The Beta Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. observed the 80th anniversary of the Memphis graduate chapter's chartering last Saturday (March 29th).
Approximately 200 members wearing the sorority's signature colors of pink and green were on hand for the ceremony, which featured inspirational words from fellow AKA member the Rev. Rosalyn Nichols, the keynote speaker of the program held at Middle Baptist Church-Whitehaven.
Nichols's message centered on the theme of "What Motivates a Woman." She drew parallels to how women of AKA share what is precious to them to help others, much like the woman described in the Gospel of Mark who poured expensive perfumed oil on Jesus from her alabaster jar.
"Rev. Nichols' words were not only inspirational, but motivational," said Cynthia Bryant Welch, chapter president. "She captured the essence of what our sorority is all about – service to others."
Welch, who is the 40th president of the chapter, paid tribute to past presidents. One highlight was an interview via Skype with Alma Roulhac Booth, who was the 7th chapter president (1946-48). Booth now lives in Pennsylvania with her son and daughter-in-law. Members of the audience sang Happy Birthday to Booth, who will celebrate her 100th birthday on April 15, 2014.
The event also included recognition of 15 sorority members who have achieved "Silver" status, meaning they've been AKAs for 25 years. One member, Beverly Williams-Cleaves, was recognized for reaching "Golden" status, or 50 years of membership. Dr. Williams-Cleaves is a Memphis endocrinologist.
A highlight of the Chapter Charter Day festivities was the unveiling of the chapter's new history book, "The Beta Epsilon Omega Story: A Profile of Timeless Service," edited by Gloria Tuggle.
The book spotlights the many service programs, youth development, scholarship initiatives and chapter accomplishments over the past eight decades. Since 1934, chapter service activities have ranged from the Mississippi Health Project in the 1930s to education, cultural arts, civil rights, women's rights, voter registration, economics, the Black family and global issues.
Beta Epsilon Omega was founded by eight college educated African-American women who wanted to recreate the positive and uplifting experiences they enjoyed when they were initiated into the sorority in college. The chapter was charted on March 24th, 1934 becoming the first graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha in Memphis and the 55th AKA graduate chapter nationwide.
The chapter grew quickly, from 13 members in 1934 (eight charter members and five initiates) to more than 450 currently. The growth has expanded to include intergenerational groups – new college graduates, members celebrating 25, 50 and 75 year milestones and even to family legacies of mothers, daughters and granddaughters.
"It's an honor to pay tribute to the founders of the Beta Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha," said Rose Jackson Flenorl, who chaired the event. "Memphis is a better place because of the significant contributions of hundreds of AKA women over the past 80 years."
Chapter Charter Day co-chairs were Pamela Shields and Sara Flowers-Dent. Stephanie Greer serves as the chapter's first vice president and Teleesa Payne Mason is the 2nd vice president.