Saturday afternoon, student leaders and university officials hosted a dedication ceremony and broke ground on the new Divine Nine Garden Plaza located at East Campus Mall.

The Divine Nine refers to the country’s nine historically Black Greek-letter fraternities and sororities, overseen by the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC). Of those nine, six are currently active at UW–Madison.

Artist’s rendering of the Divine Nine Garden Plaza from Smith Group architects

The initiative to establish a physical site in which NPHC and its chapters was created by NPHC in partnership with the Student Inclusion Coalition and UW–Madison administration.

The plaza commemorates “the legacy of NPHC chapters and further cultivates a campus community. This campus community invests in inclusion and creates a sense of belonging for Black students,” said Nyla Mathis, the president of the Epsilon Delta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and a co-founder of the Student Inclusion Coalition (SIC). 

Photo by Fatoumata Ceesay.

Mathis, along with Kayla Cotton, the president of the NPHC at UW–Madison and a member of the Epsilon Delta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Israel Oby, a co-founder of SIC and member of the Beta Omicron chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., acted as presenters for the event.

Ceremony speakers included UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank; vice president of student affairs Lori Reesor; and associate vice chancellor and director of the Wisconsin Union Mark Guthier.

“We’re working hard to bring more diverse faculty staff and students onto this campus and we have more work to do,” Blank said. “But attracting diverse people to campus isn’t enough, e have to be intentional about making them feel welcome and included and that starts with creating spaces where every person can see themselves and be themselves. The Divine Nine Garden Plaza is an example. This space is going to anchor one of the busiest corridors, as you can see, on campus. Thousands of people who pass through here are going to learn about the history and the impact of NPHC chapters.”

The plaza, once constructed, will include pillars for each of the nine NPHC organizations and will include the organization name, crest, and for organizations that been chartered on campus, their charter members, and chapter name.

Photo by Fatoumata Ceesay.

The project is expected to be completed in late fall. 

To raise money for its construction, UW Student Affairs launched a fundraising campaign of which they have raised $35,000 of a $250,000 goal. Donations can be made here.

“As I’ve gone through school here, I’ve just realized how much that underrepresentation and that not being publicly recognized as students of color and as a Black student hurt my experience here,” Oby said during the ceremony’s video presentation portion. “I think that adding a physical landmark for the National Panhellenic Council for Black Greek orgs would do wonders for Black students here in making them feel like they belong, and it will also help students who are thinking about coming to the university want comes to the university more because they see that the school represents Black students and students of color in a better way than it has before.”

A recording of the event can be found here on the UW–Madison Student Affairs’ Youtube channel.