The ladies of an illustrious sorority founded on the campus of Butler University are celebrating nearly 100 years of “greater service, greater progress.”
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. was founded 99 years ago in Indianapolis, Indiana by seven young educators.
Since then they’ve welcomed more than 100,000 collegiate and professional women from every profession and pride themselves on being a destination organization for women’s development. With that, the sorority that boasts celebrity members like MC Lyte, Kelly Price, and Olympic swimmer Natalie Hinds with more than 500 chapters in the United States, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, South Korea, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the United Arab Emirates, is already preparing for its 100th year of excellence in 2022.
BOSSIP recently chatted with the sorority’s Grand Basileus, Rasheeda S. Liberty about the organization’s forthcoming centennial, continued mission, and dedication to sisterhood, scholarship, and service.
What does the 100 year mark signify for your sorority?
“It is definitely a mark in history for us, we look at is we are sustained. We are a hundred-year self-sustaining organization of 100,000 women, women primarily of color. And so that in itself says a lot, not only for this time, but for the world, but also for this country significantly. We are honored to really celebrate the legacy of our founders. We are, of course, the youngest divine nine [sorority] organization, so that makes it even more special as we round out the sorority centennials. That is really the brewing excitement about what we have going on. It’s just a significant time for the sisterhood overall, and I’m just extremely excited for 100 years and I’m very glad to be leading the organization during this particular time.”
What does Sigma Gamma Rho have planned for its centennial celebration?
We are officially kicking off our countdown. We are kicking off some media days just to share our work. We’re doing “The View”, “Tamron Hall”, [we are] looking to do “The Breakfast Club”–just some fun, and bringing members along to really kick-off. We are also doing five activations across our regions. The first one kicks off officially on New Year’s Eve in New York with the ball drop in the Northeastern region. And then we go all the way through to November of next year with our biggest celebration, our more public-facing celebration being July as we go home to Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana.
What initiatives is Sigma Gamma Rho focused on for its centennial celebration?
We are focused on delivering 1 million service hours, which we’re on track to far exceed that right now. And then we’re giving away $2.2 million in philanthropy for different causes that we believe that our founders will be honored to have their name attached. We are finishing off our seventh school and wil be revealing all seven of our schools that we have been quietly building for the last six, seven years.
And we are [also] going to do so sustainable projects. As part of our Swim 1922 Program, we’re looking to rehabilitate and put pools in communities with our name on it so it kind of lives forever as a community pool. We’re also proud to partner with St. Jude Children’s Hospital to be a part of the solution of eradicating childhood cancer. And so with that, we have committed to a graduate school lounge for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. We have a lot of philanthropy that’s going forward to really signify the work that we have been doing and make a splash for a hundred years.
What do you say to people who doubt the current relevance of historically Black fraternities and sororities of the Divine Nine?
When I think about the Divine Nine and the impact that it has on the world, we know that we touched 5 million people across this country. And so when you can mobilize and lift together a powerful group of leaders, educated leaders, 70% of us are alumni members across all of the Divine Nine organizations. We are a powerful force that has binding power, but we also have impact power and that is represented in that 5 million. When I think about the Divine Nine and what it’s done, we sit in boardrooms, courtrooms, we sit in classrooms, we are leading and driving across this country. It’s just quiet so a lot of people don’t realize how many people are tied to or connected to the Divine Nine. If you ask most African-Americans, they know at least one Divine Nine member or have one in their family, work with them, or pretty much built with them. It is a very connected organization of leaders.
What is something you would like people to know about Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.?
To know that we are the only organization that is uniquely founded by seven educators. So with that, we are the organization of education. Over 65% of our members are educators. What we have done is we have really grown to put seed in the ground for this sisterhood and for this world in a very unique wa. We were founded on a predominantly white campus, the only [Divine Nine] sorority founded on a predominately white campus, and to have the same discipline by the founders is pretty phenomenal. We look at ourselves as trailblazing. We don’t necessarily lead on our history, but we blaze trails for the future. That is what sets Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority apart.