My “village” included an enclave of adults who, after college, continued the traditions and service of their respective Black Greek-lettered organizations. Life-long membership is one of the unique aspects of African American fraternities and sororities.
In the neighboring city of Lansing – the capitol of the Great Lakes state – lived two international leaders of black sororities, Eva L. Evans the 24th president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and Hortense G. Canady the 18th president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
These highly-esteemed women were very friendly with my parents and I was fortunate to interact with them often in our tight-knit community.
One particular amazing woman was most influential in my decision to pursue membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha – my mother and role model, Dr. Carrie Baptiste Jackson.
Not only is she a brilliant educator, administrator, community activist and family woman, but she is also beautiful, determined, wise, charming and supremely sophisticated!
I noticed many of these same attributes in other AKA women I encountered through the years -- these ladies exemplified class, substance, activism and unmatched femininity. I wanted to be among their ranks!
In 1995, before attending college, I traveled with my mother, and waited excitedly (as I was not yet a member) while she pinned my sister Lori, welcoming her into AKA’s Zeta Chapter at the historic Wilberforce University. As a teenager, I understood the prestige that came with membership into a single-letter chapter.
A few years later, in 1999, my sister Danielle was initiated into the same chapter – Delta Tau Omega in Lansing -- that my mother had been initiated into 32 years prior in 1967.
This was certainly a joyous occasion for my entire family. The legacy in my family was growing and becoming stronger, and if all went well, I would be next.
As I entered the gates of Spelman College, my mother strongly encouraged me to learn all I could about the sorority and the campus chapter. She advised me to attend their programs and service initiatives when able, strive for academic excellence and put my best foot forward when meeting and greeting the AKAs on the yard.
I took this sage advice, and in my junior year, I and 40 amazing sisters became members of “Sweet” Mu Pi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., on Feb. 27, 2000.
In hindsight, I can see how AKA helped introduce me to my profession as an archivist. I was preserving Mu Pi Chapter’s documents, fliers, photographs and other memorabilia from my time on the campus before I even understood what being an archivist meant.
While in graduate school, I was fortunate to secure a summer internship at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University. Within this repository lies the history and archives of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
Can you imagine the elation I, as a budding archivist, experienced when working next to the sorority's archivist, Anne Mitchem Davis, alaternd viewing founders' writings, newspaper articles, articles of incorporation, and photographs of all the women I had read about and admired?
I was able to combine my love for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, AKA, history and archives, and was in heaven!
Two of my fondest moments as an AKA happened in the first decade of my membership and were shared with my mother and sisters.
The first was in 2002, when we joined with 30 sorority sisters to charter the Chi Epsilon Omega Chapter, which became the first African American organization to be chartered in East Lansing, Michigan.
The establishment of the chapter was the pinnacle of success in the sorority life of many of these women – including my mother. Although my membership is now transferred to the Tau Epsilon Omega Chapter in East Point and College Park, I am extremely proud to have contributed to the sorority and city’s history, and to have witnessed the hard work and continued programmatic and service initiatives these women carry out within our beloved sisterhood.
The other was our sisterhood’s Centennial Celebration. Sorority members from all over the world traveled to Washington, D.C. 100 years after the founding of Alpha Kappa Alpha in 2008, and I was privileged to serve as a delegate for my chapter at our Boulé (or biennial business meeting).
I am not sure I will ever be able to completely articulate the emotion and exhilaration I experienced during our pilgrimage to the sites where our founders’ began this sisterhood. As I consider the historical moment in which these pioneering women lived, and the importance they placed on cultivating a sisterhood to serve their communities throughout the country, I am keenly aware of the exceptional, undying legacy I share with other women all over the world.
Later, at the 2010 Boule in St. Louis, I had an impromptu opportunity to stand alongside the sorority’s historian, Earnestine Green McNealy, as well as archivist Anne Mitchem Davis (before her passing in 2012) during an archives workshop to share archival best practices and preservation tips. This eventually lead to the creation of "Preserving Your Pearls" public workshops I hosted in Atlanta in my capacity as the archivist of my graduate chapter.
The historical achievements of my sorority sisters did not stop in 1908. AKAs have blazed trails in all aspects of human endeavor through the 20th century, and continue to do so in the new century.
In fact, sorority members in Atlanta are now planning, preparing, and looking forward to welcoming our sisters to the great city of Atlanta for our upcoming Boulé in July 2016.
Though I cannot be certain of what the future holds my personal goal is to sustain life-long membership while upholding the legacy of the women who came before me, and the strength of our everlasting ivy vine.
I have great examples in my parents who have sustained a strong commitment to their organizations – AKA and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Sisterhood certainly has its privileges. My favorite is the ability to serve all mankind with accomplished women who share a “vision fair.”