As members of the world’s largest African-American women’s Greek-letter organization descended on the nation’s capital in a mid-July blanket of crimson and cream, it became clear to even the most baffled tourist that the women of Delta Sigma Theta are a force to be reckoned with.
More than a century after being the only Black group in the historic Women’s Suffrage March in 1913, an estimated 40,000 Deltas swarmed Washington D.C. from July 11 to July 17, for their 51st national convention—and 100th birthday.
Inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest D.C. July 15, and throughout the city, thousands of women, many of whom had traveled thousands of miles for the event, created a sea of the sorority’s colors as they celebrate Delta’s 100th anniversary.
“We are here celebrating years of sisterhood and community service,” said Beverly Goss, who pledged in 1994 and traveled from New Jersey. She said, “It’s great to see all of our college educated black women come together and let the world know that we are Delta Sigma Theta.”
The weeklong celebration began July 11with the lighting of the Delta Torch at Howard University, where the sorority was founded. Throughout the week, sorority sisters attended step shows, committee meetings, “shopping time”, heard music from the Delta Choir and attended a Signature Gala.
There was a concert July 13 with performances by singers Patti LaBelle, India Arie, Roberta Flack.
There was an ecumenical worship service July 14 conducted by Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, granddaughter of one of the sorority founders and the first female elected bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and a gospel concert at the Verizon Center featuring Fred Hammond, Yolanda Adams, Byron Cage and The Joe Johnson Band.
They also added to an already impressive list of Deltas by inducting some important Black women as honorary sisters. They are actress Angela Bassett; Essence Magazine former Editor-in-Chief Susan L. Taylor; former Environmental Protection Agency chief and chemical engineer Lisa P. Jackson; Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook; entrepreneur Paula Williams Madison and inspirational speaker and author Dr. Tererai Trent.
During the weekend, ladies young and seasoned, endured the beginning of a heat wave in the name of sisterhood but also to renew old ties. Long separated friends reunited after decades of being apart with hugs as they came to support their organization. Inside the convention center, the “Delta Dears’ convened, as many haven’t saw one another in years. Delta Dears are active members who are over the age of 62.
Delta Dear Elogene C. Hughes flew in from West Palm Beach, Fla. to partake in the centennial. Hughes has been an active member of Delta Sigma Theta since 1961 and said, “it’s been wonderful since the first day I went over on line at Knoxville College.” She said, “seeing how many changes that have been made and how being a part of this has changed America. It’s great to see the level of growth.”
Delta Dear Lorelei Blackman a 1935 pledge, traveled from New York City and said she wouldn’t miss this for the world. She said, “My mother is a Delta, my grandmother was a Delta and I have numerous aunts who are a part of this great organization,”
“It’s a service and I love doing work in the community and helping and encouraging people,” said Blackman.
Blocks away from the convention center, younger sorority sisters hung out at area restaurants, café’s and tourist attractions. Four young line sisters from North Carolina, who were 2010 pledges, were thrilled to be a part of this historical occasion.
“This is something that we couldn’t miss. Delta Sigma Theta is a great sorority,” said 20-year-old T’kiyah Outlaw.
As many Deltas throughout D.C. reflected on their feelings about the organization, a majority agreed that Delta Sigma Theta is a lifetime of sisterhood, friendships and celebration.
As a past president of Delta Sigma Theta, Frankie Muse Freeman is, at 96, the oldest member in attendance at the convention. Freeman, 96, a civil rights attorney, is a graduate of Hampton. She remains active in her sorority and in community service initiatives.
“Through all the years of being a member of such a great origination, Delta Sigma Theta has instilled a sense of pride in who we are,” Gross told the AFRO.