By Deborah Bailey
Members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), known across the nation as “The Divine Nine,” are joining forces and ramping up the fight to protect Black women’s lives.
The Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLO) recently announced the “Tell Somebody” public service campaign, emphasizing the disproportionate impact of the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision repealing Roe v. Wade, leading to more than 19 states outlawing abortion.
The collective effort by the Divine Nine, meant to empower the community to counteract the potentially disastrous effect of the repeal, urges the Black community to engage the elected officials who can make the most difference.
“We’re calling on the 2.5 million members of the Divine Nine to contact lawmakers to mitigate the impact of this egregious blow to the well-being of 10 million Black women of childbearing age,” said Chris V. Rey, J.D., president of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.
Rey said it was important for Black fraternities to join sororities in the fight for women’s self-empowerment regarding their bodies.
“Overturning Roe v. Wade will not end abortion, it will only end safe abortions and access to healthcare for millions of women — particularly poor women of color — and fuel a full-fledged public health crisis in this country,” he added.
Planned Parenthood CEO, Alexis McGill Johnson, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, supports the advocacy efforts of the Divine Nine in the fight to counter the Supreme Court’s decision regarding abortion.
Planned Parenthood joined with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to amplify the reach of the Tell Somebody campaign and honor trailblazers in the protection of reproductive health.
“Despite the darkness we are living through, we must remember that we have the power to make a difference. As a member of a Divine Nine sorority, I know there is power in our stories and strength in our voices as we continue to push for freedom,” McGill Johnson said in a statement.
The “Tell Somebody” public service announcement is produced by veteran broadcaster, Sybil Wilkes, “The Voice of Reason” on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, and executive producer Yolanda Starks-White through their company YoSy Media.
In an exclusive interview with the AFRO, Wilkes said involvement with this issue represented a continuation of the social justice agenda she engaged listeners with as a part of the Tom Joyner Morning Show team.
“This particular issue of taking away women’s rights represented an immediate threat against all women. Our company knew we had to get out there. When we were approached by Phi Beta Sigma and other members of the Divine Nine, we knew we had to represent this effort,” Wilkes said.
Wilkes is also happy to see Phi Beta Sigma and other Black fraternities take leadership on the issue of abortion rights.
“This is not just a woman issue, it’s not just a Black-person’s issue, it’s about men, it’s about women, it’s about all people’s rights. It’s a human issue,” Wilkes said. “We have to be engaged and let the stakeholders know we are not going to stand for our rights to be taken away.”
The Divine Nine’s Tell Somebody campaign was planned shortly after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Reversal was announced but became even more urgent when U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a national abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy on Sept. 15.
Marcela Howell, the CEO of the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, immediately saw Graham’s move as an act to use the government to restrict Black women’s rights to health care.
“As Black women, our fight has never been about the right to abortion care, it has always been about surmounting the federal and state barriers that prevent us from accessing the full health care that is critical to the wellbeing of our families. We will continue the fight to ensure that every woman has the power and resources to make decisions about her own body,” Howell said.
The Tell Somebody Public Service Announcement is narrated by veteran actor Jennifer Lewis, of “Black-ish,” and narrates the situations, including sexual violence, that lead Black women to seek abortions close to four times more frequently than White women in America.“The Tell Somebody Campaign must lead the charge to mobilize our extended family — including the churches we attend, the PTAs where our children attend school, the little league and sports organizations where we coach or cheer for our kids, and the myriad other civic organizations we lead — until Congress takes heed of our demand for national legislation to protect women’s reproductive rights,” said Rey.
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