Incredible talents in sports and the arts often hide the very ordinary lives that of mega-celebrities. Such is true for star quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who will be leading the San Francisco 49ers into battle against the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl LXVII.
While searching for a recent interview featuring Kaepernick, I stumbled upon photographs and video clips of the talented rookie away from football. It is a slice of life common to members of The Divine Nine as we refer to them, black fraternities and sororities: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Phi Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, Iota Phi Theta, Kappa Alpha Psi, Sigma Gamma Rho, Phi Beta Sigma, and Omega Psi Phi. A very short list is provided below. The list of famous names connected to these organizations reads like a whose-who of African American history. Indeed, this year’s Super Bowl is being played in the backdrop of the final game for the Raven’s Ray Lewis, who was recently inducted as an Honorary Member of Omega Psi Phi.
More challenging than the task of listing a sample of names that adequately paints the picture of Divine Nine membership would be to cite a significant era, event, or aspect of American life where this membership has not placed its footprint. And yet, these names, steep in traditions, inter-generational contributions and influence, and mythology speak of ordinary people. People born into unknown futures. Raised in diverse backgrounds. Educated at our nation’s many colleges and universities. People who make their mark in the annals of moments that summon our attention. And who one day leave this world and a life worth remembering.
Ordinary people who go on to do extraordinary things.
Colin Kaepernick, who will make only his tenth NFL start in this year’s Super Bowl, is making his mark. His presence has captured imaginations in and beyond the sporting world. We cannot see his work without remembering Marlin Briscoe, Randall Cunningham, “Jefferson Street” Joe Gilliam, Warren Moon, and others who paved the way. We cannot watch Kaepernick take the field without remembering a similar anticipation as Washington Redskin quarterback Doug Williams stepped on the stage of Super Bowl XXII, only to step off as the game’s MVP who torched John Elway and the Denver Broncos in a 47-10 thumping. And we must now move from a society all too often of doubters, trackers, typecasters, and low expectation setters for those who travel a different road. The game will demand a new script now that one adopted at the fragile age of 5 weeks old has risen to a pinnacle not reached by countless thousands who trod roads far less what James Weldon Johnson termed “stony”.
Books, interviews, articles, and maybe a feature film will tell Kaepernick’s story irrespective of Sunday’s outcome. And they should for the benefit of a nation that must push itself to higher possibilities for its youth. But Colin Kaepernick is my fraternity brother. A member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. His unfolding narrative is writing new lines for Kappas and the Divine Nine, in-general. Glimpses of Brother Kaepernick away from his athletic pursuits and with his fraternity brothers show what black greeks know all too well about the life. Bonds and memories. Bonds and memories.
These glimpses likewise remind us that away from the glare of lights and sports’ most prestigious stage, Colin Kaepernick is very much a normal young man. Yet, through his faith and perseverance, this Kappa, 3-sports star, graduate in Business Management, and NFL quarterback is grounded in the very things we cherish – relationships, hard work, and making time for a little laughter. The video clip of Kaepernick during his days the University of Nevada Reno, hanging out with Kappa brothers is one reason this thing called life is so amazing. Strolling as Kappas call it. Goofing off and just having fun; most likely after practice and books. Little did they know the guy in that room, strolling Kappa style, would just a couple of years later play before the 110 million people worldwide.
Amid all the expectations, Brother Kaepernick is an ordinary guy, doing extraordinary things.
(SOME) NOTABLE MEMBERS
BLACK GREEK LETTER ORGANIZATIONS
Note that the sample list below includes remarkable individuals, but does not begin to tell the whole story. The story that includes amazing founders. Not to mention hundreds of thousands of people in all walks and across the globe who have and continue to work in communities to make our world a better place. Colin Kaepernick is updating the great traditions!
Alpha Kappa Alpha
Toni Morrison – Nobel Prize winning author
Wanda Sykes – Acttress and comedian
Marjorie Vincent – Miss America 1991, news anchor
C. Minnijean Brown Trickey – On of the Little Rock Nine who Integrated Central High School in 1957
C. Delores Tucker – Civil Rights Activist, first African-American Secretary of State in Pennsylvania
Althea Gibson – First African American to win a Grand Slam in tennis
Patricia E. Bath – First African-American female to receive a medical procedure patent – Cataract Laserphaco Probe
Hazel O’Leary – first African-American and first female United States Secretary of Energy, President of Fisk University
Alpha Phi Alpha
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Pastor, civil rights leader, and Nobel Peace Prize winner
Dr. Cornel West – professor, author, and activist
Paul Robeson – NFL player, actor and singer, and social activist
Jesse Owens – Won 4 gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Games, shocking Adolf Hitler’s “Aryan supremacy” theory
Thurgood Marshall – attorney Brown v. Board of Education Topeka KS, first black Justice of the Supreme Court
Andrew Young – Mayor of Atlanta, civil rights leader, US Ambassador
Duke Ellington – International jazz musician
Dennis Archer – Former Mayor of Detroit
Delta Sigma Theta
Dr. Dorothy Irene Height – civil rights leader, awarded Congressional Gold Medal
Ruby Dee Davis – Actress, screenwriter, journalist, activist
Natalie Cole, Roberta Flack, – Singer
Dr. Julianne Malveaux – President of Bennett College, economist; columnist, author
Keshia Knight Pulliam – Actress, played Rudy on The Cosby Show
Eva Dykes, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander – Two of the first African Americans to receive a PhD
Gloria Randall Scott – First African American President of Girls Scouts of the USA
Ingrid Saunders Jones – Director of the Coca-Cola Foundation
Dr. Joycelyn Elders – First African American, and the second woman to be appointed Surgeon General
Zeta Phi Beta
Sarah Vaughn – International jazz singer
Zora Neale Hurston – Harlem Renaissance folklorist and author
Autherine Lucy Foster – Plaintiff in SCOTUS case Lucy v. Adams that opened Univ of Alabama admissions
Lillian E. Fishburne – First African-American female to hold the rank of Rear Admiral in the United States Navy
Iota Phi Theta
Bobby Rush – US Representative (D-IL), former Black Panther Party leader
Elvin Hayes – NBA Hall of Famer
Spencer Christian – Former weather anchorman on “Good Morning America”
James L. Walls, Jr. – Mayor, City of District Heights, MD and President, The World Conference of Mayors,Inc.
Kappa Alpha Psi
Robert Johnson, Reginald Lewis – Historic black business leaders of BET and Beatrice Foods, respectively
Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Bill Russell — NBA Hame of Famer
Gayle Sayers, Greg Lloyd, Mike Tomlin, Darren Sharper, Brandon Marshall – NFL greats
Arthur Ashe – Tennis legend, civil rights activist
Jon Drummond, Ivory Crockett – Olympic Gold Medalists in track and field
Kenny Lofton, Don Buford, Don McClendon – Major League Baseball standouts
John Singleton – Movie director
Byron Cage, Marvin Sapp, Montel Jordan, and Smokie Norful – Gospel music artists
Tavis Smiley, Lerone Bennett, Jr. – Literature/journalism
Dr. Calvin O. Butts, Dr. Gardner C Taylor, Jamal Bryant, Ralph Abernathy, Eddie Long,Leon Sullivan – Clergy
Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr. – First African American to walk in space
Johnnie L Cochran, Percy Sutton – Attorney
Harvey Martin, DEof Dallas Cowboys and Superbowl MVP
Sigma Gamma Rho
Vanessa Bell Armstrong – Gospel music artist
Mother Love – Daytime talk show host
Kelly Price – Grammy nominated singer
Martha Reeves – R&B and Pop singer and former politician, and was the lead singer of the Motown girl group
MC Lyte – Hip Hop recording artist
Eugenia Charles – Former Prime Minister of Dominica and first woman elected head of state in the Americas
Dr. Lillian M. Beard – Former Columnist of “Good Housekeeping Magazine”
Phi Beta Sigma
Barry E. Beckham – Founder Beckham House Publishers
Huey P. Newton – Co-Founder of the Black Panther Party
Kurt Carr – Gospel musician
George Washington Carver – World famous scientist, educator, and inventor
Alain Leroy Locke – First African American Rhodes Scholar
Emmett Smith – NFL leading career rusher
Armstrong Williams – Syndicated columnist and political talk show personality
Omega Psi Phi
William H. Cosby – Comedian, Actor, Educator, Philanthropist
DeHart Hubbard – First African American individual Olympic Gold Medalist. Also graduate of my high school!
Michael Jordan — NBA Hall of Famer
Langston Hughes – poet
Earl Graves – Founder of Black Enterprise Magazine
Roy Wilkins – Leadership in NAACP, civil rights activist
Louis Douglas Wilder – Former Governor of Virginia
Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr – Civil rights activist, Founder of Operation Push
Dr. Charles Drew – Perfected blood plasma
Dr. David Satcher – Former Surgeon General of the United States of America
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