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A Magical Night for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Members in Orlando

Walt Disney World Resort Alpha Kappa Alpha
(David Roark, Photographer)

What could be more American than Disney Theme Parl, the Walt Disney World Resort and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sority Members?

Having a convention in Orlando, Florida always has a magical touch.

This was experienced by hundreds of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) sorority members who stood in their trademark pink and green colors outside Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. This was a day before the sorority’s international convention began in Orlando Saturday night.

The sorority members attended a private after-hours reception hosted by Disney at the park to kick off the sorority’s 70th biennial conference known as the Boule. AKA Members posed in their organization’s distinctive pink and green colors amid glowing pink and green lights.

During the welcome reception at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, the members experienced a night full of live entertainment, character interactions, culinary delights, and sweet treats.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated had its humble beginnings as the vision of nine college students on the campus of Howard University in 1908. Since then, the sorority has flourished into a globally-impactful organization of nearly 300,000 college-trained members, bound by the bonds of sisterhood and empowered by a commitment to servant-leadership that is both domestic and international in its scope.

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As Alpha Kappa Alpha has grown, it has maintained its focus in two key areas: the lifelong personal and professional development of each of its members; and galvanizing its membership into an organization of respected power and influence, consistently at the forefront of effective advocacy and social change that results in equality and equity for all citizens of the world.

lpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® was founded on a mission comprised of five basic tenets that have remained unchanged since the sorority’s inception more than a century ago. Alpha Kappa Alpha’s mission is to cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards, to promote unity and friendship among college women, to study and help alleviate problems concerning girls and women in order to improve their social stature, to maintain a progressive interest in college life, and to be of “Service to All Mankind”.

The small group of women who founded Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at the turn of the last century was conscious of their privileged position as college-trained women of color just one generation removed from slavery. But at the same time, they were sensitive to the needs and struggles of the less fortunate in underserved communities in their hometowns and in other environs beyond their travels who were in need of goods, services, and opportunities beyond their reach.

The young collegians’ commitment to scholarship, leadership, civic engagement, and public service, woven together by the bonds of lifelong sisterhood, formed the bedrock of the rich legacy of servant-leadership that epitomizes the sorority to this day. And the global reach of its programs, laser-focused on the health, wealth, family, education, human rights, and parity issues that concern its constituents, ensure the relevance of the organization into perpetuity.

Confined to what she called “a small circumscribed life” in the segregated and male-dominated milieu that characterized the early 1900s, Howard University co-ed Ethel Hegemon dreamed of creating a support network for women with like minds coming together for mutual uplift, and coalescing their talents and strengths for the benefit of others. In 1908, her vision crystallized as Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first Negro Greek-letter sorority. Five years later (1913), lead incorporator, Nellie Quander, ensured Alpha Kappa Alpha’s perpetuity through incorporation in the District of Columbia.

Together with eight other coeds at the mecca for Negro education, Hedgemon crafted a design that not only fostered interaction, stimulation, and ethical growth among members; but also provided hope for the masses. From the core group of nine at Howard, AKA has grown into a force of more than 325,000 collegiate members and alumnae, constituting 1,050 chapters in 44 states, the District of Columbia,   the US Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Germany, Liberia, South Korea, Japan, Canada, South Africa, and the Middle East.

Because they believed that Negro college women represented “the highest—more education, more enlightenment, and more of almost everything that the great mass of Negroes never had” — Hegemon and her cohorts worked to honor what she called “an everlasting debt to raise them (Negroes) up and to make them better.” For more than a century, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sisterhood has fulfilled that obligation by becoming an indomitable force for good in their communities, state, nation, and the world.

The Alpha Kappa Alpha program today still reflects the communal consciousness steeped in the AKA tradition and embodied in AKA’s credo, “To be supreme in service to all mankind.” Cultural awareness and social advocacy marked Alpha Kappa Alpha’s infancy, but within one year (1914) of acquiring corporate status, AKA had also made its mark on education, establishing a scholarship award. The programming was a prelude to the thousands of pioneering and enduring initiatives that eventually defined the Alpha Kappa Alpha brand.

Through the years, Alpha Kappa Alpha has used the Sisterhood as a grand lever to raise the status of African-Americans, particularly girls and women. AKA has enriched minds and encouraged life-long learning; provided aid for the poor, the sick, and the underserved; initiated social action to advance human and civil rights; worked collaboratively with other groups to maximize outreach on progressive endeavors; and continually produced leaders to continue its credo of service.

Guided by twenty-nine international presidents from Nellie M. Quander (1913-1919) to Glenda Baskin Glover (2018-2022), with reinforcement from a professional headquarters staff since 1949; AKA’s corps of volunteers has instituted groundbreaking social action initiatives and social service programs that have transformed communities for the better— continually emitting progress in cities, states, the nation, and the world.

Historical Sorority Program Initiatives

The 1900s—Promoted Negro culture and encouraged social action through the presentation of Negro artists and social justice advocates, including elocutionist Nathaniel Guy, Hull House founder Jane Addams, and U. S. Congressman Martin Madden (1908-1915). Established the first organizational scholarship at Howard University (1914).

The 1920s—Worked to dispel notions that Negroes were unfit for certain professions, and guided. Negroes in avoiding career mistakes (1923); pushed anti-lynching legislation (1921).

In the 1930s—Became the first organization to take out NAACP life membership (1939); Created the nation’s first Congressional lobby that impacted legislation on issues ranging from decent living conditions and jobs to lynching (1938); and established the nation’s first mobile health clinic, providing relief to 15,000 Negroes plagued by famine and disease in the Mississippi Delta (1935).

The 1940s—Invited other Greek-letter organizations to come together to establish the American Council on Human Rights to empower racial uplift and economic development (1948); Acquired observer status from the United Nations (1946); and challenged the absence of people of color from pictorial images used by the government to portray Americans (1944).

The 1950s—Promoted investing in Black businesses by depositing an initial $38,000 for AKA Investment Fund with the first and only Negro firm on Wall Street (1958). Spurred Sickle Cell Disease research and education with grants to Howard Hospital and the publication of The Sickle Cell Story (1958).

The 1960s—Sponsored inaugural Domestic Travel Tour, a one-week cultural excursion for 30 high school students (1969); launched a “Heritage Series” on African-American achievers (1965); and emerged as the first women’s group to win a grant to operate a federal job corps center (1965), preparing youth 16-21 to function in a highly competitive economy.

1970’s— Was only sorority to be named an inaugural member of Operation Big Vote (1979); completed pledge of one-half million to the United Negro College Fund (1976); and purchased Dr. Martin Luther King’s boyhood home for the MLK Center for Social Change (1972).

The 1980s—Adopted more than 27 African villages, earning Africare’s 1986 Distinguished Service Award; encouraged awareness of and participation in the nation’s affairs, registering more than 350, 000 new voters; and established the Alpha Kappa Alpha Educational Advancement Foundation (1981), a multi-million dollar entity that annually awards more than $100,000 in scholarships, grants, and fellowships.

The 1990s—Built 10 schools in South Africa (1998); added the largest number of minorities to the National Bone Marrow Registry (1996); Became the first civilian organization to create a memorial to World War II unsung hero Dorie Miller (1991).

The 2000s—Donated $1 million to Howard University to fund scholarships and preserve Black culture (2008); strengthened the reading skills of 16,000 children through a $1.5 million after-school demonstration project in low-performing, economically deprived, inner-city schools (2002); and improved the quality of life for people of African descent through the continuation of aid to African countries.

The 2010s—Focused on Achievement, Self-Awareness, Communication, Engagement, Networking, and Developmental Skills, the ASCEND℠ Program was designed to motivate, engage and assist high school students in reaching their maximum potential through academic enrichment and life skills training to support their journey to college or vocational employment; donated and distributed One Million Backpacks℠ filled with school supplies to students over a four-year period; launched AKA 1908 Playground Project℠ to ensure safe play areas for children through the restoration and renewal of 1,908 existing community and school playgrounds, and coordinated a national campaign, Think HBCU℠, to highlight HBCUs (2018); Launched Emerging Young Leaders, a bold move to prepare 10,000 girls in grades 6-8 to excel as young leaders equipped to respond to the challenges of the 21st century (2010).

The 2000s—Donated $1 million to Howard University to fund scholarships and preserve Black culture (2008); strengthened the reading skills of 16,000 children through a $1.5 million after-school demonstration project in low-performing, economically deprived, inner-city schools (2002); and improved the quality of life for people of African descent through the continuation of aid to African countries.

The 2020s—Focused on breast cancer with a signature mobile mammography unit that provided free mammograms to low-income individuals. Through HBCU initiative raised $1 million in one day for 4 consecutive years, and established an AKA-HBCU endowment at each HBCU. Produced a movie, Twenty Pearls which tells the story of Alpha Kappa Alpha. Established the Pearl Soror Membership Category. Started the Executive Leadership Academy which helped sorors in mid-level positions advance to the C Suite or sits on corporate boards.

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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