Alpha Kappa Alpha, Incorporated, the first Greek-letter organization for African-American women, was founded on January 15, 1908 by nine young female Howard University students.
At its convention in June 2014, the sorority announced “Launching New Dimensions of Service” with five target programming areas: Educational Enrichment; Health Promotion; Family Strengthening; Environmental Ownership; and Global Impact. Among the initiatives are the ASCENDSM (Achievement, Self-Awareness, Communication, Engagement, Networking, and Development Skills) program for male and female high school students. The goal of the program is to help the students achieve their maximum potential. The AKA One Million BackpacksSM initiative will supply 250,000 backpacks and school supplies a year to students. The Think HBCUSM campaign will highlight the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the contributions made by their graduates. Health awareness programs will focus on Alzheimer’s Disease, stroke, and mental health and wellness. Family Strengthening initiatives include childhood hunger awareness, fiscal responsibility programming, and the Family Seasonal WrapsSM program, to collect and distribute coats, gloves and other clothing to keep people warm in cold temperatures.
International Community Service Days to highlight the program target areas are: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service (January); Pink Goes Red for Heart Health Day (February); 1908 Playgrounds Mobilization Day (May); The Longest Day™ Alzheimer’s Support Activities (June); Mental Health Awareness Day (July): and Childhood Hunger Awareness Day (October).
On a different note, one of the questions that bring people to this blog is “Was Eleanor Roosevelt an AKA?” Yes! First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. Her membership grew out of an incident involving another honorary member, the famed contralto Marian Anderson, the first African-American woman to sing with the Metropolitan Opera and perform at the White House.
In the 1930s, Miss Anderson had performed in Europe and was the third highest box office concert draw in the United States. Sol Hurok, her manager, and Howard University tried to schedule a performance to benefit Howard’s School of Music at Constitution Hall in January 1939. They were told the hall was unavailable due to a prior engagement. Another date was requested and it was again denied. It became clear that the hall’s owners, the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), had a policy against allowing African-American entertainers on the stage. (In 1932, Washington, D.C. had segregated facilities. Following protests over “mixed seating,” the D.A.R. adopted a rule excluding African-American artists from performing at the hall.)
In 1932, after her husband became President, Mrs. Roosevelt was given a D.A.R. membership card. She resigned her membership on February 26, 1939. She also wrote about her resignation in the “My Day” column she wrote for the following day. “But, in this case, I belong to an organization in which I can do no active work. They have taken an action which has been widely talked of in the press. To remain as a member implies approval of that action, and therefore I am resigning.”
Instead of Constitution Hall, Miss Anderson sang at the base of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939. There were 75,000 people in attendance. In 1943, she finally performed at Constitution Hall for a war relief concert.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/