DELTA SIGMA THETA SORORITY ARRIVES IN ATLANTA FOR ITS NATIONAL CONFERENCE …
by Mark Hayes
Nearly 35,000 Sorors from the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority arrived in Atlanta to bright red lights at Hartsfield Jackson Airport ready to work for social justice and the betterment of communities of color all around the world. The international organization of professional women also made some headlines by inducting some high-profile honorary members to the Sorority.
On day two of its 55th National convention, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. released its list of 2021 Honorary Members, which includes journalists from MSNBC Joy-Ann Reid, host of the Reid Out, and from CNN, Host Abby Phillip. Also among the distinguished list of honorary members is the Grammy Award-Winning singer, Ledisi. Ledisi has been nominated for numerous awards during her career which spans more than two decades, including 13 Grammy nominations. You might recall, earlier this year, she won a Grammy for the song “Anything For You.”
Rounding out the list of honorees, posted to the Sorority’s official Instagram page also includes Collette V. Smith, the NFL’s 1st Black female coach, former Navy Admiral Michelle J. Howard, Ambassador Attallah Shabbazz, daughter of Malcolm X. A very impressive group of women to say the least! Accompanying the post was this statement from the Sorority, “Honorary Membership is the highest honor extended to women who have made significant contributions to society while excelling in their chosen fields. It is with joy that we welcome these exemplary women into our beloved sisterhood!”
Other notable members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. include Angela Bassett, Ruby Dee, Aretha Franklin, and Cicely Tyson and Soledad O’brien.
Among the many members in attendance were past Presidents of the organization as well, including Thelma Daley. She was 16th President of the international organization and has been an instrumental figure in so many ways both within the sorority and in her professional pursuits.
Daley began her career at the Baltimore County Board of Education, serving as the coordinator for guidance and counseling services. She has also served as a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin and Harvard University. Daley has been devoted to her sorority as illustrated by her service. She served as the national treasurer from 1963 to 1967. Daley became national vice president in 1971, and in 1975 she became national president, holding the position for four years. And throughout the many years she says she learned firsthand the value of leadership, especially by African American women. Daley says, “ …. “ and that during these trying times amid the calls for social justice, “we must all do our part and to help secure the rights afforded to us as African Americans because it seems as if we are just going backward with things that we’ve already fought against. So we all have to do more and we all have to lead.”
We spoke with Madame President at a private reception in Southwest Atlanta, hosted by Stephen McDaniel, former National Officer for the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. The reception was filled with Divine 9 members and former National Officers to greet Ms. Daley who traveled from Annapolis to attend the convention. One topic of discussion is the unity of the Divine 9 and the call to action that each organization has answered, especially in the areas of social justice and voting rights.
“We’ve been here before,” says Mr. McDaniel. “Many things have changed since my initiation into the fraternity in 1970, but it seems as if we are still fighting some of the same battles especially when it comes to equity and inclusion, but the Divine 9 organizations are up to the challenge.” Mr. McDaniel says the unity is an often overlooked aspect of the organizations, “but the support for each other has never been greater!”
The energy from the efforts of the Divine 9 organizations like Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. has lead to record fundraising hauls for legacy organizations like the United Negro College fund. Mr. Jenkins is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and the Executive Vice President & Chief Development Officer at the UNCF. Mr. Jenkins says the outpouring of support has been “very encouraging”. He says, “we are seeing so many first time donors and small donations of five and ten dollars but it’s really making a huge difference!” The extra millions of dollars also leads to new kinds of scholarship opportunities to help students facing challenges like homelessness related to the pandemic, “now money is available to help students secure a place to stay while trying to continue their education.”