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Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Phenomenal women don't know their place; they carve out for themselves the space they want and need to be.

One hundred and four years ago, in January 1913, 22 Howard University women, dedicated to public service and social action founded Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Weeks later, they took to the national stage to demonstrate their commitment: On March 3 of that year, members of the sorority were the only representatives of a Black organization to take part in the Women's Suffrage Procession, a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC staged to protest against a society from which "women were excluded." That day, the Deltas also eschewed the spot parade organizers reserved for them at the back of the march, inserting themselves instead into a position where they could readily be seen.

"Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. has a proud legacy of breaking down barriers and fostering the change that we want to see, in this country and the world," explains Dr. Paulette C. Walker, national president of the sorority. "We were the first to hold our annual convention at a hotel generally reserved for Whites - the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. We were the first Black sorority to incorporate, a move that enabled us to expand the number of chapters and our geographical footprint, and in the late 1950s, the first to purchase our own headquarters, a building on M street in DC."

Over the years, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. has initiated more than 250,000 women. There are currently some 55,000 active members in nearly 1,000 collegiate and alumnae chapters in the United States, the Bahamas, Bermuda, England, Germany, Japan, Jamaica, Korea, and the Virgin Islands.

The Deltas work to promote meaningful change on five fronts: education, physical and mental health, economic development, international awareness and social action. One of the organization's most extensive outreach efforts centers on the enrichment and advancement of Black youth. Established in the mid-1990s, virtually every chapter hosts academies that encourage academic excellence and leadership training through service. The Dr. Betty Shabazz Delta Academies for girls, ages 11-13, and the GEMS (Growing and Empowering Myself Successfully) programs for girls 14-18 promote cultural awareness, career exploration, and computer and financial literacy. They also present workshops on self-esteem, fitness and nutrition, mental health and domestic violence. "Estimates put the number of girls impacted by the GEMS and Dr. Betty Shabazz Academies at well over a million," Dr. Walker says, "and while we strive to provide participants with positive role models, our goal is to help them recognize and appreciate their own self-worth. Some of the most gratifying moments I've had as national president have been meeting young women who have participated in our academies and are now helping to prepare the next generation of girls to be leaders in the 21st century." In 2010, the Deltas established EMBODI (Empowering Males to Build Opportunities for Developing Independence), a program with similar focus and goals for adolescent boys.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. maintains a home for children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Mbabane, Swaziland and supports an elementary school in Cherette, Haiti that provides students with supplies and clean water. In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, the sorority partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), helping to disseminate critical information to survivors, direct them to government resources and registries, and train members of the communities on how to help their neighbors.

The Deltas founded "Financial Fortitude," a program that helps members of their communities set financial goals, and manage their personal finances. The sorority also collaborates with AARP on generating awareness around issues pertaining to senior citizens; The Black Women's Agenda, Inc. on "Because We Care," an initiative that provides information and resources to family caregivers, and with a study the National Institute of Health is conducting on hazing.

"As an organization, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. not only recognizes the potential of African-America women and our communities; we embrace it, embody it and encourage others to be their best selves," Dr. Walker insists. "A woman with a purpose can do anything and everything. As Deltas, we can, we have and we will."

"The Black Women's Agenda, Inc."
5335 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W. Suite 440, Washington, DC 20015-2052
Office: 202.730.2637 Fax: 202.730.2638 Email: bwa@bwa-inc.org

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