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UGA historically Black sororities, fraternities to receive markers on campus following decades of effort

For many, it isn't just a figure. It represents a piece of culture warped in a rocky past of desegregation at UGA -- that will now be cemented on campus.

ATHENS, Ga. — After many years of effort, the National Pan-Hellenic Council at The University of Georgia will be recognized with markers (more commonly known as plots) on campus.

The National Pan-Hellenic Council, better known as NPHC, is composed of nine historically Black fraternities and sororities. 

According to a press release, the plots were recommended on behalf of the Presidential Task Force on Race, Ethnicity, and Community. For those familiar with the fight to establish a piece of the "Divine 9" history on campus, the move is greatly appreciated and long overdue for both current students and alumni.

"This is a huge step in the right direction for our university showing support for its Black and Indigenous students. Having Greek representation with markers (plots) has been a moment that our Black alumni have been patiently waiting decades for," President of the Lambda Delta Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. and former UGA NPHC secretary, Camayah Percival told 11Alive. "Even though there is still work to be done, this is a moment to celebrate."

The plots will be located on the West Lawn of the Tate Student Center. Victor Wilson, Vice President for Student Affairs and chair of the Presidential Task Force on Race, Ethnicity, and Community said this has been a goal more than 43 years in the making. 

Credit: University of Georgia
Rendering of campus markers on the Tate Student Center West Lawn.

"I can still recall many of these conversations as a student at UGA. To be a part of this becoming a reality will rank as one of my proudest moments as a graduate of this institution as well as a sitting vice president at my alma mater,”  Wilson said.

NPHC was established nationally in 1930, and the primary focus for the organizations has been sisterhood, brotherhood, scholarship, and service to the community through a variety of economic and cultural activities and missions. 

The nine-member organizations of the NPHC include: 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., and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc.

For many, it isn't just a figure. It represents a piece of culture warped in a rocky past of desegregation at UGA -- that will now be cemented on campus.

“In my two years of service, I have longed for there to be markers present that would represent historically Black fraternities and sororities. The construction of markers on our great campus will physically and symbolically represent our respective organizations’ presence for current members, alumni, and future members to come. The deep history that our organizations represent will forever be tied to this campus," Justin Nixon, 2019-20 NPHC President and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc explained.

The ongoing call for physical recognition on campus for the organizations has long been an imperative, with the dominating presence of the predominately white organizations' houses offering a deeply stark contrast to the visibility of Black Greek life.

“These markers deliver a message to non-Greeks and Greeks that fraternity and sorority life is not limited to Milledge Avenue, Panhellenic, or IFC and are a necessary step in building a more welcoming and inclusive community at UGA. This timely initiative and the organizations it seeks to acknowledge will better our University for decades and centuries to come," said Brennan Cox, 2020 Interfraternity Council President and a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

The Zeta Pi Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (est. May 1969) and the Zeta Psi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (est. Nov. 1969) were the first Black fraternity and sorority of NPHC to be established on campus. Two of the organization's most notable members, Dr. Hamilton E. Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault, were the first two Black students at UGA. Their fight was the foundation of such a monumental moment for many.

“While some will simply see these as markers, what I will always see is a gathering place for members of our NPHC Fraternities and Sororities, young and old, to share fond memories of our college days,” explained Jeff Brown, President of the Black Alumni Leadership Council and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. “This is a place where alumni will bring their children and students will bring their parents. This place is a sign of a welcoming environment, a place that will be a depiction of a more inclusive UGA.”

“As we approach the 60th anniversary of desegregation at UGA, recognition of our National Pan-Hellenic Greek organizations on campus is significant,” said Yvette Daniels, Vice President of the UGA Alumni Association and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. “NPHC has been a part of the fabric and culture of the University of Georgia for over 50 years and marking their presence on campus shows, in a permanent way, that we are a part of the University of Georgia and add to its accomplishments daily in our work and service.”

Many collegiate institutions have launched similar projects across the southeast, including the University of Florida, University of Tennessee, and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. The markers are expected to be established by Spring 2021. The construction is being led by the Office of University Architects. 

“This project will support our ongoing efforts to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment at the University of Georgia,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “I am excited about the opportunity to recognize our historically Black fraternities and sororities in this meaningful way.”