Founders Weekend Draw Deltas from Across the County, World
The crimson and white colors of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority promises to maintain a presence in the nation's capital for a large part of the year.
As the largest African-American Greek-lettered sorority in the world celebrated its 100th anniversary in D.C., many of the more than 13,000 who attended the three-day celebration have already made plans to participate in two more Delta events, including the March 3 re-enactment of the 1913 Women's Suffrage March and the sorority's annual convention planned for July.
"We want people to understand that we are still an organization that is called to serve," Gwendolyn Boyd, past president and event chair, told several thousand cheering Deltas who gathered early Friday, Jan. 11 at Howard University's John Harold Burr Gymnasium in Northwest to kick off the weekend.
"When we gather, we gather to render service in every community," said Boyd, 62.
The crimson shirts, sweaters and jackets with Delta Sigma Theta's logo could be spotted throughout Washington where the group participated in various activities that supported its mantra, which is to serve.
Members participated in 22 community service projects throughout the District of Columbia to help honor the 22 black women who founded the organization.
Throughout the weekend, the group also was expected to participate in traditional song near Fortitude statue, assist in art exhibits and to work and help vendors and others around the District.
The sorority's community service projects on the first day of activities included helping workers at Food & Friends in Northeast, putting together Black History Month pamphlets and archiving audio files at the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House in Northwest, and giving career motivation tips to those seeking to obtain or maintain employment at a women's Dress For Success event at the Salvation Army in Southeast.
"This is very special," said Keisha Nelson, a University of Maryland at Baltimore graduate who pledged in 2008. Nelson joined about a dozen other Deltas who helped prepare meals at Food & Friends, a nonprofit that cares for men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses by preparing and delivering specialized meals and groceries.
"Community service is doing the work that our founders did and it is what we are all about," said Nelson, 37.
"Public service is near and dear to me and has been since I was a child," said Donna Springs, 62, who pledged 42 years ago while attending D.C. Teachers College. Springs, Nelson, Elshanda Chapman, 39, D'Angela Pitts, 25, and Brea Onokpise, 31, were among the Deltas at Food & Friends.
Serving is what the sorority was built on and what it has enjoyed a stellar reputation of doing, said Allora Cyrus, a Virginia State University graduate.
"We have big shoes to fill," Cyrus, 51, said of the 22 Delta founders and the community service work they were known for. "The one thing I focus on is social action and we work on African-American issues that affect us daily," said Cyrus, who helped put together illustrated books at the historic Mary McLeod Bethune Council House.
The books are geared toward helping educate children about Black History Month.
Founded at Howard University on Jan. 13, 1913, Delta Sigma Theta has more than 300,000 members in over 1,000 chapters around the world. The 22 women who started the sorority had an immediate impact when they marched for women's suffrage just two months after the group was founded.
During ceremonies to mark the anniversary, a stained-glass window representing the founders was unveiled at Howard University and the Deltas for Howard presented the school's president, Sidney A. Ribeau, with two $25,000 checks to help provide an education for students whom the group said might have little financial means.
The Deltas for Howard is a support organization at the school and members of Delta Sigma Theta who are alumnae, administrators, faculty, staff, students and retirees.
The weekend celebration included a visit from some of the sorority's famous including actress Daphne Maxwell-Reid and her husband, actor and director Tim Reid.
A gala to honor Johnnetta B. Cole, Bill and Camille Cosby, Andrew Young, Tom Joyner, United States Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and others was also planned.
The Deltas Washington plans are scheduled to continue in March when the group organizes to mark the anniversary of their founders' participation in the March 3, 1913 suffrage march.
A weeklong convention is planned at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest beginning July 11.
"We have a lot to talk about," Cynthia Butler-McIntyre, the sorority's national president told cheering sorority members at Howard University. "This (Howard University) is where our founders roamed and where they called home. Delta Sigma Theta is here to stay," she said.