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What was on their minds? — Darla Davenport-Powell, Gamma Iota Chapter ’77

delta founders

I remember the day that my parents drove me to Hampton Institute, my new “home by the sea!” There was excitement in the air. Student leaders greeted us with open arms. Fraternity members assisted us with our luggage and heavy trunks. There was much to do before gathering at Ogden Hall for our orientation.

I was the first person in my family to attend college; a lot was riding on my success. Needless to say, I had a lot on my mind. Would I be as successful in college as I was in high school? Would I continue to hold fast to Christian principles with this new found freedom? Could I balance work study, extracurricular activities, and academics with my entrepreneurial endeavors? Moreover, what year would I pledge Delta?

Today, January 13, 2013 Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. turns 100 years old. As I think about what was on my mind as an undergrad with dreams, goals and drive; I can’t help but reflect on those 22 young women at Howard University who founded our esteemed sorority. What was on their minds?

Didn’t they know that society had low expectations for them to succeed let alone lead and achieve? Did they know that their collective vision would empower 200,000 women domestically and globally to take up the same banner of revolutionary leadership? What was on their minds when they decided to participate in the Women’s Suffrage March in Washington, D.C., when African-Americans were still viewed as 3/5ths of a person and white women didn’t take too kindly to them joining “their movement?”

If Winona Cargile Alexander, Madree Penn White, Wertie Blackwell Weaver, Vashti Turley Murphy, Ethel Cuff Black, Frederica Chase Dodd, Osceola Macarthy Adams, Pauline Oberdorfer Minor, Edna Brown Coleman, Edith Mott Young, Marguerite Young Alexander, Naomi Sewell Richardson, Eliza P. Shippen, Zephyr Chisom Carter, Myra Davis Hemmings, Mamie Reddy Rose, Bertha Pitts Campbell, Florence Letcher Toms, Olive Jones, Jessie McGuire Dent, Jimmie Bugg Middleton, and Ethel Carr Watson were here today, I would ask them what was on their minds?

I can imagine them saying: “You were on our minds—bold, brilliant, beautiful women of promise. We started this organization of service as a platform to build a better world and a brighter tomorrow. Keep on keeping on!”

Happy Centennial Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated!

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