This is an occasional AJC Sepia series that looks at black Greek letter organizations
I was only 16-years old when I entered Alabama State University in 1976. I was the first person in my family to attend college and ultimately graduate.
My grandparents adopted and raised me. My grandmother Lula Wells only completed 11 years of education, but she was a very smart lady. My grandfather, Frank Wells, only got as far as the sixth grade.
But they were committed to paving a way for me to go to college and see a world beyond Bessemer, Ala.
There was a young lady from our community named Diedre Thomas and she was one of few people in our small community that attended college.
One day she talked to me and she shared a lot of positive things about Alabama State University. She talked about the marching band and mentioned that she was a member of a sorority by the name of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
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At that time, I did not know what a sorority was but I admired her for attending college.
Alabama State University was only about an hour and a half away from home and I wanted go. I even talked my grandparents into letting me go away from home and stay on campus. Although they wanted me to go college but they wanted me to go to school in Birmingham. But they gave in.
So they carried me to college and I realized how blessed I was to have parents that sacrificed so much to make it possible for me to attend college.
And once I got on campus, I was amazed to see people from all over.
Diedre graduated from Alabama State as I was entering so I did not spend time with her, but she gave me the names of several of her sisters from the sorority she talked about -- Alpha Kappa Alpha.
I found them and began to bond with them. I loved the way the ladies on campus carried themselves.
When they interviewed candidates for membership intake, I attended.
I remember one of the questions they asked me as if it were yesterday: “Do you consider yourself a leader or a follower?"
I was nervous, but I remembered the teachings of my grandparents and I confidently said: "In order to be a good leader you must also know how to follow."
The room of ladies clapped their hands and shortly afterwards, I was voted to be a candidate for membership intake.
I was so happy. There were 32 ladies and we were called the "Estatic 32."
I was number 27. I still have today, the pillow we made as an assignment. One of my line sisters, Belinda George could sing like a songbird and always led us in song. I still remember the night we were presented to the university. We changed the lyrics of Natalie Cole's "Our Love,” to “Alpha..., Kappa..., we are pledging AKA, Alpha…”
On May 12, 1978 I was initiated into the Beta Pi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
And I loved the sorority. I loved the service we provided to the less fortunate. I remember one time we went to St. Jude Hospital and cared for the patients and talked to the elderly and sick. That was so rewarding to me.
Now, as a member of this great organization, I love it even more. Service is what we stand for and I love helping others. Our statics shows that in 2013, AKA members provided 1.4 million volunteer hours reaching more than 6.2 million people.
In sum, AKA members are proven leaders in our professions and in the community through advocacy and service.
In 1980, after graduating, I moved to Atlanta where I met Fannie Gilliam who was a charter member of Nu Lambda Omega Chapter. She invited me to a sorority meeting and introduced me to many sorority sisters.
I joined the chapter around 1990 and have been active ever since. I signed up for committees and participated in many activities and programs. Later I found myself running for various offices in the chapter, including president, where I served two terms.
I also served as Cluster V Coordinator and in 2012 I served on the Internal Leadership Training for External Services Committee which was a prestigious appointment by the Past International President Carolyn House Stewart.
This was so rewarding to me, because I had the opportunity to travel throughout the organization and train sorors on various subjects and present workshops that not only helped sorors in the organization but events that affected them personal.
I am a real estate agent and during 2007-2014, the economy was suffering. It was not about me selling real estate, but helping people who were hurting and about to lose their homes.
I taught workshops about "Making Homes Affordable and Foreclosure Prevention."
These workshops helped sorors and the community at large know their options as it relates to foreclosure prevention and it was very rewarding to me.
I recently received another rewarding appointment from our International President, Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson where I was named co-chair of the 2016 Boule, which will be held right here in Atlanta from July 9-14. We are expecting over 20,000 members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority to register and attend this conference.
This is huge. During the Boule Conference we will conduct sorority business, host a public meeting for the community, have workshops, provide 23 community service projects, collect and donate backpacks and make and send dresses to Africa.
I will serve along with others on the Leadership Team of President Wilson; Boule Chairman, Kim Bunch Boyd; Co-Chairman Marjorie Harris Young; Boule Honorary Chairman Lucretia Payton Stewart; and South Atlantic Regional Director Sharon Brown Harriott.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. has given me the understanding of the true meaning of our purpose in life. Although I participate in many service projects in our organization, I also give on my own. Whenever, I see someone in need and I have the resources to help them, I do. My grandparents taught me the basics. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Understand that no one owes you anything so if they do something for you, be grateful.”
These basic principals have opened so many doors for me and the sorority has given me a platform. I have given funds and resources to provide scholarships. I have mentored. I have clothed and helped the sick.
I have given my time and resources to others.
Service is what I live for.