In a celebration of heritage and community, the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) unveiled its newest addition to campus, the Divine Nine Monument Garden.
The garden, comprised of nine impressive stone pillars, pays homage to the Black fraternities and sororities that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), known as the Divine Nine. The Divine Nine Monument Garden is now a permanent feature in the bustling center of UMKC’s Volker campus.
The dedication ceremony brought together hundreds proudly representing their respective Black Greek organizations, with many wearing the vibrant colors that symbolize their fraternity or sorority.
This sculpture garden honors the contributions of the Divine Nine organizations but also serves as a gathering place for students and alums to reflect upon and celebrate the achievements of these venerable organizations.
A Century of Progress and Leadership
For over a century, the Divine Nine fraternities and sororities have been at the forefront of progress, addressing critical issues ranging from civil rights to racial justice and leadership development. Membership in these organizations extends far beyond one’s college years, offering lifelong opportunities for networking and leadership.
Dr. Michele Smith, Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, expressed her enthusiasm at the unveiling ceremony.
“The UMKC Divine Nine Garden celebrates the work of our hands and the legacy of kinship, allyship, interdependence, and impact the Divine Nine inspires across our campus and within our communities,” said Dr. Smith.
Honoring a Storied Legacy
The nine granite monuments in the garden bear the distinctive Greek letters of each organization:
- Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
- Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
- Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
- Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
- Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
- Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity
- Zeta Phi Beta Sorority
- Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority
- Iota Phi Theta Fraternity
The increased visibility of the Divine Nine organizations is a significant step toward positive change on the UMKC campus, which has limited exposure to Black Greek life. Since 2020, Chancellor Mauli Agrawal worked with student leaders in the African American Cultivating Excellence Program to make this initiative a reality.
“Establishing this garden on the Quad—the very core of our campus—is symbolic of our recognition of these important fraternities and sororities and their significant national contributions, both across the Kansas City area and here at UMKC,” said Agrawal.
Keichanda Dees-Burnett, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Multicultural Student Affairs, herself a Divine Nine member and UMKC alumna, shared her reflections on the growth and progress of the campus.
“Starting today, the Divine Nine Garden will serve as an additional space and a symbol to current and future African American students at UMKC that they belong here,” said Dees-Burnett.
Legacy in Bloom: Celebrating the Divine Nine
Following the dedication ceremony, attendees had the opportunity to explore “Legacy in Bloom,” a Divine Nine exhibit located in the Miller Nichols Library.
The exhibit, created to coincide with the garden’s opening, showcases the history of each of the nine Greek organizations. The exhibit will run throughout the academic year, ending in May, and is displayed in both the Miller Nichols lobby and the Dean’s Gallery on the fourth floor.