Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority has been in the spotlight recently as Kamala Harris — the first woman, the first Black woman, the first South Asian woman, and the first member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority –was elected Vice President of the United States in November. “Her story is our story,” her sorority sisters are quoted as saying. We would like to share the back story of AKA Sorority with you, because we are so very grateful for their partnership with Housing Families First, and because we are so very proud of all they do for our community.
Notable Sisters: Kamala Harris, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Maya Angelou
The mission of Alpha Kappa Alpha is to be of Service to All Mankind by addressing the critical issues that impact the lives of African Americans. Did you know that AKA Sorority is a member of the Divine Nine, a group of nine African American sororities and fraternities with a rich tradition of academic excellence and social progress? African American Greek life offers great opportunities to provide community outreach, gain leadership training and build lasting friendships. Kamala Harris is only one of many notable people who call themselves an Alpha Kappa Alpha sister. Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and Maya Angelou were members of this venerable sorority, as well!
“Get Your Boots On!”
The Omega Rho Omega chapter of AKA, started in 2017, is a relatively new chapter and serves Eastern Henrico, New Kent, and Charles City counties. Vice President and Program Chair Sherry Bassfield Tyler and Operation AKA Assist Co-Chair TMarie Hopkins were both elected to their positions in November of 2020, though they have a long history together; they’ve been sorority sisters since they were undergrads together at Hampton University in the late ’80s!
Sherry enjoys the grass roots level of getting out into the community and helping. She embraces the motto: “Service to All Mankind,” and she told us that their “get your boots on” philosophy of getting into the trenches and getting involved in the community is what it’s all about. This is exactly what ORO does. They get their boots on and jump right in.
Each chapter of AKA embraces five targets:
#1: Building Your Economic Legacy (Operation AKA Assist Program)
The Operation AKA Assist Program, part of “Building Economic Legacy,” is the program that works with Housing Families First and our families experiencing homelessness. On Martin Luther King Community Impact Day (Jan 18), Operation AKA Assist provided Housing Families First with 250 bags decorated with encouraging words and filled with snacks and drinks for our families entering shelter. These snack bags make a world of difference to families in crisis, and can provide a caring touch in a moment of stress for our clients.
In addition to the snack bags brought to HFF, ORO also sent 1000 canned goods to the Boxes of Blessings Program, and wrote 270 thank you cards to businesses to thank them for being there during the pandemic.
The Operation AKA Assist project’s direction has since sharpened in focused and will concentrate on the relationship it has with Housing Families First, with a goal of strengthening the partnership to raise awareness about homelessness. We are looking forward to seeing them again soon for our Evening Supper Program, when they will provide dinner for our clients in shelter.
This warm and caring group of women is the epitome of generosity in all its forms. One of our littlest shelter residents told TMarie, co-chair of Operation AKA Assist, that the ladies dropping off the snack bags were her “snack bag angels.” We agree. They are our angels, too!
Though this target is the one that directly impacts HFF, the other four are equally important and deserve recognition, as well:
#2: HBCU for Life: A Call to Action
ORO shared with its members and with us the powerful story of the rise, influence, and evolution of America’s HBCUs in the documentary: Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities.
#3: The Arts!
The ORO chapter will hold a virtual paint party in April! A local artist will be invited to instruct middle and high school students and chapter members on the Harlem Renaissance, which played a pivotal role in the development of African American art and culture. A fantastic time should be had by all, and supplies will be provided by the chapter.
#4: Women’s Impact and Wellness
Studies show that African Americans are 20% more likely to die of heart disease than non-Hispanic white Americans. The ORO chapter held a “Pink Goes Red” event for cardiovascular and heart disease in February, with the goal of raising awareness and encouraging education about heart disease in the African American community.
#5: Global Impact
Chapters worldwide are planning community service projects that will have a global impact, and ORO has several projects in the works already! Here are just a few:
* This week marks the beginning of a social media campaign on the importance of mask wearing and social distancing, including the newest information from the CDC. ORO recognizes the need for this messaging to come from trusted sources and wants to be sure that they do their part in the sharing of this information.
* ORO’s “Soles 4 Souls” campaign will collect hundreds of pairs of shoes for people in need. We will be delighted to share the donation information once it becomes available!
* June 20th is World Refugee Day, which ORO will celebrate with a virtual discussion panel of two refugees of African descent, partnering with organizations that provide assistance to refugees.
More great projects are on the way, and ORO will continue to create a positive change in their community each and every day!
“A group of women who reign supreme in sisterhood, scholarship, and service to all mankind.”
Sherry, TMarie, and all the women of ORO live their lives in the service of others. They strive to put their community first every day. The five tenants, or “targets,” listed above are designed to advance the mission of Alpha Kappa Alpha with excellence and underscore their commitment to sustainable service.
The women of ORO address the critical issues that impact the lives of African Americans in their community and do so with a selfless enthusiasm that is truly beautiful. We are grateful for their dedication to those around them, in particular the families at Housing Families First.