International First Vice President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Danette Anthony Reed (left); and Tau made AKA Regional Director Mary Bentley-LaMar (left) with 105-year-old Dorothy Boggess (center), diamond member of Xi Omega chapter, and Carrie J. Clark, Great Lakes Regional Director (right). (Photos Courtesy of Facebook AKA North Atlantic Region/ Cynthia Thomas Finch)

By Nicole D. Batey

A sea of pink and green washed over downtown Baltimore as the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority hosted its 91st North Atlantic Regional Conference, from April 21 to 24. This was the sorority’s first in-person regional conference since the beginning of the pandemic started. The event was held inside of the Baltimore Convention Center.  

Founded in 1908 at Howard University, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (AKA) is one of the country’s nine Black sororities and fraternities, known as the Divine Nine. 

The Divine Nine are recognized by the National Pan-Hellenic Council, an umbrella council group composed of historically Black fraternities and sororities.

The sorority, which includes 986 undergraduate and graduate chapters in 50 states and internationally, is 265,000 strong in membership.  Mary Bentley LaMar is the regional director of the Notable North Atlantic Region, stretching from Vermont to Washington, D.C. 

In preparation for the more than 5,000 members attending the conference, COVID-19 protocols were enforced. Each registrant received a test kit from the organization prior to the event and had to test negative to attend. Their results had to be submitted prior to coming to the conference. Registrants also had to wear masks indoors.

Sorority member, Shanice Cook, couldn’t wait to see her line sisters and other members of the conference.

“It was exciting to be in the room with each other again—all the sisters together. We were able to hug, catch up on one another’s lives, and discuss the great work being done by our organization,” said Shanice Cook, a general member of AKA, initiated at Morgan State University’s Alpha Delta Chapter. 

One of the highlights of the conference was at the meeting on April 21, where Mayor Brandon Scott personally welcomed the sorority to Baltimore City. Other Greek organizations represented within the Divine Nine attended in support of the sorority.

Events included a Friday night high-energy step show and stroll competition and a Saturday evening awards gala, where different chapters of the organization were recognized for some of their achievements throughout the year. Other activities included a pop-up health fair, business sessions, various workshops, networking opportunities, and a closing Sunday worship service.

“I hope that everyone had an amazing time at the 91st North Atlantic Regional Conference and had safe traveling mercies back home. Thank you for painting Charm City pink and green,” said AKA Regional Director Mary Bentley-LaMar, in a message to sorority members on her Facebook page. “Thank you for the sisterhood and the service this weekend! The Notable North Atlantic showed out and Baltimore is still abuzz over our presence here.” 

“We have definitely accomplished our mission of raising our voices to new heights in Baltimore,” Bentley-LaMar continued.

The AKA members hosted a fundraising walk with other organizations to help bring awareness to sickle cell disease, a disease that disproportionately affects African Americans. There was also support for Girl Trek, a life-saving campaign of Black women to heal intergenerational trauma, fight systemic racism and transform Black lives through the power of walking.

“I take a lot of pride in being a member of the first black sorority, an organization where we put God first and stand for high scholastic standards, service and sisterhood,” said Cook.

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