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Alpha Kappa Alpha celebrates 100 years

100 years ago today, nine black female students met in Miner Hall on the campus of Howard University in Washington, DC. Of that meeting, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority was born. The organization's colors: salmon pink and apple green and its motto: "By culture and merit". Since that day, the organization has grown to approximately 200,000 members. I am honored to be one of those 200,000 members.

Do take a look at highlights of the organization's past by visiting the Centennial Celebration Web site, an online commemoration of the courageous achievements of a dynamic group of women. The site also includes wonderful resources that frame the sorority's accomplishments in light of the changing times in the world.

The organization's membership remains predominantly black but is comprised of women of various ethnicities. Click here for a video presentation of this organization's remarkable history.

Here are some of the Sorority's innovative programs:

The Mississippi Health Project

An outgrowth of the desire to improve educational conditions among children in rural Mississippi, the Mississippi Health Project brought primary medical care to people who struggled to receive the most basic health care. The Alpha Kappa Alpha Mobile Clinic, invented to handle the large number of people for whom the project was designed, became the first mobile health clinic system in the U.S. The project was active for two to six weeks, each summer from 1935 to 1942, and was a model for agencies and other organizations.

The Non-Partisan Lobby

A growing sense of obligation to participate in government and share in policy level decisions affecting minorities led to the creation, in the late '30s, of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Non-Partisan Council—the first fulltime congressional lobby for minority group rights. The Council served the interests of Black women in the nation's capital and surpassed the National Association of Colored Women as the premier advocate for Black women in Washington, D.C. In existence for 10 years, it won national and international respect and led to the establishment of the American Council on Human Rights. It was also the first sorority or fraternity organization recognized as an accredited observer by the United Nations.

American Council on Human Rights

At the suggestion of Alpha Kappa Alpha's Supreme Basileus Beulah Whitby, other Greek-letter organizations were invited to cooperate in the Sorority's Non-Partisan Lobby Program. Representatives of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Phi Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Sigma Gamma Rho, Zeta Phi Beta and Kappa Alpha Psi joined forces to form the American Council on Human Rights. For 15 years, the Council played a major role in bringing the combined strength of more than 100,000 college-educated women and men behind the effort to press for civil rights.

Cleveland Job Corps Center

Beginning operation in 1965, the Cleveland Job Corps Center was a programmatic mainstay of the Sorority. Young adults who attended the center represented multiracial ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The Job Corps concept was initiated under President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Alpha Kappa Alpha was the first women's organization awarded a contract to operate the center in Cleveland—the first residential training center for women. It provided residents with education, vocational training and work experience.

Leadership Fellows Program

Started in 1979, the Leadership Fellows Program was designed to help undergraduate members develop the necessary skills to assume job responsibilities in the workplace. A concentrated 3-tier initiative, objectives include training and development, student internships, job placement and mentoring. At the end of the week-long program, participants are required to formally present case studies on various business–related scenarios. Several members of the Sorority's leadership team serve as mentors, and corporate America partnerships help expose the young women to environments they will eventually have to navigate.

African Village Development Program & International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH)

Unique programs that demonstrate Alpha Kappa Alpha's bond with people of Africa include the African Village Development Program (AVDP) and the partnership with the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH). Launched jointly with Africare, AVDP allowed chapters to interact directly with a specific village. The adopted villages received support of sustainable development projects targeting African women and became a model for a comprehensive development assistance program for other Black fraternal and civic organizations. The IFESH collaborative effort resulted in the Sorority's building 10 schools in post-apartheid South Africa.

Chances are you either know or know of an Alpha Kappa Alpha woman. We are educators, physicians, businesswomen, astronauts, entertainers, beauty queens, politicians, athletes, military leaders and media moguls.

Here is a brief listing of some famous Alpha Kappa Alpha women:

  • Marian Anderson
  • Maya Angelou
  • Vanessa Bell Calloway
  • BeBe Moore Campbell
  • Suzette Charles
  • Olivia Cole
  • Marva Collins
  • Julie Dash
  • Suzanne DePasse
  • Loretta Devine
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Zina Garrison
  • Marla Gibbs
  • Althea Gibson
  • Gwendolyn Goldsby Grant
  • Carmen De Lavallade Holder
  • Catherine Hughes
  • Mae Jemison
  • Star Jones-Reynolds
  • Sharon Pratt Kelly
  • Alicia Keys
  • Coretta Scott King
  • Gladys Knight
  • Jessye Norman
  • Arthelle Neville
  • Nichelle Nichols
  • Hazel O. Leary
  • Rosa Parks
  • Jo-Marie Payton
  • Phylicia Rashad
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Ntosake Shange
  • Jada Pinkett Smith
  • Wanda Sykes
  • Debbye Turner
  • Madame Leah Tutu
  • Iyanla Vanzant
  • Marjorie Judith Vincent
  • Lynn Whitfield
  • Cassandra Wilson

Related Links:

Alpha Kappa Alpha Quick Facts

Alpha Kappa Alpha Founders

Alpha Kappa Alpha Timeline