To be a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (AKA) is to be part of something larger than yourself.
“Membership is a commitment to a lifetime of service,” said Kristina James, 2016 Union alumna (Master of Science in Organizational Leadership), and a management consultant with Accenture. “The sorority has shaped me as a woman, a leader, a friend, and a servant. AKA is a safe place to test ideas. Being a member of AKA means everything to me.”
Tammy Richardson, Ph.D. student, and a director at Microsoft, echoes that sentiment. “As an AKA, I am always looking for ways to make life better for everyone. The sisterhood bond is forever. I spent 25 years with P&G, then moved across the country to take a position with Microsoft. My first call was to my local AKA chapter.”
Union Institute & University President Karen Schuster Webb is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, as was her mother. Dr. Webb reflects on the organization’s historic legacy. “The founding of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority epitomized the self-empowerment of women who were determined to make an indelible difference in the world, as did our Soror, Vice President Kamala Harris with her historic victory,” says Dr. Webb. “ I am proud to be an AKA, and it is very special for me to know that globally I can find a sisterhood of women who are dedicated to excellence, share my passion for the cause of social justice, and who are dedicated to serving humanity.”
The sorority, founded in 1908 on the campus of Howard University, is the first Black women’s sorority in the country and part of the Divine Nine. “The Divine Nine consists of the nine Historic Black Greek-letter sororities and fraternities, six of which were founded at Howard University, a historically Black college or university (HBCU’s) and three were founded at predominately white institutions (PWI),” said James. “It’s important to remember that HBCUs were founded to educate students of African-American descent. People of color were denied admission to most higher education institutions, campus clubs and groups.”
James and Richardson are both graduates of HBCUs. James graduated from Florida A&M in Tallahassee. Richardson holds her undergraduate degree from Grambling State University in Louisiana.
AKA boasts a membership of 300,000 across 1,026 chapters in 47 states and one U.S. territory, and 10 regions in nine countries, including the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, Japan, Liberia, South Korea, the U. S. Virgin Islands, and the United Arab Emirates. Its mission has remained the same since AKA’s founding 113 years ago: High scholastic and ethical standards, unity and friendship among college women, improve the social stature of girls and women, maintain a progressive interest in college life, and “Service to All Mankind.” (Source: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated)
For Kristina James, AKA is a family affair.
“I was introduced to AKA by my mother. She has been a member for 51 years. Several of her friends are sorority members and those friends are like family. This is just one example of the rich sisterhood AKA offers,” she said. “My sister and sister-in-law are members too. When we attend conferences, it’s a true family affair.”
At the age of 30, James was elected as president of the Sigma Omega chapter, the graduate chapter located in Cincinnati.
“Being president at such a young age was a great accomplishment. Because AKA provides professional development, I felt ready to accept this challenge,” said James. “The experience helped me learn patience, leadership skills, expectation management, and collaboration skills. These skills have enhanced me personally and professionally.”
Tammy Richardson is not a legacy member, but she holds another distinction: “I was the first in my family to go to college and I graduated summa cum laude from Grambling, then went to Tulane for my master’s, where I also graduated magna cum laude.”
Her passion is learning. Union was her only choice for her doctorate because of its focus on social justice. Her concentration in Public Policy & Social Change and MLK Studies Specialization will help her move toward her goal to uncover the roots of racism.
“I am passionate about uncovering the roots of racism. Why is there such prejudice? I want to change things. At some point, I may run for public office in my home state of Louisiana as a way to change racism. I want to be mayor of my hometown, governor of the state, and maybe a U.S. ambassador.”
Both Richardson and James point out that AKA has high expectations. Both are very proud of Vice President Kamala Harris. Richardson explains, “Kamala’s path was not a given. She knew she had the support of her AKA sisters. It was so exciting to hear her refer to her AKA sisters and HBCU brothers and sisters as family at her nomination for vice president.” Source: (Kamala Harris’ Address to 2020 Democratic National Convention)
James proudly points out that Harris is not the exception. “We have exceptional talent in AKA. The expectation for AKA is to be great. I think our founders 113 years ago knew they were starting something great even though they were just a generation removed from slavery.”
Both are very proud of the program targets set by International President and CEO Dr. Glenda Glover, Ph.D., J.D., C.P.A., elected in 2018, who will serve through 2022. Dr. Glover is president of Tennessee State University, also an HBCU. Her theme is Exemplifying Through Sustainable Service. Chapters engage in five program targets (see: AKA Program Targets) to accomplish their goals:
- Target 1: HBCU for Life: A Call to Action – Encourage students to attend HBCUs as a sustainability measure and financial sustainability.
- Target 2: Women’s Healthcare and Wellness – Raise awareness of health issues that impact African-American women with a focus on breast cancer, heart health, nutrition and wellness, and care for caregivers.
- Target 3: Building Your Economic Legacy – An emphasis on financial planning, asset accumulation, and wealth building.
- Target 4: The Arts! – Emphasize and showcase students to the visual and performing arts with an emphasis on Salute to the Harlem Renaissance and Salute to the Black Arts Movement.
- Target 5: Global Impact – Enlarge the international footprint of AKA
Another source of pride is Dr. Glover’s call to raise $1 million dollars in one day, a target the sorority has reached for the last three consecutive years.
While the signature colors of pink and green and wearing pearls reflect the members’ adherence to their sorority, the real distinguishing characteristic of an AKA member is servant leadership. James and Richardson sum up their membership this way.
“Servant leadership is what connects us as human beings. We are not on this earth for ourselves. When we serve others, we help everyone. If we have been given talents and education, we have a responsibility to live up to AKA’s credo, ‘To be supreme in service to all mankind.’
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