For members of the “Divine Nine,” Howard University’s homecoming represents home.
Twenty-five years ago, sisters of the Alpha chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. made a promise for eternal sisterhood, and it’s one that they’ve kept.
Every year since 1992, Marva Lewis McKnight, Erica Gentry and their line sisters have gathered at their beloved Howard University to remember what brought them together, especially this year during the university’s 150th anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 21.
“Being here means a lot,” said McKnight of Conyers, Ga. “We’re celebrating our 25th year anniversary as line sisters with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. It’s the sisterhood and going to an HBCU, so there is no experience like it.
“We are lifelong friends, the connections that we’ve made here have been everlasting and it’s something you can’t duplicate,” she said. “We love Howard and we support our school.”
McKnight said it’s critical to showcase the great things such as strong friendships that come out of Black colleges, especially at a time when they are heavily devalued.
“I think it’s very important to showcase our friendship because people devalue the importance of going to an historically Black college, but what they don’t understand is the value of going to a school like this because you can’t create this type of bond at a predominately white institution,” she said. “We’re very proud of who we are as a people not only that the professors and everyone else involved. It’s another level of dedication and commitment to who we are as a people.”
Erica Gentry, a medical doctor from Houston, met not only her lifelong friends at Howard, but also her husband.
“Howard means [so] much to us [that] we continued our legacy here,” she said. “Now we have a baby Bison who is a freshman in the College of Arts and Engineering and Computer Science.”
Gentry said her daughter, although heavily influenced, made the decision to attend Howard on her own.
“She was very much aware, but she made the choice to come because she wanted to be in this environment with other people who look like her after going to a diverse school,” she said.
Pete Burnette didn’t attend Howard, but he called the Black institution home for another reason dear to his heart.
“Omega Psi Phi was founded at Howard, so it’s always good to come back home and be apart of who we are and to get an opportunity to reunite with the brotherhood,” the Northern Virginia resident said. “From what I understand, friendship is essential to the soul, that is of which Omega was founded, so today I expect to see more than 3,500 brothers from around the world that will ascend here for the sole purpose of fellowship with one another.
“There is no greater opportunity for us to do that than to do it here,” he said.
Burnette pledged Omega Psi Phi, the Omicron Zeta chapter, in 1974 at the University of Florida.
“We were the charter line known as the Vice Lords,” he said. “That experience was very different than what it was today, but I will tell you that I think the true meaning of a fraternity has never lost its real grasp and that is friendship, scholarship, manhood and perseverance.
“As a result of that, no matter where you go, where you pledge, you should walk away with the true purpose of being an Omega man and that is to bring leadership to our society,” he said.