Honoring The Divine Nine: The Zeta Chapter of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.


Sydney Ross, theCulture Editor

This Black History Month, The A&T Register will be recognizing the Divine 9 Greek organizations on our campus. These organizations are a staple in the Black community and will continue to be appreciated at HBCUs all over.

The Zeta chapter of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Incorporated returns to the campus of N.C. A&T. The chapter was chartered in 1969 becoming the first chapter in North Carolina and the sixth charted chapter overall.

Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. was founded by 12 students during the height of the Civil Rights Movement on Sept. 19, 1963, at Morgan State University. It was a very challenging year in American history; however, these young men were determined to create an opportunity to unite together despite the constant discrimination.

Aaron West is a 1986 initiate into the Alpha Sigma Chapter at University of Maryland Baltimore County and is currently an N.C. A&T African American history professor. West describes the summer of ‘63 as impactful not just to the country as a whole, but also to the founding of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. 

“We were founded four months after Bull Connor attacked peaceful protestors with dogs and firehouses and three months after the assassination of Medgar Evers,” West said. “By the time the 16th Street Church bombing occurred, things had reached a tipping point and our founders had had enough.”

Just four days later, these young men founded Iota Phi Theta Fraternity. 

Upon its inception, the founders had a unique approach when creating this organization. Unlike other organizations in the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), Iota Phi Theta still has living founders that have impacted the community and continue to impact the lives of others in the community.

“I’ve had several opportunities to hear from our founders,” West said. “We’re down to one living founder, but for most of my time in the fraternity, it was not uncommon to see a founder or hear him speak at a function.”

The group of students used their combined experiences when establishing the purpose to help enhance the development and perpetuation of scholarship, leadership, citizenship, fidelity and brotherhood among men. 

LaVarr Davis transferred to N.C. A&T from Grand Valley State University where he was a Spring 2019 initiate into the Eta Omicron Chapter. With the help of a few of the graduate members, he was able to reactivate the Zeta chapter to help continue to share this purpose.

“We are the youngest in the game,” Davis said. “But we’re constantly pushing whether we are the underdogs or not, and pushing is something we [have to] continue to do as Black people along with the [Divine Nine] organization.”

Today, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. has served communities worldwide becoming the fifth largest predominantly African American social service fraternity. The organization currently has over 300 chapters located in 40 states as well as Japan, Korea and the Bahamas. 

“Organizations like ours that provide opportunities for us to come together and work together have always been important,” West said. “They show the world what we can accomplish by working together.”

For years, the Zeta chapter had been inactive on campus; however, the chapter plans to make a comeback and continue the missions set out by their founders, “Building a Tradition, Not Resting Upon One.”

“To be an Iota on N.C. A&T’s campus means that I have brought back the mother chapter of North Carolina,” Davis said. “[This] is the founding chapter of North Carolina… It means that the entire [Divine Nine] is back, and I can continue building the tradition, not resting upon it.”