This year the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. celebrates 100 years. Events focused on the centennial celebration have included forums to improve international awareness, virtual choral concerts, fundraisers and of course- opportunities to engage in community service with a primary focus on the Black community.

By Alexis Taylor,
Special to the AFRO

For the past 24 months the illustrious ladies of the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. have been steadily marching towards the 100th anniversary of their founding.

Leaving a trail of service behind them, the oldest chapter in the state of Maryland has blazed a path for the African American community for 99 years.

From the schoolhouse to the courthouse, the women of the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter have made an indelible mark that refuses to fade over time.

“We have a stellar past and a promising future,” said President Arlene Wongus. “I truly believe that the chapter is full of so much talent- Delta itself is full of talent. In just about any field of endeavor that you can name, there’s a representation at some level there.”

The first black woman in Maryland to be elected to the State Senate, Verda Freeman Welcome, served as a member of the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter.

Esteemed educators like Mae Peck-Williams and Dr. Joan J.K. Pratt- who recently celebrated her 100th birthday- served as chapter president in the past. Peck also led the organization as a whole from 1944 to 1947 as national president.

A total of two national presidents and four regional directors have all come from the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter, which now has more than 500 members in an organization of more than 1,000 collegiate and alumnae chapters in North America and 17 international countries.

The Epsilon Sigma graduate chapter- now the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.- was born of prestige. It was founded in part by one of the sorority’s 22 founders, Vashti T. Murphy, wife of the legendary AFRO American Newspapers publisher, Carl J. Murphy.

The Epsilon Sigma graduate chapter- now the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter- was born of prestige. It was founded in part by one of the sorority’s 22 founders, Vashti T. Murphy, wife of the legendary AFRO American Newspapers publisher, Carl J. Murphy. 

Murphy, along with Margarite Paige, Meta A. Redden, Louise H. Cook, Irene K. Triggs and two associate members formed the chapter that would later be renamed the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter in 1956. 

“Having been developed as an organization of sisterhood, scholarship, service and social action, I hope that we are hitting the mark of their vision,” said Wongus, the 51st president of the chapter. “I hope they are proud that we are continuing to pursue their vision of elevating the race and helping those less fortunate.”

As the ladies of the chapter approach 100 years they are still walking in the purpose set by the founders, who aimed to provide assistance and support through established programs in local communities throughout the world. 

Today, the women of the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter can be found operating programs directly in line with improving economic development, educational development, international awareness and involvement, physical and mental health, and political awareness and involvement. Through programs like Backpacks to Briefcases, Delta GEMs, Courageous Conversations, voter registration drives and World AIDS Day events, the women continue to affect positive change for communities in need.

Events focused on the centennial celebration have included forums to improve international awareness, virtual choral concerts, fundraisers and of course- opportunities to engage in community service with a primary focus on the Black community. 

Hundreds of items for the oldest nursing home in Maryland have been collected through the “Senior Cheer Bag Donation Days” and donated to the Maryland Baptist Aged Home, established in 1920.

“Acts of service is what our sorority is all about. We have not forgotten the elders of our community, they are still thought of and honored,” said Dawn Mabin Hawkins, who helped lead the Senior Cheer Bag Donations.  “We also wanted to help the Maryland Baptist Aged Home and shed light on the wonderful things that they’re doing to help our elderly.”

The Senior Cheer Bag Donations began in September, when the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter began collecting toiletries, activity books and games, white towels and bath cloths, pajamas and personal protective equipment to guard the health of senior citizens in the pandemic. 

The final drop date for the Senior Cheer Bag Donations will be Feb.5, 2022 between 11am-2pm at the Delta Community Center, located at 2501 Springhill Ave., in the Park Heights neighborhood.

Aside from donating to the nursing home, the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter has also held a series of donation days for local shelters. “Depends” disposable undergarments, twin size bedding, non-perishable food, new pots and pans, and toiletries are all being collected. The next two dates for the Adopt-A-Shelter Donation Drive will be March 5th and May 7th between 10am-12pm. 

On June 11 the chapter will host a Centennial Soiree at the Marriott, Owings Mills Center, and the Centennial Ecumencial Service on June 26 will feature Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, granddaughter of founder Vashti Turley Murphy and national chaplain for the organization. 

Though the celebration might wrap in June, the acts of service will continue well into another centennial anniversary and beyond.

“We will continue to do our regular activities with our youth programs, our Delta Gems, our Delta Academy, our Girl Scouts and EMBODI,” said Wongus. “We will also continue to do what we need to do on the social action side. Our Delta Days are one of the many ways we continue our social action- whether it’s international, national, statewide or local.” 

Delta Days in the United Nations, Delta Days in the Nation’s Capital, Delta Day in Annapolis and Delta Day at City Hall all aim to engage sorority members in the process of creating public policy. 

The time spent addressing the needs of the Black community with lawmakers is just one more way the women of the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter choose to serve Charm City. 

In 2022, the chapter is only growing in capacity, determination, and strength.

“The Baltimore Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. has invested in the Baltimore community for almost 100 years and we will continue to do so,” said Wongus. “We invite the community to celebrate our centennial and participate whether through donations, participation or the underwriting of chapter initiatives.” 

To learn more about the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., please visit https://www.bacdst.org/

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Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer