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Cooperative Accepts Generous Donation of Diaper Bags and Personal Care Items from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority

Denise Bouyer, Director of Family Support and Community Services at Southern Perinatal Cooperative, right, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Northeast Regional Director Elicia Pegues Spearman. Alpha Kappa Alpha members on Saturday delivered perinatal diapers and lactation products to Southern Perinatal Cooperative located on 2922 Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City.

Lt. Gov. Tahesha Way speaks at Alpha Kappa Alpha conference in Atlantic City

Press of Atlantic City - February 10, 2024 - By John Russo

ATLANTIC CITY — Lt. Gov. Tahesha Way spoke of “Becoming AKA” on Saturday.

Focusing on Alpha Kappa Alpha’s theme of the 93rd North Atlantic Regional Conference, Way spoke about the other words AKA stood for this past week: Authentic, Knowledgeable and Accessible.

“We have generations gathered at this conference: our silver, pearl, golden sorors and, of course, our new and younger members,” Way said. “There are so many opportunities for us to connect.”

The conference, which mostly took place at the city’s Convention Center, began Thursday and ends Sunday. It afforded sorors, or sorority members, the opportunity to network, create business opportunities and give back to the community it was visiting this week.

One of the conference’s highlights was Saturday’s luncheon inside the Crown Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel, where Way was the keynote speaker. The luncheon, which was mostly for undergraduate sorority members, was attended by about 350 people dressed in AKA’s signature pink and green.

More than 5,100 sorors attended the conference. The North Atlantic Regional Conference was last held in Atlantic City in 2019.

“It’s been excellent. My members are very happy,” regional director Elicia Pegues Spearman said. “Over 5,000 members are here. They’re coming in learning, coming to the business sessions, those sessions have been packed. We had workshops all day today (at the Convention Center). I’ve only heard really good things.”

AKA was founded in 1908 at Howard University in Washington. It was the first historically Black sorority.

AKA is made up of more than 355,000 members worldwide, both graduate and undergraduate. It has chapters in 12 countries. Led by International President & CEO Danette Anthony Reed, of Dallas, AKA is often hailed as “America’s premier Greek-letter organization for African American women,” according to its website.

The North Atlantic consists of chapters from Washington, D.C., to Maine.

AKA’s mission, according to its website, is to: to cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards; to promote unity and friendship among college women; to study and help alleviate problems concerning girls and women in order to improve their social stature; to maintain a progressive interest in college life; and to be of “Service to All Mankind.”

“You really see the power of this sorority,” said Ruth Diegue, 21, a biology major at New Jersey City University and the vice chair of the undergraduate experience for AKA. “It’s not just coming to a conference and having fun and going to meetings. When you’re behind the scenes, you see the work ethic, you see the business, you see how everything rolls. It’s a beautiful experience because it prepares me for the future and what I want to do.”

Notable alumnae include poet Maya Angelou, musician Alicia Keys, activists Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks, singer Ella Fitzgerald and Vice President Kamala Harris.

“It’s going to be a great experience to see (Way) give that message to other undergraduates and see that we all can come from one place and soar to greater heights,” Diegue said. “We have the lieutenant governor of New Jersey, we have the vice president of the United States of America. It’s teaching us and showing us that nothing is unstoppable and nothing is unbreakable.”

Way was this conference’s distinguished past member. She grew up in the Bronx, New York, attended Brown University and joined AKA in spring 1991. She was appointed lieutenant governor Sept. 8, succeeding Sheila Oliver, who died Aug. 1.

“I think it’s inspirational because Lt. Gov. was also initiated as an undergraduate at Brown University, so she used to be in their shoes,” Spearman said. “And now to have risen to the rank she is, they can see themselves. Role models are crucially important.”

Following lunch and a brief awards ceremony, Way spoke for about 12 minutes.

Way said she didn’t intend to join a sorority when she attended Brown. But when she saw AKA sorors mentoring inner-city girls, she knew she wanted to be a part of something bigger.

“I was also in awe of the idea of belonging to the same sorority as Coretta Scott King and Mae Jamison, just to name a few,” she told the luncheon. “And it became evident that this sorority was built on a legacy of women who fiercely fought for civil rights, voting rights, access to housing, jobs healthcare for our people.”

Way spoke about authenticity and being proud of her time spent with AKA.

“I have my pink and green brick, which includes the No. 3, proudly displayed in my state capitol office,” she told the luncheon.

She cited novelist Toni Morrison, another AKA alumna, when talking about being knowledgeable: “I am convinced that clarity about who one is and what one’s work is, is inextricably bound up with one’s place in a tribe.”

Way used examples of her time as a judge, a professor, an attorney and as a public official.

The last point, authenticity, was on display throughout the conference. On Saturday morning, AKA members delivered perinatal diapers and lactation products to Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative. They also held mental health and trauma panels for the Boys & Girls Club. Spearman said this conference brought $4.6 million to the area’s economy.

“Anywhere we go, we do service projects. That’s the main thing our chapters do,” Spearman said.

“Black maternal health is one of our main initiatives and social connections we’re working on. If you’re going to have a baby, you want to be able to nurse your baby. There’s medical benefits to nursing your baby. Providing this stuff; breast pumps, diapers are even expensive, and there are people who don’t have these things. So we’re fortunate enough that we give a little bit.

“Whatever level you give, our members know that when you become a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the mission is to serve others and help one another.”


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