Delta Sigma Theta Founders' Day Reminds Us That Sisterhood, Not Survival, is The Goal

28 years ago – April 26, 1991, on the campus of sister-HBCU, West Virginia State College, I crossed the burning sands into Delta Land with eight amazing young women.  We were “The 9 Jewels” in our beloved Sigma.  I was #8 – Topaz.  Holly Joy Gaines, Tishawa Campbell Howard, Maurita Parks, Sherry Reynolds Whitaker, Devon Toliver, Trina Woods DiJarnette, Sonja Parker, Miriam Page and I were now a part of an illustrious sisterhood of college-educated women who are committed to Sisterhood, Scholarship, and Service. 

My choice to pledge Delta was informed by a commitment to civil rights, social justice, political action and a recognition that, as people of color, we have a responsibility to “reach back as we climb.” 

The symbolism of the mighty elephant exudes strength and determination. The uplifted trunk represents high goals. The right foot forward represents forward movement. Lady Fortitude also symbolizes strength and determination,  The outstretched hands represent the receipt of love and the giving of oneself to others.  The statue pushes forward, the tension of her thigh representing her strength.  She inspires women to move forcefully forward to meet life’s challenges. The delicate violet is individually lovely but collectively, in a group or bouquet, is even more vibrant and beautiful.  The themes are powerful and embody the ideals I strive to exemplify.  For me, there was no choice – I was destined to be a Delta Girl!

You see, the choice to join a sorority or a fraternity is an intensely personal choice.  It is not merely about colors or letters.  It should reflect a commitment to a set of ideals or principles and a recognition of the power of “we over me.”  Young people desiring to pledge should consider the decision carefully – it is not a popularity contest or worse, a beauty contest.  In the African American community, it is a lifetime commitment, not simply a college club. 

Membership in a sorority or fraternity should not be painful – physically, mentally or emotionally.  Those who believe suffering is a test of worthiness for membership are at best, misguided and at their worst, are an insult to all Greeks.  To be sure, membership requires sacrifice and a subjugation of your individual needs for the good of the whole.  It will push you beyond yourself but should not break your spirit or your skin and bones.  I grieve for young people who are willing to sacrifice their physical and mental health to be “in the number.”  That is not sisterhood – it’s abuse.  You are not Sorors, you are survivors.  There is a difference. 

Regardless of your pledge process, you are a member of an organization that has the power to change the world for the better.  Resolve to not simply wear paraphernalia, but to truly live the ideals that you committed to when you pledged. Commit to serve, to give back, to be a voice for the voiceless to be an advocate for those less fortunate and a beacon to the race.

Today, as I pause to pay tribute to our 22 Illustrious Founders, I am in awe of their vision, foresight and courage.  I applaud them for following their hearts in search of a sisterhood that spoke more to their sense purpose and responsibility.  Rather than simply “going along to get along,” they made the decision to strike out to re-define their vision for sisterhood.  Their vision was not better, it was different.  The truth is that no sorority is the best – it isn’t a competition.  We are all sisters.  Each has its own set of ideals and the goal should be to choose the best one for you. 

I did that – I chose to be a high stepping, red wearing, socially conscious, politically active, Pyramid throwing, Oo-Ooping, Delta Girl!  I made the right choice, the only choice for me. 

Happy Founders Day to all my Sorors!

Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis is the 14th President of Benedict College.

28 thoughts on “Delta Sigma Theta Founders' Day Reminds Us That Sisterhood, Not Survival, is The Goal

  1. Happy Founders Day to the ladies of DST. Why wasnt there and article about the Brothers of Phi Beta Sigma on HBCU Digest or KAY. Our founders day was earlier this month.

  2. Well said my soror. Happy Founder’s Day to and all the beautiful women in our illustrious sisterhood!

  3. Happy Founders Day to you too Soror Artis and best wishes for many productive years at my beloved Alma Mater, Benedict College.
    Doris J Andrews “68”.

  4. I sincerely agree with Benedict President Artis. As a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., I always believed in serving and putting God first. President Artis eloquently states that affiliation with any organization should never be painful; it should be educational and spiritual. I hope all members of Delta Sigma Theta reflect on the guiding principles of the sorority and continue their commitment to service and strive to be more like the Founders in spirit and deed.
    Madeline Marcelia Garvin
    1973 – DST Sister

  5. Thank you Soror! This speaks volumes. I’m going to borrow pieces if this to share with others. Know your “WHY”!

  6. Real struggle in white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal society does break skin and bones. What women of color and people of color are so “fortunate” in society that their politics defines “a less fortunate” layer? Working class and unemployed Black folks have never been “voiceless.” I think Dr. Clark Artis reveals a narrowly circumscribed approach to civil rights, social justice, and political action. I think she believes these mean voting, lobbying, and charity in a republic, a government of professional elites. For her protest should always be “civil” and is less important than equal opportunity to enter the rules of hierarchy. “Lifting as We Climb” was elitist in the late 19th century and early 20th centuries when there was a grassroots movement of Black labor, as exemplified by the Colored Farmers Alliance, the Populist Movement, and organizations of Progressive Household workers and sharecroppers. There can be no fight for social equality and self-government if we define Black politics as the hierarchy of ruling elites (who have blessings) and their “loyal” charitable outlooks. The pledge process in no fraternities and sororites at this time are preparing our people to fight police murder, Klan violence, and the Black misleadership class who betray the African world. We should be preparing to fight patriarchy as well. But first we have to agree on how it is defined. College presidents who support US foreign policies that terrorize women (under all presidents and parties) abroad (but also at home) and makes poor women subjects of “development” again denies their voices and does not understand their power. Black Sisterhood that doesnt speak properly of the African world, and denounce Homeland Security programs at our HBCUs (for do these programs make our “motherland” secure?) should be called into question.

  7. Happy Founders Day to all my Delta Sisters!
    Benedict College-Gamma Upsilon
    Dr. Jannie Harper Clinkscales Hill

  8. Dear Soror; I truly enjoyed your Commentary! Well stated and eloquently composed. Please continue to inspire as well as educate the real meaning behind being a member of the Greek Family for others to follow. Happy Founders Day…

  9. Thank you so much for a well written article. Your article represents why I pledged Delta Sigma Theta almost 50 years ago.
    Nofolk State University
    Epsilon Theta Chapter
    Fall 1969

  10. I loved reading your article! I’m proud to be a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Incorporated. The Christian principles, the strength and determination of the members is what attracted me to the sorority. The more I learned, the more I aspired to be a member and to push foward in community service.
    I was raised without sisters, however, I had a strong determined mother, grandmother and aunts. DST was the only way for me!!!
    Gail Mitchell Woods
    Zeta Lamda Chapter, Spring 1981
    St. Louis Alumnae Chapter

  11. Happy Founder’s Day to the women of Delta Sigma Theta Inc. & thank you for being an example for all women & young girls of color.

  12. You should have authored an article. I’m sure they would have published it, just like they published this submitted article.

  13. Soror, This is so powerful! I wish Every Soror would read this article. Oh to Be a Delta Girl!!! Spr ’85
    Eta Chapter

  14. Soror Roslyn Artis, Happy Founders Day to you and that was an inspiring and touching tribute on the legacy of our 22 Founders, what embodies a woman who can walk in the shadows and step in the footprints made by those who came before us. My sentiments exactly knowing what a Delta Woman is made of and model the attributes that make us strong in the face of adversity and stand up to injustice. AlphaGamma95spr

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