As 2013 began, members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. kicked off a year-long celebration of the organization’s centennial anniversary. On New Year’s Day, dozens of members made history by marching in the 124th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Ca. This was the first time an African-American organization sponsored a float in the renowned parade.
The women of Delta’s Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter kept the centennial emotions running high when, on Jan. 5, more than 300 women gathered for a special rededication ceremony and luncheon at Warnock Place, the North Philadelphia building where the chapter holds its regular membership meetings. Members paid homage to the 22 young women who founded the organization on January 13, 1913, on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Maxine C. Harvey, current chapter president, and members of the Past Presidents Council provided a moving overview of the organization’s history as heralded in “In Search of Sisterhood,” a 1988 book written by highly respected author and Delta Paula Giddings. The book is a part of the 2012–13 National Reading Circle collaboration between the sorority’s National Commission on Arts and Letters and the Delta Foundation’s Center for Research on African American Women. Each past president presented an overview of an era in the organization’s rich history as the Philadelphia Alumnae Quartet sang a selection of songs speaking to the service, sisterhood and strength Delta has been known for through the years.
Dr. Constance E. Clayton, the first African American and woman to be named superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, gave a moving account of the sorority’s early years, including the progress made during the term of its first national president, the late Sadie T.M. Alexander, who led the organization from 1919 to 1923. Alexander was also a charter member of Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter, which was charted in 1927 as Xi Sigma Chapter. The name was changed to Philadelphia Alumnae when the sorority’s new categorization system assigned only collegiate chapters with Greek names. During her term, Alexander was a strong advocate for education and spearheaded the implementation of May Week as an inspiration for Black students to further their education.
Today, the more than 250 Delta chapters throughout the world continue planning May Week activities that place an emphasis on the importance of education. Clayton’s overview of the sorority’s years under Alexander brought many to tears. Clayton became emotional also as she discussed just how much Alexander, the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in the United States and the first woman to receive a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, meant to her personally and professionally. Clayton ended her remarks by noting the pride she felt in playing a role in the creation of the district’s prestigious Penn Alexander School, named in honor of Alexander.
C. Gloria Akers is a member of the National Commission on Arts and Letters and a past president of Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter who developed the concept of the event.
“I wanted for all of those in attendance to have an opportunity to share the challenges and strengths that our organization has tackled and embraced over the last 100 years while having a chance to discuss how these will impact the sorority over the next 100 years,” Akers said. She is one of 10 of the chapter’s 11 living past presidents who led the discussion. “The women who have held leadership roles in Philadelphia Alumnae were perfect role models to review Delta’s history from the beginning to present day for our chapter members.”
Maxine C. Harvey is the current and 31st president of Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter. “I hope each and every member who joined us during this beautiful time of reflection and recommitment is even more proud to be a member and a part of chapter whose work has made an impact locally, regionally and on the national stage,” Harvey said. “As every Delta celebrates this most special milestone of celebrating 100 years, I hope we all are more committed to honoring our pledge to serve the community, especially those of us who work tirelessly to provide services to Philadelphia and the surrounding communities as we move into the next 100 years.”
Congratulations, and very best wishes are extended to Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter.
Have a fantastic week “Out & About,” everyone!