Members of the first African American sorority gathered in Jacksonville to celebrate 116 years of service. More than 500 members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated flooded downtown with pink and green.
“It’s exciting to see our members gathered together all through this area to celebrate 116 years of a sorority that has been about serving the community and bringing about change. It’s always nice to fellowship with your fellow sisters,” said Tiffany Moore Russell, Regional Director.
The sorority was founded in 1908 at Howard University, by 9 courageous students, at a time when black women weren’t allowed to take part in other sororities.
“These young women at Howard University were so excited about being in college and thinking that there needs to be something that African American women could do because they saw other women were doing things and thought we need to do something also,” said Dr. Norma Solomon White, 25th International President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
At the Founders’ Day celebration 17 chapters gathered from the sorority from Brunswick, GA down to Sanford, FL, women of all ages, celebrating sisterhood and also the foundation of what the organization stands on, service. Service is the driving force and after more than 100 years that premise remains the same.
“We own that service. We are about uplifting our community and doing all they can to make sure that our people have things that they need and that they are encouraged to do their best. So that is why we continue to work and we continue to serve and we continue to look for new opportunities. We provide all the opportunities that we can. Not only our children, but for the adults who need our attention also,” said White.
Each chapter focuses on providing community service to the area it serves. Locally, the Gamma Rho Omega Chapter in Jacksonville adopted five different elementary schools, providing food and snacks that the kids take home on the weekend.
“Right now we’re averaging around 400 students a week. It’s not a party, it is making sure that our community continues to grow, and that we’re here to make sure that we are engaged in many programs,” said Cluster III graduate coordinator Willetta Richie.
The celebration also recognized the 75th anniversary of the Gamma Tau Chapter at Bethune Cookman University and honored 25 members who have been active in the sorority anywhere from 25 to 75 years.
“When we become a member, we say it’s for life. And I know that some of the organizations of other persuasions don’t continue after college. But with the African American sororities and the Divine 9, we have just as many people in our graduate chapters as we have with our undergraduates, and it’s because of the things that we continue to do,”. says White.