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Memphis’ first AKA chapter embraces ‘excellence, service, sisterhood’ at Founders’ Day celebration

Adorned in their signature pink and green, dozens of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorors gathered at New Sardis Baptist Church to celebrate the 112th anniversary of the founding of America’s oldest Greek-letter organization for black women.

Beta Epsilon Omega chapter, along with undergrad chapters at LeMoyne-Owen (Beta Tau), the University of Memphis (Epsilon Epsilon) and Christian Brothers University (Mu Epsilon), came together to re-commit themselves to excellence, service and sisterhood at the AKA’s Founders celebration on Jan. 11. The sorority was founded on Jan. 15, 1908.

Kasey Coleman, AKA’s second international vice president, delivered the keynote speech for the AKA Founders program on Jan. 11 at New Sardis Baptist Church. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

“(Our sorority) has been exemplifying excellence in leadership since 1908, by challenging the status quo and setting the standard as the first, in various aspects,” said Kasey Coleman, the International Second Vice President of AKA, who delivered the keynote. “Not only gaining recognition and support of our international initiatives and programs, but also opening the door for other likeminded organizations.”

Affectionately known as “BEO,” the Beta Epsilon Omega chapter was the first chapter of the sorority chartered in Memphis in 1934 and the 55th graduate chapter established in the United States.

Pink and Green decor flooded the church. The celebration was open to sorority members, other divine nine members and community guests. The program theme focused on a combination of the sorority’s current service initiative “Exemplifying Excellence Through Sustainable Service” and the sorority’s international program “Target 4: The Arts!”

“For more than a century Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated has personified its Supreme in Service mantra through groundbreaking social action initiatives and innovative service programs, that have engendered hope, aid, and richer fuller lives for millions of people,” said BEO president Jane Venson-Talford, “Since 1934, the Beta Epsilon Omega Chapter has continuously focused on advancing (the sorority’s) mission of ‘Service to All Mankind’ with excellence in the Memphis community and surrounding areas.”

Many elected officials were present to help celebrate, including Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, Shelby County Commissioners Eddie Jones and Van Turner. Alo on hand were U. S. Congressman Steve Cohen and Office of , Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, Commissioner Eddie Jones, Commissioner Van D. Turner, and Office of Business Diversity and Compliance director Joann Massey represented on behalf of Mayor Jim Strickland.

Cohen waved a pink and green AKA flag as he went to the podium to give his remarks.

“Its inspiring to me when I come to the Founders’ Day Program, which I attend every year, and see how the ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha remember and pay tribute to their ancestors,” Cohen said, adding that the issues AKA sought to fight in 1908 “were important 112 years ago, but are still so very important today.”

Jones presented the sorority with a resolution from the county commission and Massey, an AKA sister herself, presented the sorority with a proclamation from the City of Memphis.

BEO’s very own Georgia P. Quinn Ensemble entertained guests with their musical traditions and the undergraduate members performed an imaginative salute to the Black Arts Movement and the Harlem Renaissance, as well as paying homage to AKA founders.

During her keynote, Coleman painted a vivid picture of the sorority’s purpose, impact and significance, spotlighting the revolutionary and leading-edge women who have belonged to the sorority and its trailblazing moments over the past 112 years.

“We are truly our ancestors wildest dreams,” she said. “These 112 years have been profound but it has just begun!”

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