had people from different backgrounds, but it is geared towards minority students,” Ortega said. “It is important to have different perspectives, different opinions, and diverse mindsets.”
Ortega said Mu Beta Lambda also gives its members a sense of community and belonging. The organization prides itself on its connections between members.
“Older alumni are still actively involved, it is kind of like a family because we’re all close,” Ortega said. “We’re always there for each other, not just academically, but outside of school too if somebody is in need we are always there for one another.”
Fraternities and sororities in the Divine Nine as well as new diversity-focused organizations such as Mu Beta Lambda have many goals, but having role models similar to you to look up to is arguably one of the most important.