Sigma Gamma Rho celebrates 100 years of sisterhood and service this weekend.
It was the vision of seven educators who convened to create the prestigious sorority that is Sigma Gamma Rho. They believed in the progressivism of women for women and by women, more specifically, Black women from all backgrounds and professions. Since that momentous day on November 12, 1922, at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, the growth and international increase have been uplifting, to say the least.
On November 12, 2022, the ladies of Sigma Gamma Rho will commemorate the impact of 100 years of service and sodality and how it has enhanced the lives of the Black women who have joined this sisterhood as well as the influence this organization has on the communities they represent and the world at large.
From its inception, the mission of Sigma Gamma Rho has been growth, empowerment, and prosperity for women. In 100 years, they have done that and so much more.
Twenty-one-year-old Nariah Swails can attest to just how enriched her young life has become since joining The Theta Rho Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio. When asked the benefits of being a member of Sigma Gamma Rho, Swails says, “I would definitely say the professional connections that you are able to make with people within the organization and the people they may know.” Swails continues, “Also, the personal and professional development as an undergraduate being in leadership has helped me look at life differently. From a different perspective, it has given me tools that I didn’t necessarily think I’d need. I’m the President of my chapter, so managing 11 people outside of myself has given me a new outlook on managing people in the professional world.”
Nariah Swails is just one of so many other women who have made the conscious decision to carry on the legacy of Mary Lou Allision Garden Little, Dorothy Hanley Whiteside, Vivian White Marbury, Nannie Mae Gahn Johnson, Hattie Mae Annette Dulin Redford, Bessie Mae Downey Rhoades Martin, and Cuebena McClure.
It was in December of 1929 when a chapter of this sorority was permitted at Butler University, and from there, these women made their mark and continue to do so. when asked. What’s the best thing about Sigma Gama Rho?
Swails says, “I would say the community impact. One thing I enjoy most about my organization is the community service that we do. Just knowing we’re helping other people makes me feel good.”
Aside from the community service, these women got together for Boule this past summer, where they had the opportunity to fellowship with each other and participate in events that continue to enhance their growth and prosperity. One thing that has proven to be true is that this sisterhood is solid no matter the age or personal background.
While speaking to Toya Jacobs, who joined the sisterhood in the Spring of 1997 at East Carolina University as a member of the Zeta Phi Sigma Chapter, she spoke fondly of the sorority. Jacobs, who is from Kingston, NC, spoke graciously about her experience with Sigma Gamma Rho, similar to Swails.
“We are the fruits of what they modeled.”
When asked about the organization’s commitment to the community, Jacobs replies, “Our chapter is for Greenville, North Carolina, and the surrounding areas. So, we have the opportunity to identify the needs within Pitt County, North Carolina, Greenville, North Carolina, and the surrounding areas and provide community service for what works here in our area.”
Further explaining, Jacobs says, “We also get to partner with our regions on things that impact our region that may be different from other regions within the sorority. Service is key to everything that we do.”
So how does it feel to know your organization is celebrating 100 years of service? The almost 20-year member shares, “It feels amazing! I’ll tell you what, we were all together in July- thousands of us, and more of us are coming together this weekend for our Founders Day Weekend. Our first 100 years have nothing on how our next 100 years are going to be!
While many events will take place in Indianapolis, where the organization was founded, events will be taking place all over the country and internationally for members to attend.
By now, it is evident that from 1922 – 2022, the ladies of Sigma Gamma understood the assignment and continue to understand it. 100 years of service and sisterhood is no easy feat, but given the drive and determination of the founders of this illustrious sorority, the dedication from the women who stand on the shoulders of these visionary giants seems non-negotiable. With that said, this 100-Year Centennial Celebration will serve as a reminder to always remain of sisterhood and service. That is what the founders hoped for, so that future generations can live for.
Candis Johnson is an author and freelance journalist from NJ. She is the editor of the Literary Magazine series SOUL as well as the erotica anthology Erogenous Zone. She has a passion for music and the artists who create it.