Birthdays are always special. However, to “live” to be 106 years old is a pretty big deal. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. is the world’s oldest and most celebrated, black collegiate women’s greek lettered organization. That is not to say that those who came after us, are not celebrated, they are. But, there is something special about being the first. The first to blaze the trail, the first to incorporate our sisterhood, the first to stand up for the rights of black women, the first to create service projects that helped displaced people during the Great Depression (we made dolls for poor children), or like the Mississippi Delta Health project, and critical support of Congressional legislation from Civil Rights to Women’s Rights. Wherever there was a need in the black community and our nation writ large for the past 100 years, Alpha Kappa Alpha was there.
Notice that I wrote: “to live to be 106. . .” That’s right Alpha Kappa Alpha is ALIVE. We live and breathe our motto: Service to All Mankind. We continue to thrive with over 250,000 members, on over 900 college campuses and graduate chapters throughout the United States. We boast among our membership Congresswomen, Mayors, Legislators, Judges, Doctors, Attorneys, Scientists, Educators, College Presidents & Board Members, former Cabinet Secretaries, Noble Prize winners, Diplomats, Presidents of countries such as Liberia, and even an Astronaut (Dr. Mae Jemison). We are a select group of achievers, servants, women of faith, and a devoted sisterhood one to another. It is something special to be an AKA.
On this day of our founding, I call upon myself and my sorors world-wide to pause and reflect on the greatness of our founding. On its context. These brave women our founders and the “Sophomores” ventured out in a world (1908) that was at best indifferent to black women, or in reality hostile. Black women in 1908, were nothing. We could not vote. We could not enter many professions. It was bad enough to be a woman, but to be a black woman was to be invisible, unheard, and unsung. It was at the height of segregation in America. Just a generation removed from Plessy v. Ferguson (Separate but Equal) and its forerunner, slavery. For these brave souls to create an organization for black women, and then to later incorporate it as they did was epic. It was courageous. It was vision turning into purpose. It was faith walking on unchartered waters.
I ask us as a diverse international sisterhood of all women (not just black women as in our founding) to embrace truly what it means to be your sister’s keeper. No. You will not like everywoman who wears your letters. Not every “Soror” will be your friend. But, you can and you must respect our founding principles and documents that make clear who we are and what we are all about. The chants about “pretty girls”, the step shows, T-shirts, colors, jackets, pearls, and paraphenlia mean nothing without the bonds of sisterhood being in tact. Too many of us are arguing in meetings. Calling each other out. Being divisive and mean-spirited to our “sisters”. This, sorors, must stop.
We are the FIRST. And that means we must LEAD the way. We are better than the negative images that now define us as women of color, or as women in general. It is time for us to be held to account by the legacy of our founding. These women were in a word: Sisters. We owe them and one another the respect and sisterhood of their vision for our great sorority. We should never be caught tearing another AKA down. Period.
106 years and counting. We are bright shining stars, a well lit city on a hill, a lighthouse in the stormy seas for others to find their way. You are an Alpha Kappa Alpha woman. Walk in that great calling. “Alpha” means the beginning, the first, the greatest of all who follow. Today, let us remember from whence we came. Let us focus on the beauty, the heart, and the soul of sisterhood.
Soror Sophia A. Nelson, Esquire
Psi Rho Omega Chapter, Loudoun, County Virginia
WATCH THIS VIDEO TRIBUTE AKA 2014: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1MxcHhbw4s&sns=tw