“AKA’s Celebrate100 Years of Sisterhood and Service”
According to Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) sorority’s chief Information Officer, more than 20,000 AKA members came to the Washington, DC Convention Center for its Centennial International Convention that took place from July 11-18, 2008. The group is America’s first Greek letter organization founded in 1908 by African American college women on the campus of Howard University. Eleven host graduate chapters and three undergraduate chapters helped ensure that their members and the nation would remember the group’s activities in the nation’s capitol. The group’s activities included: seminars and forums designed to promote leadership development, voter education, health and a host of other topics.
Centennial President Barbara McKinzie maintained, “We will use the occasion to celebrate our illustrious commitment to our mission and chart the journey toward our second Centennial.” Aside from the serious business of the day, the group enjoyed luncheons, parties throughout the city hosted in their honor, a performance by Patti Labelle, and evening fireworks. Mattel Toys even created the AKA Centennial Barbie Doll to honor the sorority.
Amada Johnson, a young lady who was past President of Alpha Chapter of Howard University, said she especially enjoyed hearing Mae Jemison speak during the convention. “She spoke on global issues that affect our community and encouraged us to bring our perspective to the table to find solutions. She told us about some of the issues black women face and about her camp related to math and science,“ Johnson said. With the sorority’s more than 200,000 members in over 975 chapters in the United States, the Caribbean, Canada, Germany, Korea, Japan and Africa, it is likely that there will be a huge pool of talent that can be tapped.
On the business side, President McKinzie estimated a $105 million infusion into the D.C. economy. She based that figure on the 25,000 registered guests and an additional 10,000 who will be in the city to be a part of the festivities. Aside from their members and guests staying in DC hotels, the sorority contracted with a number of DC-based minority businesses “thereby spreading the wealth to local entrepreneurs,” said McKinzie.
The group’s Unity March closed part of Pennsylvania Avenue as thousands of AKA's wearing their signature pink and green colors and representatives from the other sororities (Delta Sigma Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho, Zeta Phi Beta) and fraternities (Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Iota Phi Theta, and Phi Beta Sigma) joined them. Together they marched from the National Council of Negro Women’s headquarters to the U.S. Capitol.
Although a few people needed medical attention due to the oppressive heat, the AKA’s were off to a fantastic start that morning as they heard from Dr. Dorothy Height and DC Councilman Vincent Gray, among others. After arriving at the U.S. Capitol, the group heard from top Congressional leaders like Carolyn Kilpatrick, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Diane Watson, Sheila Jackson Lee, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and Majority Whip James Clyburn. Senator Mary Landrieu spoke to the group, as did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Pelosi paid tribute to the AKA’s for all of their accomplishments and wished them much more success in the coming years. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee promised that they would pass legislation too, to honor the 100 years of AKA’s service to others. Attendees heard from various fraternity leaders committed to increasing civic action and improving the health, education, and welfare of all citizens as well as the Unity Day Resolution developed by a Council of Greek organization Presidents.
The AKA’s closed their convention in grand style with the largest sit-down dinner ever held at the Washington Convention Center. The group estimated that about 17,600 guests attended the dinner. The formal banquet included music by the Duke Ellington Orchestra, a tribute to former Presidents of the national organization and other special presentations.