Sorority honors members’ work over 100 years

By Wesley Robinson

About 130 people attended last night’s celebration of the first black sorority’s 100th anniversary and the achievements of its members, who include Coretta Scott King, Toni Morrison and Alicia Keys.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. was founded on Jan. 15, 1908, by Ethel Hedgeman Lyle on the campus of Howard University. She recruited the initial group of nine members and began laying the groundwork for the organization in the spring of 1907.

Since becoming the first black sorority, AKA has been a leader in the black Greek community as the first to establish a permanent headquarters and the first to incorporate a national organization.

“Their contributions locally and nationally need to be acknowledged,” said Veleashia Smith, director of UK’s Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center.

“As a Greek, I know what it means and how hard they have to work,” Smith said. “This speaks volumes to African-American women.”

But Smith said she knows there’s more to be done.

Alise Marshall, president of UK’s AKA chapter, said that her time in the sorority has helped her grow as an individual and as a woman.

“It’s a lot of pressure — Coretta Scott King is my sorority sister,” Marshall said.

On campus, AKA members work on programs that include health promotion during “Think Pink Week,” where they provide information on several different health concerns, and during “Breast Cancer Awareness Week.”

One of the sorority’s major services in the community is tutoring at-risk youth at Bluegrass-Aspendale Teen Center.

The current UK chapter has been on campus since May 9, 1975 and has had 210 members. The current active membership is 24.

Social work senior and Vice President Erica McClellon said AKA has been a family to her and has made the collegiate experience more enjoyable.

Twins LaTonya and Yolanda Jackson grew up wearing the colors and the signature pearls of AKA, their mother’s sorority. When Yolanda, a dietetics senior, and LaTonya, a recent graduate, came to UK, they followed in their mom’s footsteps and both became members.

AKA members have been consistently successful, both in their academic work at the university and in their service to the community, said biology freshman, Aleidra Allen.

“Their service has been important because it’s a black organization; it started in a time with more racism,” she said. “It’s impressive that they started their own organization and began to do service as an organization and better black people.”

“They are trying to fulfill the purpose they were built on and better themselves as African-American women.”