Alpha Kappa Alpha celebrates 100 years



Tara Powers

The members of Alpha Kappa Alpha – the first African-American sorority in the United States – commemorated the 100th anniversary of the sorority’s founding last week.

Alpha Kappa Alpha was organized in 1908 by nine female students at Howard University in Washington D.C. under the motto “By culture and by merit.” The sorority has since grown to become a national organization with chapters all over the United States.

“The bonds that sisters have over different areas have remained constant over the years,” said LeAnne Armstead, second vice president of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Villanova chapter. “There’s a common bond sisters carry with each other – the songs we sing, our history, how important our founders are, our dedication to service.”

From its inception, the organization says it has been committed to academic excellence and the development of leadership skills in its members.

Alpha Kappa Alpha also prizes community service, establishing a program known as ESP to work for expansion, success and progress within an empowered black community.

Several faculty and staff members at Villanova are members of Alpha Kappa Alpha, including Karima Bouchenafa of the Honors Program, Meredith Fitzpatrick of the Admissions Office and Nancy Lee of the Center for Multicultural Affairs.

The Sigma Lambda chapter is made up of black students at four area universities – Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, Swarthmore College and Villanova University. It is the first black sorority chapter on the Main Line and the only black sorority on Villanova’s campus.

“Some of our main values are sisterhood, scholarship and service,” Armstead said. ” ‘Service to all mankind’ is one of our slogans.”

The week of centennial events at Villanova came right before the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr., who was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s brother fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha.

“He stood for what we stand for – service, making the U.S. better for all people in general,” Armstead said.

The events of Founders’ Week were varied but centered around the Quad, where pink and green balloons were strung in honor of the sorority’s 100 years.

A candlelight vigil was held at the Oreo to celebrate Alpha Kappa Alpha’s century of dedication to service an Jan. 15. In recognition of the year in which the sorority was established, the vigil began at 19:08 hours, or 7:08 p.m. The next day, members of the Sigma Lambda chapter gathered in the same location to sing their sorority’s songs.

Alpha Kappa Alpha gave two performances on Jan. 17 and 18, consisting of circle stepping and a short step-and-stroll at the Oreo.

“I just hope that we’re more visible on campus – both who we are and what we stand for,” Armstead said. “Villanova is getting more diverse, but it’s not there yet.”

At the close of Founders’ Week on Jan. 18, Sigma Lambda held a Centennial Dinner in the West Lounge of Dougherty Hall.

“The dinner was really nice,” Armstead said. “A lot of people from other organizations, from other African-American fraternities and sororities, came out.”

The centennial celebration extends far beyond Villanova’s campus, though. Events will take place throughout the year, culminating in a week of festivities in Washington D.C. this July.

“I hope that Villanova students will know more about African-American sororities and that we can bridge the gap with other sororities,” Armstead said. “We’re not that different. Although we are an African-American sorority, we celebrate the same types of things.”