Throughout the past six months, an Olympic-style torch has been making its way across the United States—and even parts of the world. Its ultimate destination is Howard University in Washington, D.C., where its arrival will mark the launch of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s 51st Convention from July 11-17.
The District is the ultimate stop of the multi-city Torch Tour, a symbolic relay that is among a slew of commemorations meant to honor the centennial anniversary of the sorority’s founding.
“Our motto is: Intelligence is the torch of wisdom. Our founders lit the torch 100 years ago [and] what they started here has impacted the world. So we wanted to carry on that torch,” said centennial chairwoman, the Rev. Dr. Gwendolyn E. Boyd, in an interview with the AFRO.
The Delta Torch is a “burning symbol of the passion and commitment of the organization’s global reach;” and, beginning Jan. 1, selected members of the sorority have carried the Torch to 22 cities, representing the 22 founders of the organization.
The tour was launched in Los Angeles, Calif., and wended its way through scheduled stops, including: Seattle; Denver; St. Louis; Oklahoma City; Dallas; Little Rock, Ark.; Chicago; Detroit; Cleveland; Mobile, Ala.; Atlanta and Augusta, Ga.; Tampa, Fla.; Greensboro and Charlotte, N.C.; New York; Baltimore; and New Orleans. It also went to Tokyo, Japan, and the Caribbean island of Bermuda.
The chosen cities are the hometowns of the organization’s living past-presidents and current Executive Committee members and the sites of two international chapters.
“The connection that the 22 selected cities on the torch tour have with Delta Sigma Theta is infused into the history of this organization,” said Delta National President Cynthia M. A. Butler-McIntyre, who hails from New Orleans, in a statement. “We honor our founders and past national presidents as we bring the flame they ignited in us so many decades ago back to their cities.”
At each stop, there were regionally and culturally appropriate celebrations – such as a Mardi Gras-type fête in New Orleans and a waterfront event in Seattle – that included historical reflections, music, acknowledgments from officials and more.
“The response in each city was tremendous,” said Boyd, who led in the arrangements of the events. “Our organization worked very hard to ensure the publicity was there and that the events were appropriate and timely.”
And beyond attendance, the events produced the outcomes that were expected, she added.
“It (the tour) was meant to celebrate but there’s always a programmatic angle to what we do,” Boyd said. “We were also using it to electrify young people to pursue their education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).”
For example, at one stop, 1,200 young people were invited to a local HBCU, where representatives from 50 companies in the STEM fields came to talk to them and offer information; one student also received a $22,000 scholarship for college.
“Delta Sigma Theta has remained a prominent force in the communities it serves for100 years,” Butler-McIntyre stated. “[But] we not only want to celebrate our founding and our accomplishments, but we also want to acknowledge those communities and leaders who have partnered with and stood by us as we collectively affected change throughout the U.S. and abroad.”
That pioneering spirit and dedication to public service is a flame officials say the sorority will continue to burn brightly as it lights their path into the next century.