By Stephanie R. Jones
An overflow crowd made up mainly of women in white dresses and pearls filled Tougaloo College’s Woodworth Chapel Sunday to commemorate the founding 109 years ago of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Members of Beta Delta Omega Chapter, a graduate chapter in Jackson, Miss., along with Gamma Rho Chapter (Jackson State University) joined to host their 109th Founders’ Day Observance. They paid tribute to their founders as well as members of the Jackson Metro area whose life work has aligned with the mission of service to which Alpha Kappa Alpha adheres.
“Today we are celebrating a legacy of supreme service,” said guest speaker Evelyn J. Leggette, Ph.D., provost and senior vice-president for Academic and Student Affairs at Jackson State University and a member of BDO. Leggette said the day was also an opportunity to reflect on the trailblazing AKA founders, to share accomplishments of members past and present, and to look to the future. “Our founders in 1908 asked, ‘what can I do, how can I render service?’” Leggette said. “These women knew that there is no greater call than service and it’s up to us to carry that out.”
Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first sorority for African-American women, was founded on the campus of Howard University Jan. 15, 1908. It remains committed to “Service to All Mankind” by providing community outreach to neighboring communities under the umbrella “Launching New Dimensions of Service,” the organization says. Its international program focuses on: Educational Enrichment, Health Promotion, Family Strengthening, Environmental Ownership, and Global Impact. BDO was founded in 1934.
“These enthusiastic, talented women knew that if the world is to be made better, I must get in there to make it better – supreme service,” Leggette said. “How will we live up to our founders’ vision?” Leggette asked. “There is no better way to do something for yourself than to serve others. We celebrate the legacy of supreme services.” In that vein, the chapters recognized some Jackson Metro area community members who serve their communities day to day in accordance with the sorority’s goals. Recognition was given in the areas of health care, leadership and community service. Jasmin O. Chapman, chief executive officer of Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center, was recognized as Health Care Advocate of the Year. Leadership Recipient of the Year was Jerry Young, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church and president of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. Community Service Recipients of the Year were Jackie H. Hampton, publisher of The Mississippi Link, and Alice Thomas Tisdale, publisher of The Jackson Advocate, for their work in sharing news and experiences of the local African-American community. The Dr. Ernestine Holloway Educators of the Year awards went to Larry Johnson and Scharri Ezell Walker, both of Tougaloo College. Liza Osunleti Beckely-Roberts of Jackson State University, and Byron D. Orey, Jackson State University political science professor, were named the Dr. Cozetta White Buckley Educators of the Year. The chapters presented $1,000 checks for endowed scholarships to both Tougaloo and Jackson State.
Leggette concluded with a call for her sorors to honor the legacy of their founders. “I need them to know I believe in service. Our founders were expected to serve, give supreme service. Those are the persons upon whose shoulders I stand,” Leggette said.
Stephanie R. Jones can be reached at email@example.com or (601) 454-0372.