The Divine Nine Cultural Arts District approved by the Monroe City Council

A new cultural arts district is coming to the south side of Monroe.

The Monroe City Council voted to approve a resolution to create the Divine Nine Cultural Arts District in Monroe at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The Divine Nine Cultural Arts District will be located in District 5 and will encompass an area from west of Wossman High School to the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo. The creation of the district was proposed by Councilwoman Kema Dawson Robinson, who represents District 5.

The Cultural Arts District will offer historic tax credits for the rehabilitation of old buildings and tax exemptions for original works of art sold. Robinson said the Cultural Arts District will help revitalize the community.

The Divine Nine Cultural Arts District will be located in District 5 and will encompass areas west of Wossman High School to the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo.

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“It’s going to help with tax incentives for properties over 50 years old, whether it’s a home or a business,” Robinson said. “Any kind of historical monument with revitalization, if they want to restore a building or do renovations, it will give those buildings and building owners tax credits and incentives to restore our neighborhood.”

Robinson said she chose to name the district after the many voters in District 5 who are members of historically black fraternities and sororities.

“I thought of all the people who are part of the Divine Nine in District 5,” Robinson said. “Everyone has someone, whether it’s a friend, a family member, or themselves who are part of the Divine Nine, so I wanted to have a name that meant something. for the community.”

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The term “Divine Nine”, a trademark of the National Panhellenic Council (NPHC), refers to the nation’s nine historically black fraternities and sororities: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, Zeta Phi Beta sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho sorority and Iota Phi Theta fraternity.

Robinson said she and Mayor Friday Ellis met with representatives of the National Panhellenic Council to discuss the city’s intentions to use the brand for a cultural arts district.

“We made them a proposal and explained to them what we planned to do to revitalize the community and they approved it,” Robinson said. “I think it’s going to be awesome because it’s going to be the first in Divine Nine history where someone does something like that. I think it’s going to be good for us to leave a lasting impression in the black community because we really don’t have too many here in Monroe.”

Ralph Johnson, Area 4 coordinator for the National Panhellenic Council, was present at Tuesday evening’s meeting. Johnson said the National Executive Council and the nine council chairpersons, each representing a black Greek-letter organization, voted unanimously to support the bid for the cultural arts district.

Although local chapters of Divine Nine organizations are not obligated to participate, Robinson said she hopes to incorporate local chapters to begin a lasting legacy in the community.

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“It’s nothing the Divine Nine really have to do unless they’re participating in some of our cleanups or community efforts with events,” Dawson said. “I really think if we get approval from the Cultural Arts District, we can start something for the Divine Nine like a festival or something that we can go on for years.”

The city will formally apply to the Louisiana Cultural Districts Program to establish the Divine Nine Cultural District as a state-certified cultural district.

The Louisiana Cultural Districts Program was created by Act 298 of the 2007 Regular Session of the Legislature. The main objective of the initiative is to bring about community revitalization based on cultural activity, technical assistance and resources.

Follow Ian Robinson on Twitter @_irobinson and on Facebook at https://bit.ly/3vln0w1.

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James C. Tibbs