The University’s Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated chapter, Iota Alpha, announced Dec. 8 that “Iota Alpha is back on the yard.” The chapter returned to campus with nine new members after becoming inactive in 2012.
The Iota Alpha chapter was chartered in 1974 by 14 undergraduate Black women and was the first Black sorority on campus, said Katelyn Starks ’23, a current member of the chapter.
AKA was founded to create a supportive and safe space for women, said Safiya Miller ’22, a current member. The organization itself was founded in 1908, when Black women were fighting to get into college, which caused the founders to question how they could both exist and thrive in these spaces, Miller explained.
However, while the chapter had been inactive for a few years, Ciara Sing ’22, a current member of Iota Alpha, said that student interest in revamping the chapter . “Many Black women on campus … want to see the organization thrive not only at Brown but also in the greater Providence community,” she explained.
Before it became inactive, Alexalee Gonzalez ’23, a current member, said that the chapter “was special on Brown’s campus and in the larger Providence community with all the service” it did to support both communities. She added that the members of the chapter along with other Black women on campus want to continue serving both communities.
Gonzalez also said that having an AKA chapter at a predominately white institution, like Brown, creates a powerful impact on the Black community beyond Brown’s campus as well.
“Any time Black women can come together and create space for ourselves … with a mission of bettering other people (and) reaching out to other people can only positively impact this campus,” said Sonna Obiorah ’22, a current member.
Sing added that the chapter creates a space for Black women who are like-minded and share similar goals. The chapter allows its members “to be unapologetically bold, to be unapologetically Black, and to be unapologetically loving in all things that they do,” she said.
Tosin Omolola ‘23, a current member, added that the active appreciation of Black history is important for Black diasporic communities. She said that having an organization like the Iota Alpha chapter on campus both preserves and respects that history.
Gonzalez said that the chapter builds a new possibility of “what we as college women can experience for ourselves” through the friendships built between line sisters — members who pledge together.
The chapter currently does not have a house on campus, but Sing said that creating one would be up to future members as the chapter expands. “The legacy continues as more women join and the different goals and needs of the women on campus is ever changing,” she said.
Omolola added that the chapter, along with other Black organizations on campus, “have a very carved-out space at Harambee House.”
The main focus of the chapter for now, according to both Omolola and Obiorah, is to rebuild the organization’s presence on campus and in the Providence community. Obiorah said that the chapter is looking forward to “doing work that is rooted in service and sisterhood” this upcoming semester.
The chapter is also looking to strengthen its alumni relationships. Emory Brinson ’24, a current member, said that the chapter at Brown has an alumni network of over 200 alumni who have been supportive of the chapter’s reinstatement.
While rush for the chapter is typically kept under wraps, Cyprene Caines ’23 suggested that anyone interested in joining the organization should “put in the work” of learning about AKA and the Divine Nine – a council of traditionally Black fraternities and sororities – and attend the chapter’s events. Omolola added that interested members can watch the documentary “Twenty Pearls: The History of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated” and listen to the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women’s Oral History Project.
Sparks added that she had wanted to be a member for a while, as her mother was also a member of AKA while attending college. “All my life I’ve been able to witness the service and how much work AKA has put into the community,” she said.
Yosabel Tekeste ’23, a current member, said that being a part of the chapter allows her to set expectations for herself to uphold the organization’s presence on campus. “The organization is so powerful and I kind of feel the need to match that,” she explained.
For many of the women in the chapter, being a member is an honor. Caines said that it is a privilege to “step into such a beautiful legacy of Black women who are trailblazers in every sense of the word.”
Kaitlyn Torres is the senior editor of community for The Brown Daily Herald's 133rd Editorial Board. She previously covered diversity as a University News section editor. In her free time, Kaitlyn enjoys listening to The Arctic Monkeys and going on archaeological digs.