by Jenna’e Rainney
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, the oldest Greek letter organization established by college-educated African American women, has just celebrated 101 years of service. Hard work, a love to help those in need, persistence and dedication are just a few of the things that it took to make Alpha Kappa Alpha what it is today.
Ethel Hedgeman Lyle from St. Louis, Missouri conceived the idea of the sorority. It all began on the campus of Howard University in Washington D.C on January 15, 1908 with 16 determined women who had a burning desire to make a difference throughout the world. In 1913, AKA was incorporated by four other women. These founders and incorporators are known as the 20 pearls of the sorority.
Since then, AKA has filled each year with new goals and more determination to succeed, by encouraging high scholastic and ethical standards, promoting unity and friendship among college women and alleviating problems concerning women. Once incorporated, AKA began to branch out by forming chapters at historically black colleges (HBCUs). AKA even became international, forming a chapter in Liberia in 1957. These women made a difference in the lives of everyone that they encountered, making and maintaining meaningful relationships with various people. They served the community while maintaining excellent grade point averages in school. These women strived to be on top no matter what challenges that they faced.
As a current member of the Alpha Epsilon chapter of AKA at Virginia State University in Petersburg, I am honored to be a part of this sisterhood. I have been a member of this sorority since November 2006 and everyday has taught me something new and has also been a wonderful experience. I have learned a great number of things, such as how to present myself in public, how to speak in front of large audiences, and how to manage my time. I have formed bonds with women I may have never met if it had not been for AKA. I have learned how to view a turndown as a challenge instead of as a complete defeat. Becoming a member of AKA has helped me grow into the woman that I am today because I am now filled with determination, and ready to face the world like my sorors (the Greek word for sisters) before me. AKA has provided me with a never-ending supply of sisters and friends to turn to when I need a helping hand, or even just a good laugh. Being a member of AKA is a lifetime commitment. There are even many women who have been members for over 50 years.
Community service is a major aspect of AKA and my chapter strives to give back to the community daily. We do highway clean-ups, attend local churches to help feed the homeless, and hold health programs and forums on campus. We participate in the Big Brother Big Sister program, which mentors young children right here in Petersburg. AKA tries to give back to the community in so many more ways than one.
My sorority experience enhances my life on the campus of VSU. When I leave this May, AKA will not fade away from my heart, but will deepen and continue to grow with me for the rest of my life. If AKA is still standing strong after 101 years of service and sisterhood, I am sure that this sorority – my sorority – will only continue to prosper in the future and continue to bring women together to serve better purposes.
Some notable members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc:
- Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman astronaut
- Coretta Scott King, Civil rights activist
- Jada Pinkett -Smith, well known actress
- Star Jones, talk-show co-host and lawyer
- Gladys Knight Parker, Singer and actress
- Dr. Maya Angelou, Award winning poet and novelist