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Three Takeaways from “Pledge to Serve”

On March 8th, members of the Divine Nine united to present talks about the value of our servant leadership in “Pledge to Serve”. We wanted to articulate ideas that would inspire our Divine Nine brothers and sisters to carry out our organizations’ missions effectively. I was joined by my wife and co-organizer Halima Leak Francis, Nakia Douglas, and Froswa’ Booker-Drew (click here for bios). Here are my top three takeaways from “Pledge to Serve”.

It's about perspective when talking about the Divine Nine's servant leadership.

The big idea of “Pledge to Serve” was to have Divine Nine members leverage their expertise to articulate the value of our servant leadership, but we wanted to maintain a sense of perspective. Here is how we pulled it off.

Froswa’ Booker-Drew, Ph.D. – A scholar on social capital, this sister did a great interview on my podcast about social capital in the Divine Nine and HBCU communities. So, inviting her to speak was a no-brainer. Froswa’ urged Divine Nine members to leverage our social capital in order to serve. It can only be done, however, if we are intentional about how we connect with each other and with the people in our communities.

Nakia Douglas – His was the most personal and moving presentation. A very well-respected educator, Nakia spoke about how the TRiO Programs expanded his world by taking him from his South Dallas neighborhood for the first time to attend a summer program at Texas Southern University. It was there that he was introduced to his future fraternity. By the end of his talk, we as Divine Nine members knew that we probably do more than we realize when take young people under our wings even if only for a few months.

Halima Leak Francis, Ph.D. – Building on the excitement of “Black Panther”, Halima told us that a community can build its own “Wakanda” through giving. A fundraising and philanthropy scholar, she expanded the audience’s concept of philanthropy by explaining that giving is powerful when we donate our time, energy, expertise and money with the intention of building the world we want to see. By the way, Halima is also the founder of the Purposeful Philanthropy Foundation, the sponsor of “Pledge to Serve”.

As for me, I leaned on my combined experience in public relations and recruitment to talk about the power of identity and value (a deeper sense of personal branding) in the Divine Nine. I asserted that members develop strong personal brands with the help of their fraternities’ and sororities’ values. And what powers our servant leadership is how we leverage that identity and value to empower those around us.

We have a strong sense of purpose in the Divine Nine.

The audience response was overwhelmingly positive. Since the event, the speakers have heard everything from, “We needed to hear this” to “Y’all should take this show on the road.” The latter is a bit ambitious (for now) but definitely up for consideration. It warmed our hearts to see Divine Nine members in the audience literally lean in during the talks. Divine Nine members crave intellectual stimulation and that has inspired plans to continue “Pledge to Serve”.

The general public appreciates authentic outreach from the Divine Nine.

At the beginning of the night, I asked the audience how many of them were not members of the Divine Nine. We were outnumbered. It was beautiful to see how many from the general public were interested in who we are and what he had to say. Even more, we were honored to hear our friends say that they felt welcomed and saw a side of the Divine Nine that they didn’t know existed.

Closing thought: I named the event “Pledge to Serve” because to pledge is to promise. When we put on our letters for the first time, we promised to uphold the missions and aims of our respective fraternities and sororities. In a world where the brand of the Divine Nine has become dominated by social media images of elaborate new member presentations and the perpetual “turn-up” (not that we shouldn’t celebrate life), those of us who take our fraternities’ and sororities’ values seriously must balance the narrative by publicly articulating the importance of fulfilling our collective pledge to serve.


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