Meet three local women giving back to their community while identifying and representing as sorority members of the Divine Nine.
By Anne Tate / Photography by John Michael Simpson
The Divine Nine is composed of the nine historically Black Greek letter organizations, known for their service and community involvement, in the National Pan-Hellenic Council. These three Divine Nine women in Orange County honor their sororities’ legacies of giving back.
“When early college campus groups excluded Black Americans, we created our own groups and have continued their mission of service throughout the years,” Barbara M. Foushee, a Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. member, says. “America’s Black fraternities and sororities are a unique and vital part of 20th-century African American history.”
Barbara was initiated into Zeta’s Phi Beta Chapter at Saint Augustine’s College (now Saint Augustine’s University) in Raleigh in the fall of 1985. “I pledged Zeta because of what the sorority exemplifies through its founding principles of service, scholarship, sisterly love and finer womanhood,” Barbara says. “We want to directly affect positive change; we are a community-conscious, action-oriented organization.”
Barbara, who is a senior technologist in a molecular oncology laboratory and also Carrboro’s mayor pro tem, is an active member and the Basileus of the Eta Phi Zeta Graduate Chapter. The group partners with nonprofits such as the Compass Center and participates in events like the African American Read-In at Estes Hills Elementary School and the Back-to School Bash with the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association.
“It is a blessing not only to be in touch with my Zeta sorors, but also to engage with women in the other Divine Nine sororities,” Barbara says. “We can always count on one another and look for ways to support one another within the community.”
Realtor Tabitha Elien attended Florida A&M University but did not join a sorority until after graduation. After moving to Orange County in 2011, she was initiated into the Gamma Rho Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. as a graduate member six years ago, joining her mother, cousins and family friends in the sisterhood.
“I grew up watching the positive impact that these amazing women had on the lives of those in the community,” Tabitha says. “I have always served the community either through work or my community involvement, and I knew I wanted to be a part of something bigger than me.”
Tabitha currently works with AKA’s Chapel Hill graduate chapter, Mu Omicron Omega. The chapter is active, hosting an annual Black History Knowledge Bowl and Poetry Slam with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ AVID program. Additionally, the chapter provides annual scholarships to high school seniors.
During the pandemic, its members focused on food and toiletry needs in the community. They collaborated with EmPOWERment, Inc. and the Lincoln High School Alumni Association to provide household items to the Chase Park and Elliott Woods communities and helped stock the pantries at the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association Community Center and Hillside Church.
V. Dianne Peerman – Pledger, a lifelong Orange County resident and the vice president of development and communications for Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, was initiated into the Alpha Lambda Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. at North Carolina Central University in the fall of 1978, joining her mother and sister.
“I sought membership into DST to affiliate with an organization of bold and action-oriented women whose mission is to lead, empower and engage through public service, social action and work to become a change agent for my community as a servant leader,” Dianne says.
Dianne’s been an active member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Area Alumnae Chapter of DST for more than 25 years. The chapter’s goal is to develop and implement projects and programs to focus on issues that affect African Americans and the community. The group hosts events like its annual MLK Blood Drive and provides scholarships to graduating Orange
and Chatham students, totaling more than $150,000.
The alumnae group collaborates with various sororities, including Zeta’s local chapter, on programs like a Women Running for Public Office Forum.
“It is extremely gratifying to join other like-minded, college-educated women, members of the Divine Nine who join the movement to engage the community and embrace public service,” Dianne says.