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2 ETSU sororities help black women become leaders of tomorrow

Jennifer Sprouse • Feb 16, 2013 at 10:09 PM

The college experience should be all encompassing –– make friends, study hard, get involved and have fun.

And one way to accomplish all of that would be to become a part of Greek Life.

Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta are two National Pan-Hellenic sororities at East Tennessee State University and both organizations, while small in numbers, carry an important message of sisterhood throughout the campus.

Both organizations were founded at Howard University in Washington by prominent, African American women, and were just five years apart in their founding years.

Latifah Majied, president of the Omicron Rho chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha at ETSU, said her group of eight women stay busy each semester, juggling school and sorority meetings, while also staying active in the community.

“Throughout the year we participate with … the (Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter) and we basically raise money to help … give them food and different things that they need,” Majied said. “We do the Second Harvest on campus. We also do (events with the) American Cancer Society.”

Raghda Elhindi, president of the Delta Sigma Theta chapter at ETSU, said nationally her sorority is celebrating its centennial this year, as well as recognizing a big accomplishment in their local chapter.

“Our local chapter here at ETSU is Rho Epsilon and this year we’re celebrating our 20th year. We were (chartered) in 1993,” Elhindi said. “We’re based on sisterhood, scholarship and service. We do a lot of community service on a local level, as well as a national level. We work with (the) American Heart Association closely and here we do a lot of after-school programs with … RiseUp or Boys and Girls Club.”

Both Majied and Elhindi are new chapter presidents this semester and said their constant leadership within their chapter is essential to maintaining members, as well as their charter.

“Everything you do has to go through the graduate adviser, so you have to keep in contact with that. Keep in contact with all of your girls, making sure everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to do and holding the positions they’re supposed to hold,” Majied said. “You also have to focus on your classes at the same time, because I take 23 credits, so it’s all of that plus all of my classes and just making sure that I stay on top of everything.”

Elhindi said a lot of planning is involved in leading her chapter, as well as making sure her members’ grade point average, as well as her own, is meeting the organization’s standards.

“You have to maintain at least a 2.5 (GPA) to even become active or … our national headquarters won’t even recognize us as an active member if we don’t have the GPA, so that’s always, always first,” she said. “One of our requirements to … even apply, you have to have a 2.75 (GPA) and so … girls who are interested that’s the first thing that we’ll tell them.”

And while both organizations do have get-togethers and sisterhood events, both Majied and Elhindi said they also do a lot of productive work to prepare their members for life after graduation.

“We talk about different life events, how you can get yourself ready for the real world, the business world, how to do resumes,” Majied said.

Both women said they feel they, as well as their members, have big shoes to fill when taking a look back at their founders.

Elhindi said her organization maintains the three guiding principles, but has modernized procedures to fit the era.

“Overall we have really the same goals, which is sisterhood, scholarship, service. That’s what we reach for, so that was their view (founders) when they created the organizations and we just kind of want to live it on and continue for another … hundred years and go from there,” Elhindi said. “Where it’s Black History Month … back then it was a little more difficult … with rights and everything. One of their (founders) major events that Delta first did was a Woman’s Suffrage March on Washington, D.C., so that’s huge and just to kind of know how far in general African Americans as a whole have progressed is just a lot. It’s awesome.”

Majied, who was not a stranger to Greek Life, as both of her brothers were members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, said one of the reasons she joined was because of “the sisterhood of the sorority. You have a bunch of women coming together for the same common goal. All of them are trying to strive to be better and they’re all helping out each other.”

She said she does appreciate what her sorority’s founders left for her, and said she does hope she can do her part to carry on the tradition.

“It’s overwhelming a little bit because it’s a great deal to see that the organization was started by strong, African American women, some of the women that were the … smartest and prominent at their time,” she said. “It kind of gives you a responsibility to continue it on. I love the fact that I do come from a small chapter and I didn’t come from a bigger chapter because you’re closer with your sisters and you’re always there. You know you’re always there to help each other and it’s just important for people to see that on campus, that there is still sisterhood.”

Elhindi said while 20 years is still relatively young for her chapter, she hopes she is a part of someone else’s college experience when they come to visit ETSU.

“I really enjoy going on other campuses and seeing something, or even a Delta (sister) with her letters or colors on, or a car. It just kind of excites me,” she said. “I want that to happen here (at) ETSU when … someone wants to come, that there will be Deltas.”

Both Majied and Elhindi said that while their organizations were started by young, black women, they do not discriminate against race or religion, saying that women with like beliefs and goals are welcome in their organizations.

“We’re for all women. Every race, every color,” Majied said.

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