|ALPHA KAPPA ALPHA's FOUNDERS' DAY CELEBRATION ATTRACTS MEDIA ATTENTION|
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority's 103rd Founders' Day Celebration attracted media coverage from radio, television, print, the blogosphere and the university outlets. This article from the Arkansas Democrat, Little Rock's major daily, captures highlights of this historic event.
To celebrate its birth, sorority serves others
Hundreds of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority members gather
Keeping true to the group’s mission of “Service to All Mankind,” the group performed 16 service projects in honor of its 16 founding members. When not working, the women, all adorned somehow in their pink and green sorority colors, toured Little Rock’s historic sites.
Saturday, the women gathered at Central High School to honor the Little Rock Nine during a ceremony where poet, author and sorority member, Sonia Sanchez read a poem she wrote for the occasion in which she chanted the names of the Little Rock Nine as well as those of the sorority’s founders.
Little Rock Central High School became internationally known in 1957, when nine black students integrated the school. Until then, segregation laws barred black students from Central.
“I’m old enough to remember seeing them on TV, and I thought how brave they are,” Sanchez said after the ceremony. “We came here to celebrate the legacy of the Little Rock Nine, of those young people who stood up and said ‘We are not inferior. We deserve to be here.’”
While event organizers were still tallying the sum of their work Saturday, Carolyn House Stewart, the group’s international president, shared highlights with the packed auditorium after presenting a $2,500 check to the Central High Visitors Center. Stewart also noted that the group donated $50,000 to the Little Rock-based charity Heifer International.
She also proclaimed that the sorority donated 1,000 pairs of shoes, 20 coats, and 6,470 scarves and pairs of gloves to local charities. To local schools, the group donated more than 5,800 books and magazines.
The sorority members also cleaned up at the home of the late civil-rights activist Daisy Bates, weatherized the homes of six senior citizens and held a health fair/blood drive.
Saturday was capped by a social-justice and human rights gathering featuring such national leaders as Roslyn Brock, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; National Urban League Executive Director Annelle Lewis; former Heifer International Chief Executive Officer Charles Stewart; and Minniejean Brown Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine who is also a member of the sorority.
Founded in 1908, on the Howard University campus in Washington, D.C., Alpha Kappa Alpha is the nation’s oldest black sorority, with 260,000 members internationally. Stewart said the sorority focuses on cities with historical significance, particularly for women and members of minority groups, when choosing locations for founders’ day celebrations.
“I was 5 years old in a segregated school when the Little Rock Nine occurred. Little Rock is part of who we are in history,” Stewart said. “The Little Rock Nine are just as important to our history as the Emancipation Proclamation. Basically, they challenged our right to have America deliver on the promises of the Constitution.”
Little Rock-area sorority members said they were thrilled to have the event in their hometown this year. Little Rock police Sgt. Cassandra Davis said it “was a moving experience” to share with her sorority sisters Little Rock’s history.
Phyllis Caruth, a past president of the local sorority chapter, said Central High School holds a special place in her heart.
“I taught in room 145 until I retired in 2004,” she said. “It’s wonderful to have my sorors here. It brings back so many memories.”
This article was published January 16, 2011 at 3:17 a.m.