Anniversary celebration culminates this week

Published 10:32 pm Saturday, February 7, 2009

Throughout 2008, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority members celebrated the organization’s 100th anniversary.

AKA, a historically black sorority, was founded on the campus of Howard University on Jan. 15, 1908 by Ethel Hedgeman Lyle and nine other women. Throughout the years, the sorority has grown to more than 975 chapters around the world, with more than 200,000 members serving their community with projects in such areas as health care, education, the arts, family and scholarship.

The Suffolk chapter, Zeta Epsilon Omega, was founded on Feb. 14, 1954, and so is celebrating its 55th anniversary at the same time the national organization wraps up its centennial.

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“It means a lot,” said Janice Richison, president of the Suffolk chapter. “When you get the opportunity to give back, it’s very meaningful.”

The Suffolk chapter, which has about 60 members, has had a full year of events celebrating the centennial. Local chapter members attended Founders Weekend, on the campus of Howard University, in January 2008 to commemorate the founding of the organization. In April, local chapter members attended a regional conference with other chapters from Virginia and North Carolina. In July, the largest of the official celebrations occurred in Washington, D.C. at the national conference.

At that meeting, more than 30,000 AKA members from around the world attended the “Boule,” a bi-annual meeting of the sorority. The week-long meeting included workshops, luncheons and meetings. The sorority then joined with eight other historically black Greek letter organizations for a Capitol Hill March of 30,000. Leaders met with congressional representatives and successfully lobbied for the passage of legislation for improved health care, employment, education and civil rights.

The Washington event also included the unveiling of the first-ever Barbie doll commemorating a sorority. The AKA Centennial Barbie portrays a black woman dressed in a flowing pink and green (AKA colors) ball gown.

In addition to the national celebrations, the local chapter continued its regular activities, including the summer reading program, giving scholarships to graduating seniors, a health fair, a coat drive, giving Thanksgiving baskets to local families, and other activities. The chapter also participates in Relay for Life and the Million Pound Challenge.

The chapter will culminate the dual anniversary celebrations Feb. 14 with the Pink and Green Ball at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Suffolk. Proceeds from the event will help give scholarships to local students. For information on how to purchase tickets to the Pink and Green Ball, call 630-9474.