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New National Pan-Hellenic Council Plaza honors Black Greek organizations

Plaza recognizes impact NPHC has made on campus, community

On Oct. 1, The Ohio State University dedicated the new National Pan-Hellenic Council Inc. (NPHC) Plaza, with monuments representing the council’s nine Black Greek-letter fraternities and sororities – also known as the Divine Nine. The plaza is located on the South Oval of Ohio State’s Columbus campus by the historic Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center, 154 W. 12th Ave.

The adverse conditions under which Black people lived prompted the founders of the Divine Nine to create organizations whose impact would be felt both on college campuses as well as in the wider community. The first NPHC chapter (Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity) at Ohio State was chartered on campus in 1911.

The Black Greek-lettered organization movement has, over the years, become an incubator for leadership, an avenue for political mobilization and a vehicle for sustained social change, said Melissa Shivers, Ohio State’s senior vice president for student life and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., one of the Divine Nine.

These organizations served as a community builder – in particular, for students of color,” she said. “Over the years, institutions have said, ‘We want to make sure that there is representation of the organizations that have made such a difference,’ not just here at Ohio State, but nationally and internationally, through our service to scholarship, sisterhood and brotherhood – that’s who we are.”

The NPHC Plaza is a central space for Black students to explore their sense of self and community and serves as a physical display of Ohio State’s commitment to every Buckeye while honoring Black history, heritage and tradition, Shivers said.

“Today we are dedicating a plaza to those nine historically Black Greek-letter organizations so that students who are currently here, the alumni who are working toward having this cemented history at Ohio State, and then to think about the students of the future,” she said. “When they come to tour Ohio State and they walk by and they say, ‘What is that? What does that even mean?’ we have an incredible story to tell. And my hope is that this plaza represents a sense of belonging that didn’t always exist at institutions of higher education.”

Centered on the historic path of the Underground Railroad, the plaza serves as a space that recognizes the contributions and impact of the organizations and their members, said Rayonna Booth, a graduate student in public health and a member of the NPHC chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.

As an undergraduate student and then-vice president of the NPHC in 2020, Booth said she and incoming NPHC vice president Devon Stith along with other members of the organization and staff advisers approached Shivers and Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson with a proposal to build the plaza.

“Our whole council at the time had input,” Booth said. “It was us laying the groundwork, doing the research, doing the benchmarking.”

Stith said the NPHC Plaza will help raise awareness of the NPHC’s mission of empowering students of color as well as its community service activities.

“Now we finally have a space where we’re visible to the entire campus, to be able to tell our story,” said Stith, a Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. member and a 2020 Ohio State graduate in consumer science who now works as a coordinator for student activities.

The plaza is “a communal space for not only students in our organizations and part of our community,” Stith said, “but across the greater Black community around campus and the student community as a whole.”

The other NPHC chapters are Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc., Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc. and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

For more information about the NPHC Plaza, visit the project page at the Office of Student Life. 

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