By Alexis Taylor,
AFRO Managing Editor
Deabra Bennett Feaster had a choice to make. It was the early 1970s and the campus of Maryland’s first historically Black college, Bowie State University, was a melting pot bubbling over with Black excellence. Though she was surely destined for greatness, there was a question on the table: could she take it a step further?
Could she answer a higher call of service and social action?
Could she work tirelessly to push herself, her family, her community and her people forward?
Could she become a woman of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority?
Fifty- two years later, the answer is still a resounding “yes.”
“On the campus of Bowie State College– Bowie State University, now– certainly the Deltas were a force that served public service projects. I was very much interested in that
] of the sorority,” said Bennett Feaster, who also spoke on how she has seen the organization transform in the past five decades.
“I’ve seen the organization move towards the 21st century with the technology, but also with the global interactions that Delta’s have,” she said.
Bennett Feaster is proud that Delta Sigma Theta Sorority has continued to be a public service organization, adding that the “sisterhood has emerged and grown tremendously.”
“I don’t have sisters biologically,” she said. “I have Delta sisters from all over the world.”
The bonds of sisterhood were on full display inside of the Morgan State University’s Calvin and Tina Tyler Ballroom on Feb. 5. Bennett Feaster, along with hundreds of women in their finest crimson and cream, shared hugs and laughs over lunch in honor of the 22 women who began the organization 110 years ago.
“It’s more important than ever that we have a sisterhood because we need to depend on each other, as we are going through unprecedented times,” National President and Chair of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Elsie Cooke-Holmes, told the AFRO. “I know our founders went through unprecedented times back in 1913. As we fast forward to now, it’s more important than ever that we band together as sisters, that we continue to do the work for scholarship service and social action.”
Cooke-Holmes was keynote speaker for the Founders Day Luncheon, which was hosted by the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (BACDST). The women of BACDST will celebrate 101 years of service on March 19 of this year. The chapter was chartered as the first Delta chapter in the state of Maryland by six women– including one of the sorority’s original founders, Lula Vashti Turley Murphy, who in 1916 married Carl J. Murphy, AFRO publisher from 1922 to 1965.
Amanda Morgan joined BACDST in 2002, exactly 80 years after Murphy helped organize the chapter. Today, Morgan said the sisterhood is stronger than ever– even in 2023– when division and strife seem more popular than ever.
“There is no ‘cancel culture’ when you’re in a sorority,” said Morgan. “‘You can’t quit me’ –that’s what we say. This is a sisterhood for a lifetime– it means that this is the ultimate support. It feels good to know that I’m never alone in the world– no matter where I am.”
And the ladies of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority will certainly be on the move in 2023.
“Our agenda is based upon our five point programmatic thrust: economic development, educational development, international awareness and involvement, physical and mental health, and political awareness and involvement. Those things are issues where we need help,” said Cooke-Holmes. “We are very focused on the empowerment of women and girls. We are focused heavily on physical and mental health– especially through a new program that we’ve just begun called Live Well. We are focused on financial health and financial empowerment–especially for women and girls.”
When asked about the link between Black history and the women of her sorority, Cooke-Holmes said the records are clear.
“Delta Sigma Theta’s history is Black history,” she said.
“From the very beginning when our founders marched down Pennsylvania Avenue for women’s suffrage – even though black women didn’t get the right to vote for a number of years– that was historic,” Cooke-Holmes told the AFRO, of the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Parade, held just two months after the organization’s founding. “We have had so many members since that time to make history. We have to keep building, we have to keep moving forward, we can never rest on the laurels of our history, but we certainly always honor it.”