Image goes viral of Black Atlanta sororities’ #StrollToThePolls

The image was leaked from a video meant to encourage people to vote

When were the Divine Nine sororities and fraternities founded? The Divine Nine are historically black Greek-letter organizations that comprise the National Pan-Hellenic Council Inc. Alpha Phi Alpha, a fraternity, was the first organization founded in 1906. A couple of years later, Alpha Kappa Alpha emerged as the first sorority among the organizations. Fraternities Kappa Alpha Psi and Omega Psi Phi followed and were founded in 1911. (Mario Eugene Page Photography)

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way, but as dance instructor and southeast Atlanta dance studio owner Maisha Land put it, “let the Lord have his way.”

It’s something her grandmother used to say. It’s also what she credits for the viral sensation of the image that took off Wednesday after getting mentioned on ABC’s “The View.” A day earlier, author Lawrence Ross tweeted the photo, which was actually a screenshot of a promo meant to encourage people to cast their vote on Election Day. In it, members of the Divine Nine sororities stroll around the ramp in Vine City near Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

It wasn’t the most accurate depiction, however ― Land said members of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. were cropped out and it didn’t include credit for the footage, which came from independent documentary cinematographer, Mario Page.

Page, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and Land, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., have deep ties to not only the Divine Nine, which is what the Black Greek letter organizations are collectively known as, but Atlanta itself.

Land is the daughter of Councilmember Joyce Sheperd of District 12 and the late Rev. Bill Land, whom she said was one of the organizers of Bloody Sunday. Page, meanwhile, is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University.

Members of the Divine Nine sororities round the bend in Atlanta's Vine City n a screenshot for a promo of the viral #StrollToThePolls video.

Credit: Mario Eugene Page

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Credit: Mario Eugene Page

Their eye for the city comes through based on the shots captured of Atlanta in the video footage, the 58-second promo of which was first posted on Land’s dance studio’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts Oct. 7. As members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. strolled in front of backdrops that Land scoured the city for.

The goal of the video was simple: encourage people to vote. But Maisha Land nor Page imagined it would take off the way it did. The Gems of Georgia Dance Studios owner said she knew this would go viral, but she didn’t think it would go “pandemic viral.”

As for Page, he said the pair knew it would connect with Black Greek organizations, but it’s reached further.

“When we started the project, we kinda figured it could go viral but we didn’t know how big. We knew it would go viral amongst people who are in the Black fraternities and sororities," he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "But it’s gone beyond that. When I go online, the people who are liking and commenting on these things… it’s very diverse on the response, which I think is phenomenal.”

Maisha Land was inspired to create the video when Sen. Kamala Harris got nominated as Democratic vice president. The choreographer thought up the idea of creating the video and contacted members of all four Divine Nine sororities to participate. She and the sorority members practiced for four weeks straight, working on a dance routine that incorporated what Black sororities do — stroll — putting on display how Black women move in unison.

“It’s a fun and entertaining way to get people together,” Page, who was referred for the effort by a member of Delta Sigma Theta, told the AJC.

“It’s a big deal because it’s usually everyone for themselves,” he added of the Black Greek culture and why he thinks it took off. "It’s showing unity.”

To track down the locations in the footage, Maisha Land visited nine murals around the city. They included ones proclaiming “Black Futures Matter” and demanding justice for Breonna Taylor as well as another dedicated to the civil rights activist, Evelyn G. Lowery, who was once married to the late Rev. Joseph Lowery, also a civil rights activist.

Each mural was meant to speak to the individual sorority featured in front of it, Maisha Land said. She added that the choreography incorporated elements of each sorority’s stroll, leading up to the end when the Divine Nine members exclaim, “Stroll to the polls!” before uttering their respective calls.

One of them has almost certainly been uttered by Harris, who is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. It was also the senator’s music choice that influenced the soundtrack for the footage. Maisha Land researched Harris’ summer playlist and discovered Lizzo’s “Like a Girl” was included. With the lyric, “Woke up feeling like I just might run for president,” it was a shoo-in.

Since the photo and promo took off, it’s caught the attention of everyone from one-time fictional White House fixer Kerry Washington to Ana Navarro and Sunny Hostin, who is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, on ABC’s “The View.”

“That was the vision that I had and it came together beautifully," Maisha Land said of the promo. "I guess God would have it that the photo would leak. The first time people were supposed to see this was supposed to be the video, not that picture. As my grandmother would say, ‘let the Lord have his way.’ I expected buzz but I didn’t expect this.”

Maisha Land explained that her family history, including her mother who helped organize union strikes, meant that it was natural for her to use her talents as a choreographer to empower people to vote.

“I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t engaged," she said. "I remember sitting on the picketing lines with my mother while she was on strike. With my father listening to these stories about Dorothy Height and Rev. King... I don’t remember a time of not doing it, so you kind of do what’s natural to you. If you’re born of lions you’re a lion, not a giraffe and you do lion things, I have been blessed to be part of this legacy of public service.”

She notes that regardless of whether Atlantans choose to vote in person or by mail, it’s important they make their voices heard.

“If you gotta stroll to the Fulton County department and drop it in the box, do that — but move!”