KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Historically African American fraternities and sororities at the University of Tennessee celebrated on Saturday as they witnessed their organization’s symbols become a focal point at the center of campus.

UT leaders and National Pan-Hellenic Council members unveiled monuments on homecoming for the fraternities and sororities known as the Divine Nine. It’s located along the Johnson–Ward Pedestrian Walkway.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. are now all represented on UT’s campus with the monuments.

Generations of the Divine Nine now have a place to call their own on campus, and it’s been a long time coming.

“For 50 years they’ve been part of our community, and really to have a place where they can gather, belong and call their home,” Frank Cuevas, Vice-Chancellor of Student Life, said.

Cuevas said he and other leaders have been working on the monuments for five years. COVID-19 lengthened the process, the wait only helped grow the anticipation for the Black Greek members.

“This is really exciting for all of the African American, traditionally African American sororities and fraternities here on campus, because we do have this gathering,” Katrice W. Jones Morgan, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., said.

Morgan was initiated into the Zeta Delta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha in 1989. She said her sorority was the very first African American sorority on campus.

“It’s really important for all of our students to feel like they matter and belong,” Morgan said.

Current students were excited to the see representation of their organizations in the middle of campus.

“We have our own place to come hang out, to have events and to just be our own selves. And to let everybody know that, ‘hey we’re here. Meet us, come see us, we’re not, nothing to be afraid of. Let’s all hang out. We are all one,'” Allana Tate, a Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority member and senior at UT, said.

It’s all about the location. The monuments will be seen by most students.

“The location is important because that walkway is the main thoroughfare for our students. So every time our students walk by, there’s a little piece to remind them that this is their home. This is part of where they can make Rocky Top their space,” Cuevas said.

Knowing that the members of the Divine Nine will be seen and appreciated, that they matter and belong, will be huge for future generations.

Students will feel more welcomed, and because of that, want to be more successful, according to Morgan.

“Then they tend to find their place here and persist to graduation, and that of course, is what they want is more Volunteers in the world,” Morgan said.

That’s the whole reason they join a sorority or fraternity in the first place: being a part of a group where they feel like they belong and make a difference.

“A long-awaited monument that we all finally have where underrepresented communities can come, hang out and let the community know that we are here and we are here to stay,” Tate said.