Alpha Kappa Alpha celebrates 100 years
Forty-five years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, most African-Americans were still struggling to attain basic human rights and very few attended college. In 1908, however, nine young women at Howard University built a support system for themselves and resolved to create change—through education, community service and sisterhood—for Black people everywhere. Today their organization, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (AKA), which celebrates its hundredth anniversary this year, boasts 200,000 members worldwide, including writer Toni Morrison, astronaut Mae C. Jemison and musician Alicia Keys.
– Mashaun D. Simon
Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys joined the historic organization as an honorary member in 2004.
“As a group, they had more privilege than those around them,” says AKA president Barbara A. McKinzie about the original nine members. “They had to answer the question, ‘How do we give back?’” Throughout its history, the sorority has responded to this query with such initiatives as taking medical care to rural Black populations, teaching work skills, facilitating job placement, and sending school supplies to children in Africa. The theme of McKinzie’s presidency, E.S.P.—Economics, Service and Partnership—promotes nontraditional entrepreneurship and economic empowerment. “After 100 years, the same thinking is alive and well,” says McKinzie. “The principles on which we were founded are still relevant today.”
– Mashaun D. Simon
Beloved TV mom and Emmy-nominated actress Phylicia Rashad became a member of the Alpha chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., while attending Howard University.
Poet and author Maya Angelou joined the nation’s first African-American sorority in 1983 as an honorary member.
Original Dreamgirl and actress Loretta Devine was initiated into the Epsilon Lambda Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc at the University of Houston.
During the sorority’s Diamond Jubilee Celebration in 1984, powerhouse singer Gladys Knight, who performed with the Pips, was inducted as an honorary member.
AKA member and media entrepreneur Cathy Hughes continues to be a major influence in urban broadcasting.
Star Jones is also a member of the sorority.
The First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement Coretta Scott King was the model AKA because of her tireless community service.
Dr. Mae Jemision, honorary member and the first African-American woman astronaut, showed her AKA pride when she carried the sorority’s flag with her during her first flight in 1992.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, with the help of Hillary Clinton, celebrated 100 years of the sorority’s sisterhood in January, revealing that a special tribute would be placed in the Congressional Record.