Amid the climate of racial strife, hazing lawsuits, and questions of relevancy threatening the existence of African American fraternal organizations, members of the “Divine Nine” explore the importance and changing roles of Black Greek Lettered Organizations (BGLOs). In 2015 some believe that BGLOs, primarily depicted in popular media through the scope of stepping, are struggling to stay influential and at the forefront of our Nation’s most pressing cultural challenges. While these organizations have historically been responsible for America’s most influential social and political movements, including Civil Rights, many perceive their visibility (or lack thereof) as an indicator of their reduced contemporary influence. Can these century old organizations adapt to the times or have their rich legacies begun to fade?
Beyond This Place is a feature length documentary film that examines the rich culture of African American Fraternities and Sororities, while at the same time posing the question: “What is the role of these organizations in the 21st Century?” Primarily depicted in popular media through the scope of stepping, Black Greek Lettered Organizations, collectively referred to as the “Divine Nine”, are also responsible for the development of some of America’s greatest leaders. People like Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison, sports icon Michael Jordan, and innovator George Washington Carver make up just a few of the hundreds of thousands of initiated members responsible for historical advancements in our Nation’s most influential movements, including Civil Rights. Today, many believe the century old organizations —Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Iota Phi Theta — are no longer the innovative, progressive organizations that they once were. Beyond This Place aims to examine the current state of Black Greek life while investigating imaginative solutions to the organizations modern day challenges from the perspective of both current members and the communities which they serve. Our story follows several members of Black Greek Lettered Organizations as they explore the benefits and the challenges of upholding the legacy. We invite you to join us as we tell a story of progress, pride, and potential!
Our title “Beyond This Place” comes from a line in the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley. The poem serves for inspiration among all of the Divine Nine. It is a common ground in which all BGLOs find important inspiration on the topics of struggle, faith and triumph. By asking “What is the role of these organizations in the 21st Century?”, Beyond This Place aims to address the growing concern of relevancy while also exploring what Black Greeks continue to do extremely well.
The story of BGLOs is an important one to tell. It serves as one of the truly organic institutions that has helped to shape Black and American culture. Never before has a documentary film looked at the various challenges and also offered potential solutions to the issues surrounding Black Greek life today. Beyond This Place will offer audiences an entertaining but educational story while exploring the themes of scholarship, love, lifelong commitment, and brotherhood/sisterhood.