Jan 24 2014
|Delta Sigma Theta|
|Founded||January 13, 1913
|Scope||International USA, Germany,
Japan, South Korea,
Virgin Islands, Liberia
|Motto||Intelligence is the Torch of Wisdom|
|Nickname||Deltas, DST, Divas|
|Headquarters||1703–1709 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C., USA
Delta Sigma Theta (ΔΣΘ) is a not-for profit Greek-lettered sorority of college-educated women dedicated to public service with an emphasis on programs that target the African Americancommunity. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was founded on January 13, 1913, by 22 collegiate women at Howard University. These students wanted to use their collective strength to promote academic excellence and to provide assistance to persons in need. The first public act of Delta Sigma Theta was the Women’s Suffrage March in Washington D.C., March 3, 1913. Delta Sigma Theta was incorporated as a perpetual body in 1930. Today, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority is the largest African-American Greek-lettered organization. Membership in Delta Sigma Theta is open to any woman who meets the membership requirements, regardless of religion, race, or nationality. Women may join through undergraduate chapters at a college or university, or after acquiring a college degree through an alumnae chapter.
Since its founding, Delta Sigma Theta has been at the forefront of creating programming to improve political, education, and social and economic conditions. Delta Sigma Theta has been pivotal in assisting the African American and International communities through education, lobbying, and economic initiatives, including Delta Days at the State and Nation’s Capitol, Delta Days at the United Nations, Summits and various conferences which focus on pertinent issues of the day. In addition to establishing independent programming, The Sorority consistently collaborates with community and corporate organizations Such as Chase (bank),Habitat for Humanity, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Lawry’s, and General Electric to further its programming goals.
A sisterhood of more than 300,000 predominantly black college-educated women, the sorority currently has over 1,000 chapters located in the United States, England, Japan (Tokyo and Okinawa),Germany, the Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Republic of Korea. Delta Sigma Theta is a member of multiple organizations, including the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) – an organization of nine international Greek-letter sororities and fraternities – as well as the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). The current 25th national president is Dr. Paulette Walker.
The organization kicked off its centennial year celebration by being the first Black Greek Lettered Organization to participate in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA on January 1, 2013 with a float entitled“Transforming Communities through Sisterhood and Service.”
Creation of Delta Sigma Theta: 1912–1913
On January 13, 1913, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. was founded by 22 Howard University undergraduate students who had earlier been initiated into Alpha Kappa Alpha. Seven of them were the elected officers of the Alpha Kappa Alpha chapter: Myra Davis Hemmings, president; Ethel Cuff Black, vice-president; Edith Motte Young, secretary; Jessie McGuire Dent, corresponding secretary; Winona Cargile Alexander, custodian; Frederica Chase Dodd, sergeant-at-arms; and Pauline Oberdorfer Minor, treasurer. The 22 were dismayed at progress of Alpha Kappa Alpha and wanted to reorganize the sorority. The new initiates wanted to establish a national organization, enlarge the scope of the sorority’s activities, and change its name to reflect a true purpose. They felt Alpha Kappa Alpha was solely a female derivative of Alpha Phi Alpha with no individual meaning and were not “Greek distinctive” letters. They also wanted to change the symbols, change the sorority colors and be more politically oriented. In 1912 at Howard University, these 22 undergraduates voted to change the organization’s name to Delta Sigma Theta. This new name was to reflect the group’s desire to change the direction of the group and change in the philosophical underpinnings. The collegiate students sought to move towards social activism and greater public service, rather than continue to focus on social activities. According to Delta Sigma Theta’s historian Paula Giddings, the 22 young women were concerned that since Alpha Kappa Alpha was not incorporated, there was no “legal entity”. Since there was no charter, there was no authority to form other chapters, thus limited ability to enlarge the scope of activity.”
Delta members at 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage March
The undergraduate members push to establish a national organization, and engage in activities that were national in scope, change the sorority’s name and symbols, and be more politically oriented caused conflict between one alumnae member who wished to keep the previous name, and the remaining collegiate members who voted to change the name to Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. When the graduate member Nellie Quander heard about their desire to change the sorority’s name, she disagreed and gave the students a deadline to stop the efforts to reorganize the sorority. The 22 declined and unanimously voted to reorganize, even prior to Delta Sigma Theta being approved by the Howard University administration. Thus Delta Sigma Theta was founded on January 13, 1913, by the 22 students. The new sorority was officially incorporated on February 18, 1913. On January 20, 1930, the organization’s Grand Chapter was nationally incorporated. Delta Sigma Theta was the only African American organization to participate in the Women’s Suffrage March on March 3, 1913.
Development of Infrastructure and Programming: 1914–1930
Immediately following the founding, Delta Sigma Theta members quickly mobilized to build and develop infrastructure and implement programming. One of the first orders of business was to have an oath, which was written by Mary Church Terrell in 1914. In the early years, individual chapters would implement various programs to meet the needs of their local communities. However, 1920 marks the year in which Delta began to develop uniformity in programming across the many chapters, and communication from the National Headquarters to the many chapters. In 1920 May Week was inaugurated, and the Official Publication of the Sorority was established as “The Delta.” Also in 1920, Omega Chapter was established to recognize deceased Sorors, and Sadie T.M. Alexander was voted first Honorary Grand President of Delta Sigma Theta. The 1920s began a decade of significant development within Delta Sigma Theta. The Official Delta Sigma Theta hymn, written by Florence Cole Talbert and Alice Dunbar Nelson, was adopted in 1924, Regions were established in 1925, and the Jabberwock was established as the scholarship fundraiser. The scholarship and standards committee was established in 1929, and the organization was incorporated as a perpetual body in 1930.
Program Expansion: 1931–1955
Delta Bookmobile, National Library Project
The establishment of regions, and incorporation of the Sorority as a perpetual body, the ease of expansion was greatly improved. Prior to incorporation as a perpetual body, as chapters were established they were required to seek individual charters locally. However, with the national organization incorporated, this burden was removed, and within the regions, regional leadership could much more easily work to charter chapters, and not have the burden be placed on national officers who may have been located much further away. The National Library Project was established in 1937 to provide access to books for Blacks in rural areas in the South where either no libraries were located, or they were not accessible to Blacks. The National Victory Book Drive occurred in 1943 to provide books to servicemen. In 1945 Delta Sigma Theta donated its first $1000 to the United Negro College Fund. Also in 1945, Delta Sigma Theta, along with Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rhoestablished the American Council on Human Rights which had the goal to “mobilize the influence and resources of its members in the struggle for justice and equal opportunity for all U.S. Citizens.” While there were many struggles for minorities and women within the United States, Delta leadership also realized the great struggle other of African descent faced around the world, which lead to the establishment of the first foreign chapter in Port-au-prince, Haiti in 1950. Given the great expansion of programming, and the increasing number of chapters and members, Delta Sigma Theta leadership realized there needed to be one central location in which all properties and records could be housed, and in 1953, Delta had the dedication of its first National Headquarters. In continuing with assisting persons in need abroad, in 1955, Delta established the Maternity ward at Thika Memorial Hospital.
Further programs focused on Womens’ and Civil Rights: 1956–1970
While Delta had previously moved toward having some uniformity of programming among chapters, with two international programs abroad, and being an organization that had served community for more than four decades, Delta wanted to ensure that all chapters would focus their programming around one national centralized them. The Five point thrust was implemented in 1956 by 10th National President Dorothy Height. The five-point thrust are the five areas under which all Delta programming will fall. Educational Development, Economic Development, Physical and Mental Health, Political Awareness and Involvement and International Awareness and Involvement. In 1960 Delta co-sponsored the National Organization of Women for Equality in Education conference. In 1963, while celebrating their 50th Anniversary, Delta participated in the March on Washington, and established the Social Action Commission at the 27th National Convention. In 1966 Delta Teen Lift was established, and the Delta Sigma Theta Executive Board was received in the White House by President Lyndon B. Johnson to discuss community issues and concerns in 1967. In 1968 the Unwed Mothers program was established, and in 1970 Delta sponsored the East African International Women’s Seminar in Nairobi, Kenya.
Further emphasis on education: 1971–1975
While many strides had been made in the fifties and sixties to outlaw de jure segregation and discriminatory practices in schooling and public accommodations, much de facto discriminatory practices persisted. Delta understood the importance of education, and how educating communities would be essential in eradicating discrimination. In 1971 Delta and the Congressional Black Caucus co-sponsored National Policy Conferences on Education for Blacks, which focused on disparities and deficiencies in schools with high Black populations. The right to read program was established in 1973 to help the functionally illiterate. In 1975 Delta established life development centers to focus on issues placed by individuals from early childhood to senior citizens.
Call to Action in support of Women and Mothers: 1976–1999
Deltas at Centennial Founders Day Celebration at Fortitude.
In 1979 the Fortitude (King) sculpture was unveiled on the campus of Howard University. “Fortitude” was originally surveyed as part of the Smithsonian’s Save Outdoor Sculpture survey in 1993. The sculpture depicts a figure of a woman cut from a thin piece of metal. She “wears” a sleeveless dress, high heels and has short, straight hair. She is walking; with her proper left arm swinging above her head and her proper right arm back behind her. The sculpture was unveiled on April 28, 1979 at 3:15pm by members of Delta Sigma Theta, to honor the founders of the service sorority. The sculpture is described as symbolizing “the attributes of strength, courage, hope, wisdom, beauty and femininity as depicted by the 22 founders of Delta Sigma Theta”.
In the early 1980s Delta began holding “Summits” which focused on various issues within the African American Community. Delta felt the need to bring attention to issues that affect minorities and women that remained largely ignored in the United States. In 1981, Delta held Summit I which focused on issued affecting American Women. Summit II a call to action in support of single parenting was held in 1984. The Delta Research and Education Foundation sponsored an international conference in Nassau, Bahamas entitled, “Woman to Woman: Single parenting from a global perspective” in 1987. In 1989 the School America program was established.
Enlarging the scope of national and international programming: 1990–2002
With significant scope and depth in the existing programming, Delta members felt the need to establish programming that enlarged the scope and reach of sorority activity. The First Delta Days in the Nations Capital was held in 1990 in Washington, D.C. At the event Delta members met with congressional members to discuss policy that affected minorities and women. In 1992, Delta Sigma Theta became the first African American organization to collaborate with Habitat for Humanity, and has built hundreds of houses for those in need. Delta held its Summit III, preparing young men for manhood, in 1993, in response to alarming drop out and incarceration rates among young men. And in 1996, in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, Delta traveled to Ghana and built 40 homes. Delta adopted the Adelaide Tambo school for the Physically Disabled in South Africa. In that same year, Delta received $1.6 million from NSF for project SEE [Science and Everyday Experiences], and traveled to Swaziland, South Africa to break ground for the Delta house that would be housing for children who became orphans due to their parents dying from HIV/AIDS, and dedicated the computer training center in Lesotho. In 2002, Delta was the second African American organization, after NCNW, to receive Special Consultative NGO status with the United Nations.
The road to Centennial: 2003–2012
DST GE Appliances
In 2003, Delta established the Delta Homeownership Challenge, and also endowed a $1 million scholarship at Howard University during the ninetieth (90th) anniversary celebration. In 2004 the Delta G.E.M.S. program was established for girls aged 14–18, and in 2009 the 50 million pound challenge was established to encourage healthy lifestyles. Delta continued to encourage environmental responsibility, which began in 2001 when all registration moved from paper to online, and Delta also established programs like Delta R.E.D. [Recycle Everyday] to encourage recycling and reducing our carbon footprint. In 2010, General Electric and Delta Sigma Theta partnered to create LIMITED EDITION countertop microwave ovens and ENERGY STAR® qualified compact refrigerators. The products were uniquely designed to celebrate Delta Sigma Theta’s 50th National Convention and Delta Sigma Theta was the first Greek organization to have its own GE appliances. The limited edition appliances were displayed at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in GE’s booth during the Delta Sigma Theta National convention in New Orleans, LA from July 29 – August 4, 2010.
DST Parade in NOLA
In addition, on July 30, 2010, members of the Delta Sigma Theta Soroity held a Mardi Gras style parade, the theme of the parade was “From My Heart to Yours.” The parade was held to celebrate Delta Sigma Theta’s 50th National Convention held in New Orleans, LA, home of Mardis Gras, and also home of Then-National President Cythia M. Butler-McIntyre. Over 14,000 members registered and took part of the biennial conventiona gathering. The parade featured eight floats, which carried, 170 riders, there were also six local high school marching bands and thousands of Sorority and non-Sorority onlookers supporting the parade. On the same day of the parade, members of the sorority participated in IMPACT day in which 22 service projects were held in honor of Delta’s 22 Founders. The service projects benefit local non-profit organizations throughout the city of New Orleans, including volunteer work with the St. Bernard Project and Café Hope, as well as stuffing a bus full of school supplies. The NOLA convention was the final convention prior to the Centennial Convention which took place in 2013.
The Twenty-two Founders in 1913
The twenty-two Founders of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority are:
|Osceola Macarthy Adams||Edna Brown Coleman||Pauline Oberdorfer Minor||Ethel Carr Watson|
|Marguerite Young Alexander||Jessie McGuire Dent||Vashti Turley Murphy||Wertie Blackwell Weaver|
|Winona Cargile Alexander||Frederica Chase Dodd||Naomi Sewell Richardson||Madree Penn White|
|Ethel Cuff Black||Myra Davis Hemmings||Mamie Reddy Rose||Edith Motte Young|
|Bertha Pitts Campbell||Olive C Jones||Eliza Pearl Shippen|
|Zephyr Chisom Carter||Jimmie Bugg Middleton||Florence Letcher Toms|
- Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander1919–1923
- Dorothy Pelham Beckley 1923–1926
- Ethel Lamay Calimese, 1926–1929
- Anna Johnson Julian, 1929–1931
- Gladys Byram Shepperd, 1931–1933
- Jeannette Tripplett Jones, 1933–1935
- Vivian Osborne Marsh, 1935–1939
- Elsie Austin, 1939–1944
- Mae Wright Downs Peck Williams, 1944–1947
- Dorothy Irene Height, 1947–1956
- Dorothy Penman Harrison, 1956–1958
- Jeanne Laveta Noble, 1958–1963
- Geraldine Pittman Woods, 1963–1967
- Frankie Muse Freeman, 1967–1971
- Lillian Pierce Benbow, 1971–1975
- Thelma Thomas Daley, 1975–1979
- Mona Humphries Bailey, 1979–1983
- Hortense Canady, 1983–1988
- Yvonne Kennedy, 1988–1992
- Bertha Maxwell Roddey, 1992–1996
- Marcia Lydia Fudge, 1996–2000
- Gwendolyn Elizabeth Boyd, 2000–2004
- Louise Allen Rice, 2004–2008
- Cynthia Marie Antionette Butler-McIntyre, 2008–2013
- Paulette C. Walker, 2013–Present
Participation in the 1913 Women Suffrage March
Delta Founders’ first public act was the Women’s Suffrage March.
Less than two months after the sorority’s founding, the Founders of Delta Sigma Theta began their political activism by participating in the historic 1913 Women’s Suffrage March on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. on March 3, 1913. The twenty-two Founders of Delta Sigma Theta marched with honorary member Mary Church Terrell under the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority banner on the day prior to Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration; they were the only black women’s organization to walk in the march. They believed that black women needed the right to vote to protect against sexual exploitation, promote quality education, assist in the work force, and empower their race.
Black female marchers were subjected to racism, not only by people who were opposed to the enfranchisement of women, but by march organizers reluctant to advocate suffrage for black women. Since 1890, white Democrats of the southern states of the former Confederacy had ratified new state constitutional amendments and passed legislation that effectively disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites. Black women marching for the right to vote reminded many that black men had also been disenfranchised. Also, in those years, Washington was effectively a segregated city in public areas. Mary Church Terrell recounted that she and the Delta Sigma Theta Founders had to assemble in an area specifically allocated for black women. Several years later, Terrell confided her feelings about the National American Woman Suffrage Association and suffragist leader Alice Paulto NAACP representative Walter White. Terrell questioned Paul’s loyalty to black women’s rights, saying, “If [Paul] and other white suffragist leaders could get the Anthony Amendment through without enfranchising African American women, they would do so.”
Although the young Founders were criticized for their participation in the suffrage march, none regretted her participation. Florence Letcher Toms commented, “We marched that day in order that women might come into their own, because we believed that women not only needed an education, but they needed a broader horizon in which they may use that education. And the right to vote would give them that privilege.”
Members at 1921 national convention, hosted by Gamma Chapter (l to r): front, Virginia Margaret Alexander, Julia Mae Polk, Sadie Tanner Mossell; row 2, Anna R. Johnson, Nellie Rathbone Bright, Pauline Alice Young
The young coeds were eager to expand the Sorority after its Founding, however they wanted to ensure any new chapters would maintain the same high scholastic and other standards of its members, and also be properly initiated. The sorority initially expanded with a second chapter, Beta, established at Wilberforce University, February 5, 1914. The third chapter, Gamma Chapter, was established in 1918 at the University of Pennsylvania. Soon after, Delta Chapter was established (April 4, 1919) at the University of Iowa and Epsilon Chapter at The Ohio State University (November 19, 1919).
Members of Beta Chapter in 1922
The coeds also quickly realized the membership continued beyond undergraduate years, and responded to the need for alumnae chapters. The first graduate chapters were authorized in 1920 at the Second National Convention for graduate members in New York City and Washington, D.C. Delta Sigma Theta also sought to expand west of the Rocky Mountains with the chartering of the Kappa Chapter at the University of California in February 1921, Delta Sigma Theta became the first black Greek-letter organization established on the Pacific Coast. In 1930, the Grand Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was incorporated as a perpetual body, which eliminated the need for each individual chapter to seek its own charter.
Delta Sigma Theta realized the need for advocacy in the United States, and throughout the world. In 1962, DST chartered its first International Chapter in Monrovia, Liberia. Delta Sigma Theta continues to Charter chapters throughout the United States and the world. There are currently more than 1,000 chapters and 300,000 members.
Delta Sigma Theta Jabberwock
Delta Jabberwock Contestants 1945
JabberwockTM, an annual variety show consisting of cultural expression and talent – such as music, skits, and dance – was initiated by Marion Conover-Hope in 1925 in Boston, Massachusetts. Locally produced Jabberwock shows served as fundraisers for many chapters of the sorority. Funds from the programs support scholarships for youths and other public service projects. The program encourages and assists in the development of young individual talents. On December 28, 1947, the Delta Jabberwock was formally adopted and copyrighted by Delta Sigma Theta.
May Week was created at the second national convention in 1920 at Wilberforce University. Local chapters began to observe it beginning in 1921. The purpose of May Week is to emphasize the importance of higher education in the community, especially for black women. The slogan “Invest in Education” was adopted. A week in May is set aside for programs highlighting academic and professional achievement.
The National Library Project
The sorority’s first nationwide effort to provide library services in the rural South was the National Library Project, which it authorized in 1937. The program was implemented in 1945, with the goal to establish a traveling library in the South, where library services were not generally available for blacks, both because of segregation and because so many blacks lived in rural areas, which had fewer services. The project arose from concerns that few adequate resources were available, outside of those provided by segregated school systems. n 1939, only 94 out of 774 public libraries in the South served blacks. Additionally, only 5% of rural blacks had access to any public institution at all. The first traveling library was based in Franklin County, South Carolina, where 23 book baskets, with 33 books, were circulated.
Job Analysis and Opportunity Project
The Job Analysis and Opportunity Project began in 1941. It was to provide career, employment counseling, and job exposure for black women. The sorority created the program to address concerns that black women were limited in their choices of occupations, and that they lacked training because of the economy and World War II. Some of the project’s goals were to improve working conditions and to improve black women’s opportunities to acquire a job.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority began a four-point approach to address these concerns:
- counseling workers on problem solving;
- providing guidance and encouragement; and
- assisting in changing public perception on working African-American women.
Delta Pyramid Club Beta Chapter 1922
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. is the largest African American Women’s organization in the world, and has a membership of over 300,000 college-educated women around the world. Delta Sigma Theta has more than 1000 chapters, located in the United States, theCaribbean, England, Germany, Korea, Japan, Bermuda, Jamaica, Virgin Islands, and Bahamas.
During the Membership Intake Period initiates are members of the Pyramid Club. The term soror, derived from the Latin for “sister”, is used between members of the sorority when referring to and addressing each other. Many Delta women have been recognized as leaders in community activism, athletics, business, education and scholarship, entertainment, media and literature, as well as in government. Members are common place in professions such as educators, heads of state, politicians, lawyers, medicine, media, and the corporate arena. Members excel in these roles at the local, national and international levels. Many Delta members continue to be active in alumnae chapters after graduating from college, and many join at the alumnae level. Often alumnae and undergraduate chapters will collaborate on large projects to benefit their community.
Delta Sigma Theta’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C.
In 1953, Delta Sigma Theta was the first African-American organization to purchase a national headquarters site located at 1814 M St. NW in Washington, D.C. In 1972 the Sorority moved its headquarters to New Hampshire Ave. NW in Dupont Circle. The sorority headquarters is currently located at property located at 1701, 1703, 1705, 1707, and 1709 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W. in the historic Dupont Circle neighborhood. In addition to serving as the national headquarters, the buildings house the Delta Research and Education Foundation (DREF), national staff and records, and equipment systems necessary to conduct Delta Sigma Theta’s business.
In 1925, the sorority began to organize its chapters into geographical regions. Initially, it created four regions: Eastern, Midwest, Far West, and Southern. Seven years later, the Central Region was established. In 1960, the Mid-Atlantic region was created. North and South Carolina left the Southern Region to become part of the new South Atlantic Region.
Each of the seven regions is led by a regional director and a collegiate regional representative, who provides a voice for the sorority’s college-based members. Regional conferences are held biennially, alternating with the years in which National Conventions are held.
Delta Sigma Theta’s seven regions.
Correction: The State of Tennessee is part of the Southern Region, not the Midwestern Region.
Symbol of Delta Sigma Theta’s Torch
Delta Sigma Theta has provided assistance to address the challenges faced by people in the United States and internationally as well. Over the years, the sorority has established programs to provide and improve education, health care, and international development, and strengthen the African-American family. Delta Sigma Theta provides public service initiatives through the Five-Point Program Thrust.
Delta Sigma Theta uses the Five-Point Thrust as an organizing structure as it creates programs to benefit the African-American community. The Five-Point Programmatic Thrust, which was established in 1955, includes:
- Economic Development;
- Educational Development;
- International Awareness and Involvement;
- Physical and Mental Health; and
- Political Awareness and Involvement.
Each program’s development and implementation operates cooperatively, coordinated by committees, the national executive board, and national headquarters staff. Leaders belonging to the Program Planning and Development Committee, Social Action Commission, Commission on Arts and Letters, Information and Communications Committee, Membership Services Committee and Regional Officers also participate in developing programming to meet the Five-Point Thrust.
The Delta Challenge: Delta Homeownership Initiative
In 2003, the “Delta Challenge: DST Homeownership Initiative” was created to assist sorority members, family, friends, and the general public with owning their homes and investing in homeownership. The program is a resource for individuals seeking information about homeownership; wishing to locate a loan representatives who partners with the Delta Challenge; information about mortgage insurance or other benefits; or who has questions regarding real estate or related financial topics. In three years, the program has helped more than 400 families purchase homes. The DST Homeownership Initiative is a partnership between Delta Sigma Theta’s 950 chapters, Chase Bank, and Genworth Financial.
The national directors of the DST Homeownership Initiative are Lori Jones Gibson and Lynn Richardson. Gibson is the Genworth Financial’s Vice-President of Affordable Housing and Industry Affairs, and Richardson is Chase Bank’s Vice President of National Strategic Partnerships.
The Delta Challenge offers mortgage loans, insurance, and other home buyers’ discounts through The Delta Chase Initiative. The Delta Chase Initiative resulted in more than 100,000 consumer touch points worldwide and $35 million in closings for Chase, a staggering 389% increase over those closed over the previous three years.
Delta Sigma Theta & Habitat for Humanity
Delta Members Habitat
Delta Sigma Theta was the first national African-American organization to collaborate with Habitat for Humanity International in 1992, during Delta President Bertha Roddey’s administration. Habitat for Humanity builds and rehabilitates homes with the help of selected homeowners, volunteer labor, management expertise, and tax-deductible donations of money and materials. Houses are sold to families without profit, and no-interest mortgages are issued over a fixed period. Between 1992–1994, Delta Sigma Theta and Habitat for Humanity built twenty-two homes throughout the United States. In 1996, sorority members and supporters traveled to Ghana, where they built forty Delta Habitat for Humanity homes.
Financial Fortitude: Smart Women Finish Rich
Financial Fortitude was designed to help sorority members and local communities to attain personal wealth and financial security. Financial Fortitude was established as a result of increasing unemployment, Social Security debts, and the widening gap between wealth and poverty. Financial Fortitude helps participants to set and define goals, to develop a financial plan to achieve goals, and to put their plan into action. Workshops are focused on topics such as debt management and reduction, retirement, financing for college, investing, insurance, estate and home ownership, savings, and entrepreneurship.
Delta Towers I
In 1979, Delta Sigma Theta’s Washington D.C. Alumnae Chapter and Delta’s Housing Corporation planned and constructed Delta Towers as a multi-million dollar, ten-story building. Delta Towers opened for occupancy in 1980. Delta Sigma Theta established Delta Towers in the northeast area of Washington, D.C. Delta Towers is an apartment building for elderly and disabled individuals. Delta Towers was the first retirement center founded by any of the African-American sororities or fraternities in the United States. While, many African-American sororities and fraternities subsequently established, or have plans to establish, retirement centers, Delta Sigma Theta, once again, remains a leader in setting the standard for others to follow. Delta Towers currently has 150 independent-living residential apartments. Because of the success of Delta Towers, the chapter and housing corporation are constructing a second apartment building, Delta Towers II, near the first.
Delta Towers II
The Washington D.C. Alumnae Chapter’s Delta Housing Corporation is planning to construct Delta Towers II. Delta Towers II will provide 150 additional safe and affordable apartments for low to moderate income senior citizens. Delta Towers II will be designed to provide a senior citizen wellness center, ground level commercial office and retail services, and a community room. Together, Delta Towers I and Delta Towers II will offer 300 affordable apartments for senior housing (affordable to households earning 60% or less of the area’s median income). Construction on Delta Towers II began in March 2009.
Delta and Hurricane Katrina
The Sorority established the Delta Hurricane Katrina Relief Task Force to facilitate the needs of gulf Coast residents affected by the national disaster. The Hurricane Relief Task Force is responsible for creating strategies to address the numerous difficulties impacting persons displaced by Hurricane Katrina as it relates to housing, health and wellness, emotional and financial needs. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. made a major commitment to three Historically Black Colleges and Universities that were affected by Hurricane Katrina. Collectively $700,000 was awarded to Dillard, Xavier, and Southern Universities over a period of four years and a total of more than $1.2 million was committed to agencies, organizations, members, and other residents of the affected Gulf areas.
Dr. Betty Shabazz Delta Academy
Adreamcatcher, Delta Academy’s symbol
Dr. Betty Shabazz’s Delta Academy (“Catching the Dreams of Tomorrow, Preparing Young Women For the 21st Century”) is designed for girls ages 11 to 14, who have an interest in developing leadership skills. The program is named in honor of sorority member, the late Dr. Betty Shabazz, wife of Malcolm X. It is for girls who demonstrate the potential for success, but may not have support systems or access to financial resources. Participants are exposed to math, science, technology, and non-traditional careers. The Delta Academy sessions may also include service learning activities, field trips and book clubs.
Delta Academy’s symbol is the dream catcher. In Native American culture, the dream catcher possesses power to capture bad dreams and entangle them into a web. The good dreams pass through the dream hoop’s open center into the person.
Delta GEMS: Growing and Empowering Myself Successfully
Delta GEMS is an outgrowth and continuation of the Dr. Betty Shabazz Delta Academy Program. Delta GEMS was created to assist in facilitating the dreams and goals of at-risk, adolescent African-American girls, aged 14–18. Goals for Delta GEMS are:
- To instill academic excellence
- To provide tools permitting the girls to sharpen and enhance their skills to achieve academic success
- To assist girls in setting and planning proper goal for their futures in high school and beyond
- To create compassionate, caring, and community minded young women by active involvement in community service opportunities.
The Delta GEMS framework has five major components (Scholarship, Sisterhood, “Show Me the Money”, Service, and Infinitely Complete), which forms a road map for college and career planning. Topics within the five major components provide interactive lessons and activities which allow opportunities for individual growth. Delta GEMS, like Delta Academy, is implemented by Delta Sigma Theta’s chapters.
Lawry’s Delta GEMS Collegiate Challenge
Lawry’s Foods partnered with Delta Sigma Theta to create the National Collegiate Public Service Caddy and Grant Recognition Program. The Collegiate Challenge recognizes and rewards a Delta collegiate chapter in each of Delta’s regions for the Delta GEMS program’s outstanding implementation. Regional winners receive $1,000, and the grand prize winner receives $5,000. In 2006, collegiate chapters were asked to partner with other collegiate chapters, alumnae chapters or community organizations in their municipality.
Maryland Educational Opportunity Center (MEOC)
The Maryland Educational Opportunity Center was established in 1979 and created with a special service grant of $450,000 – the largest grant awarded by the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. MEOC is a free program in Baltimore which provides information and counseling services to adults and youths interested attending college or vocational/technical school. Having seven outreach centers, the program is sponsored by Delta Sigma Theta and funded by the federal government. The MEOC is a federal TRIO program and one of 130 Educational Opportunity Centers (EOC) in the country. From 1979 to 2006, MEOC has served more than 78,000 individuals. Nearly 20,000 participants were enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
Empowering Males to Build Opportunities for Developing Independence (EMBODI)
Macy’s is one of many DST sponsors to support educational programs
The EMBODI (Empowering Males to Build Opportunities for Developing Independence) program is designed to refocus the efforts of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., with the support and action of other major organizations, on the plight of African-American males. Both informal and empirical data suggests that the vast majority of African-American males continues to be in crisis and is not reaching its fullest potential educationally, socially and emotionally. EMBODI is designed to address these issues through dialogue, and recommendations for change and action. EMBODI will include a program format and information template. The delivery options may include a town hall meeting, workshops, and/or teen leadership summits.
$1 million Endowed Scholarship at Howard University
Coke Sponsors several scholarship and other Delta Programs
In honor of the 22 Founders, on January 2003, Members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, as a part of the four-day celebration of the Sorority’s 90th anniversary, then national president of the sorority, Gwendolyn Boyd, presented Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert with a check for $1 million as an endowed scholarship, completely paid in full.
Distinguished Professor Endowed Chair
The Distinguished Professor Endowed Chair Award, established in 1977 at the 34th National Convention as a perpetual trust fund, confirms and extends the Sorority’s longstanding commitment to educational excellence through quality instruction at historically Black colleges and universities. Delta Sigma Theta’s purpose it to support and sustain these historical institutions, supply assistance to enable the expansion of educational opportunities, and to give long overdue recognition to distinguished Black instructors and professors. Biennially, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. makes a grant to a historically Black college or university that provides support for a professor of distinction to be in residence.
Physical and mental health
The Total Woman: Mind, Body, and Spirit Lifestyle Change Initiative
Sorority of Champions.
The Total Woman: Mind, Body, and Spirit Lifestyle Change Initiative impacts the well-being of sorority members and members’ families and communities at-large. The Lifestyle Change initiative was started in 2004 by the Health Taskforce, providing physical and mental health expertise. Some of the program’s goals are to educate on the importance and benefits of lifestyle changes affecting longevity, morbidity, and mortality; to identify organizational alliances that work towards address pertinent health issues; and to develop and implement health-focused programs.
Through the Initiative, the sorority is working to combat the high incidence of women’sobesity. The program’s first component is a challenge to chapter members to achieve and maintain healthier weights.
50 Million Pound Challenge Partnership
In 2006, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, in collaboration with Dr. Ian K. Smith and State Farm Insurance, began a partnership, encouraging members to become healthier by exercising and eating properly. Members joined with others in the African-American community to reverse the deadly effects of obesity. At the 2008 National Convention in Orlando, Florida, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was presented with an award for the most weight lost by any sorority or fraternity.
American Heart Association Partnership “Go Red for Women” Campaign
Heart disease is the leading killer of women and of women of color in the United States. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was the first sorority to join the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign as an organizational alliance working to educate women on heart disease.
Political awareness and involvement
Delta Days in the Nation’s Capital
Delta Members at the Capitol building.
In 1989, the National Social Action Commission instituted Delta Days in the Nation’s Capital. Delta Days is an annual legislative conference to increase sorority members’ involvement in the national public policy-making process. The annual conference includes legislative briefings, issue forums, and developing advocacy skills. Featured speakers include key policy makers, members of the United States Congress, staff members, and national policy experts.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski meets with Delta Members.
In 2009, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority celebrated the twentieth anniversary of Delta Days in the Nation’s Capital. The theme was “Advocacy in Action: Strengthening Our Legacy”. Topics included empowering membership to be effective social action advocates in the areas of quality education, affordable health care,Census 2010, and economic viability. An orientation for first-time attendees providing “how to’s” on navigating the legislative process, legislative letter writing, congressional testimony, resolution writing, and coalition building was provided.
In addition to Delta Days in the Nation’s Capital, each state organizes annual events in which members discuss and advocate state and local issues with their state legislative bodies.
Delta Days at the United Nations
On March 27, 2003, Delta Sigma Theta became a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with special consultative status at the United Nations. National President Gwendolyn Boyd accepted the credentials on behalf of the sorority, before 150 UN members from across the world, in a presentation by Hanifa Mezoui, Chief NGO Secretary in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the UN (ECOSOC). Delta Sigma Theta was welcomed to the United Nations by Assistant Secretary General for External Affairs, Gillian Sorensen, who advised the sorority, “[to] use your NGO status to monitor the status of women and children in the world and bind together with other NGOs to insure that the UN honors its commitments.” Delta Sigma Theta was granted Special Consultative Status as an NGO to the Economic and Social Council of the UN as a result of volunteer services and humanitarian efforts around the world. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. is the first African American Sorority, and one of only three African-American organizations with the NGO special consultative status with the United Nations, the other two African American organizations with this status are the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. and The Links, Incorporated . Both other organizations have significant ties to Delta Sigma Theta. National Council of Negro Women, Inc. was founded by Delta member Mary McLeod Bethune, and headed by many Delta members including Delta 10th National President, Dorothy Irene Height for more than five decades, and currently by Delta member Ingrid Saunders Jones. The Links, Incorporated Co-Founder and First President, Sarah Strickland Scott is a member of Delta Sigma Theta, and several National Presidents of the Links, Incorporated are also Delta members including current National President, Link Margot James Copeland.
The sorority made a commitment to creating programs advocating:
- Reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.
- Repeal of Voter Disenfranchisement laws.
- Full restoration of Voting Rights for former Felons.
- Full implementation of the Help America Vote Act.
Notable political Deltas
- Sadie T. M. Alexander, Ph.D, was appointed to President Harry S. Truman’s Commission on Civil Rights(1945).
- Brigadier General Hazel Johnson-Brown, Ph.D., was the first African American woman general in the United States Army.
- Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman member of the U.S. Congress, was the first African American and first woman to run as a major party candidate for the presidency of the United States.
- Carol Moseley Braun First and only Black woman elected to the United States Senate
- Frankie Muse Freeman, noted attorney and 14th National President (1967–1971), was the first woman appointed to the Civil Rights Commission by President Lyndon B. Johnson and served 16 years.
- Patricia Roberts Harris served as Delta Sigma Theta’s first Executive Director. She was the first black woman to be appointed ambassador to a European country (Luxembourg) and to be appointed to a presidential cabinet post as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). She was later appointed as Secretary of Health and Human Services. She was honored on the 23rd commemorative stamp in the United States Postal Service’s Black Heritage Series. Other Deltas that have been ambassadors are Ann Holloway and Bynthis Perry.
- Alexis Herman was the Secretary of Labor and a Cabinet Member in the administration of President Bill Clinton.
- Jewel Lafontant was the first American woman to be admitted into the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. She was also the first female Deputy Solicitor General of the U.S. during the Nixon Administration.
- Mary Church Terrell was the first African American chosen to represent the United States Congress of Women and to serve on the board of education of a major city.
- Barbara Watson was the first African American woman to serve as chief of a State Department bureau. She became Administrator of the Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs on July 31, 1968, served until December 31, 1974, and was re-appointed on April 7, 1977. On August 17 of that year, she became Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.
- Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, representing the 11th District of Ohio, is now serving in her third consecutive full term. She was elected in a special election in November 2008, re-elected in the general election that was held that same month and most recently in 2012. In 2012, the Congresswoman was unanimously elected by her colleagues to serve as Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus in the 113th Congress. Congresswoman Fudge is past National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Fudge was the first woman and first African American mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, where she served from January 2000 – November 2008.
International awareness and involvement
World AIDS Day ribbon
World AIDS Day
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority supported the World AIDS campaign in observance of World AIDS Day, on December 1, 2008. With the slogan “Stop AIDS! Keep the Promise,” Delta Sigma Theta promotes workshops, programs, and information dissemination. Individual chapters and members continue increasing awareness of HIV/AIDS in the community
Mary Help of the Sick Mission Hospital (formerly Thika Memorial Hospital)
Concerns about inadequate prenatal and maternity care for women in Africa prompted Delta Sigma Theta to invest in health care for women in Kenya. In 1955, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority established a maternity wing and health services in Thika Town. The sorority began planning for a larger facility in the early 1960s, and financed construction of Thika Maternity Hospital. The first hospital to open after Kenya gained independence in 1963, it is now known as Mary Help of the Sick Mission Hospital. Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary operate the facility.
In 1985, Delta Sigma Theta members visited the hospital. They were able to see the positive results of an increased population and improved infant mortality rate in and around Thika. In response, the sorority donated another $20,000, to establish two additional maternity wards and an administrative office.
Mary Help of the Sick Mission Hospital now has 121 beds, and provides affordable prenatal and postnatal care, nutritional education, child immunization, and family planning. The hospital gives prenatal care, including lab work, blood tests, and examinations for 200 women each day. The facility also has a special-care nursery for newborn babies. The hospital serves to educate nurses and midwives. Over 66 students are trained each year.
Summit VI: Health Issues Impacting Women of African Descent
In April 2006, Delta Sigma Theta commemorated 25 years of providing summit programs with an International Awareness Program: “Summit VI: Health Issues Impacting Women of African Descent”. Held in Jamaica, the health issues summit heightened awareness of increases in diabetes, heart disease and obesity among African-American women. The conference included various formats for a variety of health care experts to disseminate information, such as workshops, panels, and town hall formats.
In October 2011, a serial rapist in the Dallas area was reported to be targeting Delta Sigma Theta alumnae, attacking four alumnae in their mid-50s to mid-60s over an eleven-month period. The sorority issued a release advising its members not to identify their affiliation with the sorority via their cars, key chains, clothing, or Facebook postings.
The case was featured on the December 9, 2011, episode of America’s Most Wanted.
Golden Anniversary [50th] Celebration
White House honoring DST during Centennial 2013
It is no coincidence that the Sorority which has had the most profound affect on the African American Community, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., was Founded in the year 1913. 1913 was a pivotal year for issues regarding race and equality in the United States. In January of that year, African-Americans celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. And in February of the same year, Rosa McCauley (later Rosa Parks) the “Mother of the Civil rights movement” was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. In March 1913, the Women’s suffrage march occurred, and the United States lost one of the most prolific freedom fighters the country has ever seen, when Harriet Tubman died in New York. In May, Samuel Owensby, a Black man in Hogansville, Georgia was lynched near the local jail, after which his body was riddled with bullets. The nation’s justice system condoned lynching in both southern and northern parts of the country. This violence was so entrenched in the United States that one report called the record of lynchings that year a “small number” based on a 13% decrease from the year prior.
Delta E-Board at 50th Anniversary March 2013
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. has stayed on par with having its landmark celebrations coincide with major historical events in the United States. The Sorority’s Golden [50th] Anniversary was no exception. The celebration occurred in 1963, the same year as the infamous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Delta members vowed commitment to, and participation in the march, and came out in very large numbers. In addition Delta Sigma Theta 10th National President Dorothy Height, the driving force behind the march, was the only woman to sit on the Speakers’ Platform. 1963 also marked the Centennial Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The Golden Anniversary Celebration was not about resting on the laurels and past accomplishments of Delta Sigma Theta, for they all knew there was much work to be done. The Golden Anniversary Celebration was, however, about “New Beginnings” which is why the theme “The Past is Prologue” was chosen.
50th Anniversary 1963
At the Golden Anniversary Luncheon held January 12, 1963, President John F. Kennedy addressed the membership and recognized, “The Extraordinary contributions that this Sorority has made…his admiration for what [they've] done, and [his] appreciation to [them] as President and [Deltas'] service to the country.” Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas also addressed the membership during the Golden Anniversary Celebration in 1963 at a reception held January 13, 1963. In addition, Founders Osceola McCarthy Adams, Winona Cargile Alexander, Ethel Cuff Black, Bertha Pitts Campbell, Myra Davis Hemmings, Jimmie Bugg Middleton, Eliza Pearl Shippen, Florence Letcher Toms, Wertie Blackwell Weaver, and Madree Penn White were in attendance. Soror Mary Elizabeth Vrooman wrote “Shaped to its Purpose” a 50 year history of Delta Sigma Theta, which was published in 1965.
Delta Sigma Theta Rose Parade Float
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. began its year-long centennial celebration January 1, 2013. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. kicked off its centennial year by being the first Black Greek Lettered Organization to participate in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA on New Years Day with a float entitled “Transforming Communities through Sisterhood and Service.” Then National President Cynthia Butler M.A. Butler-McIntyre accepted a proclamation presented by Local Officials in Pasadena in honor of the Sorority’s 100 years of public service. On Thursday January 10, 2013, hundreds of members of Delta Sigma Theta gathered in New York City inTimes Square for appearances on the Today Show and Good Morning America, followed by a massive Caravan to Washington, DC which included busses bearing the Centennial logo.
From January 11–13, 2013 more than 12,000 members of Delta Sigma Theta convened in Washington, D.C. at Howard University to participate in a range of activities which included twenty-two distinct service activities Friday January 12, 2013, and many galas and activities honoring the Sorority’s accomplishments. March 1–5, 2013 thousands of members of Delta Sigma Theta participated in the Delta Days at the Nation’s Capital. This is an annual event in which members of Delta Sigma Theta converge on Washington, D.C. to discuss with members of Congress pertinent issues that affect women and the Black Community. On March 3, 2013, during the Delta Days at the Nation’s capital event, Delta Sigma Theta organized a re-enactment of the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913. The women’s suffrage march originally took place March 3, 1913. Delta Sigma Theta was the only Black Women’s organization to participate in the original march. March 8, 2013, Delta Sigma Theta participated in its tenth annual Delta Day at the United Nations to celebrate “A decade of commitment to global advocacy and protecting the rights of women and girls.”
Delta Sigma Theta Way
On June 15, 2013, the Cynthia M.A. Butler-McIntyre Campus of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Elementary School opened in Cherette, Haiti. By rebuilding an improved school with larger classrooms and implementing new technologies and unlimited access to clean water, promotes academic excellence in the remote village of Cherette, located 96 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince. The Delta Research & Educational Foundation will support the elementary school by providing funds earmarked to support initiatives to provide clean water for Haitians impacted by the earthquake of January 2010. The site of the school will afford members an opportunity to engage in an enhanced learning environment and promote educational advancement throughout the community of Cherette while experiencing a hands-on global service learning experience. The school project involves the construction of an administrative office building and six classrooms. In recognition of the Delta Research & Educational Foundation’s grant in support of clean water at the school site, the Chérette school administration will name the school Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Elementary School, The Cynthia M. A. Butler-McIntyre Campus. Designated areas of the school will be named in honor of the seven living Past National Presidents: Frankie Muse Freeman, Esq., Dr. Thelma T. Dailey, Mona Humphries Bailey, Dr. Bertha M. Roddey, Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge, Rev. Gwendolyn E. Boyd and Dr. Louise A. Rice.
Stained Glass Window at Rankin Chapel
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. during the week of July 11–17, 2013 in Washington D.C., celebrated its Centennial Convention. More than 40,000 registered and countless unregistered members participated in activities which included multiple service activities, and recognition for the many achievements the Sorority accumulated over the past 100 years. As part of the yearlong celebration, a 22-city tour of the Delta Torch, which symbolizes the “passion and commitment to the organization’s global reach,” which kicked off in Los Angeles – with Delta’s historic participation in the 2013 Tournament of Roses Parade – and continued through Seattle, Dallas, Little Rock, Detroit, Atlanta, Charlotte, New York City and Baltimore and International chapters in Japan and Bermuda. The tour culminated in Washington, D.C. at the 51st national convention July 11, 2013, when it was passed to national president, signifying the start of the convention. During the Centennial Convention, the Mayor of Washington D.C., honored the hard work of Delta Sigma Theta by honorarily renaming the 1700 block of New Hampshire Ave NW in Washington, D.C. “Delta Sigma Theta Way,”
President Obama Meeting with Delta Leaders
Throughout 2013 Delta Sigma Theta was honored in many ways by outside individuals and organizations, including being highlighted in aWal-Mart commercial, Being honored by an NBA team, the Cleveland Cavaliers Being featured in large national periodicals and various news channels including CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post among others, their accomplishments were praised by National Leaders such at Attorney General, and Delta husband, Eric Holder who stated, “As I look around this crowd today, I’m certain that – if you continue to hold fast to the values, the ideals, and the extraordinary history, that have been entrusted to you – then yours will be a future defined by continued progress, and limitless possibilities.” and FormerSecretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton who stated, “Delta means change and Deltas are called to serve…Wherever you see women advancing, you see Deltas!”. Both the American and Canadian Falls inNiagara Falls on February 22, 2013, and the White House on January 13, 2013, were illuminated with red lighting in honor of the Sorority’s Centennial celebration. And President Barack Obama invited Delta Leadership to the White House, and personally addressed them in the oval office, President Obama also addressed attendees via video at the Centennial celebration closing gala. In Rankin Chapel on the Campus of Howard University, the Delta Sigma Theta themed window, the first stained glass window that depicts Black women was dedicated. In Addition, on August 28, 2013, members of Delta Sigma Theta participated in the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.