By: Jason Schwartz
Since receiving its charter from Regional Director Mary Shy Scott in 1983, the South Palm Beach County Alumnae chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority has been on the move.
From the initial 20 members to the current 50, the chapter has grown in membership, programs and service. But it’s never forgotten its charter members and founding values.
The chapter will observe its 30-year anniversary Feb. 23 with a luncheon at Benvenuto restaurant in Boynton Beach. The celebration, themed “Thirty Years of Continuous Leadership and Timeless Service – Hats off to Great Leadership”, will begin at 12 noon.
“In conjunction with our theme, we’re going to be recognizing people who have made accomplishments in five different areas,” said Deborah Nix, a retired educator who was a member of the sisterhood’s first line in 1984. The Xi Pi Omega chapter, as it is officially called, serves the Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach areas.
Conceived as a social and service organization by undergraduate Ethel Hedgeman Lyle and founded on the campus of Howard University, AKA was the nation’s first black sorority.
When AKA began, blacks were largely confined to a handful of black colleges, and the terrorism of lynching was on its way to claiming thousands of lives. In those days, being “on line” was a term reserved for dressing alike, learning history, and learning ritual steps and songs along with all the other “Ivies” who made up your pledge class, longtime members said.
Some members have lived to see profound changes both at the national and local level.
“One of the things that was significant back when the chapter was chartered in 1983, a lot of the women were from this area,” Nix said. “Whereas now, because of the growth of the area, we’re getting a lot of members from out of state and a number of young women who’ve gone to college, gotten an education and have returned home.”
Today’s membership is comprised of a cross section of avocations compared to its inception when it was mostly educators, members added.
“We used to have educators but today we have members from a broad range of employment – medicine, social services and people who own their own businesses,” she said.
Today, AKA has more than 200,000 members nationally, and the women who joined in the decades after Nix benefited from an established network of professionals. The organization boasts civil rights leaders, judges, doctors, lawyers and educators, and membership has meant that there is usually another AKA close by, ready to do an extra bit of looking out. The organization counts the late civil rights activists Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, actresses Phylicia Rashad, Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Jada Pinkett and singer Alicia Keys among its members.
Notable members of the Xi Pi Omega chapter include the late H. Ruth Pompey, one of its charter members, retired educators Nadine Hart and Dorothy Walker, Mary Randolph and Helen Condry.