Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., a historically Black Greek-lettered sorority, was rechartered at the University of New Mexico on March 28.
The non-profit organization was founded by seven schoolteachers during the perilous thickets of segregation on Nov. 12, 1922 at Butler University in Indiana.
According to the sorority’s official website, "Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority's aim is to enhance the quality of life within the community. Public service, leadership development and education of youth are the hallmark of the organization's programs and activities. Sigma Gamma Rho addresses concerns that impact society educationally, civically and economically."
The sorority upholds its “greater service, greater progress model” through the coordination of national and local programs. Organizations include March of Dimes, a non-profit organization for mothers and children, Cradle Care, which donates formula, diapers and baby clothes to new parents, Youth Symposium, which is intended to teach the youth community how to manage finances early on and Swim 1922, in which an Olympic swimmer administers swim lessons to low-income children in response to the horrifyingly high drowning rate for children of color.
Since its establishment in response to Black people being turned away from traditional Panhellenic Greek life, Sigma Gamma Rho has expanded to over 100,000 members nationally and more than 500 undergraduate and alumnae chapters throughout the United States, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Canada and South Korea. The sorority was the last to be founded of the Divine 9, a predominantly Black conglomeration of five fraternities and four sororities.
“Collectively, the historically African American fraternities and sororities (Divine 9) are leaders in our community and have played a prominent role in advocating for social justice,” Brandi Stone, UNM’s African American Student Services director, told the Daily Lobo in an email. “Prominent members of the D9 include Martin Luther King, Jr., (former U.S. Rep. and civil rights icon) John Lewis, Miss USA Dshauna Barber, Zora Neale Hurston, Colin Kaepernick and so many more.”
Nicole Tucker, a junior majoring in information technologies and an active member of Sigma Gamma Rho, said she was initially drawn to the organizations the sorority works with because she wasn’t connecting well with other sororities but knew she wanted to “be a part of something bigger than myself.”
Among the skills Tucker listed that the sorority has taught her were confidence, public speaking, networking and how to present herself overall.
The rechartering of the organization is a product of the sorority’s expansion, though it remains the smallest of the Divine 9. As Tucker puts it, “We are small in size but mighty in what we do.”
“This is a special time for our Black Greek community, as this now means all four of our historically Black sororities of the Divine 9 are now active at UNM,” Stone said.
The introduction and expansion of a sorority can be a daunting prospect in a time when recruitment and service events are administered virtually. Sigma Gamma Rho intends to surpass any technical obstacles by organizing virtual webinars, meetings and events, and planning a “get fit with us” video to be enjoyed from the comfort of one’s own home.
“Just because we can’t see each other doesn’t mean the work stops. Women and children still need food, clothes and access to resources,” Tucker said. “It might not be the way we planned or imagined it, but we take things day by day and make sure everybody’s needs are attended to.”
Tucker spoke to the importance of having a “safety net” for the Black community during times of intense political strain.
“(The Divine 9) is somewhere where we can come in and be ourselves, and we don’t have to fit someone’s stereotype,” Tucker said. “People of color are stressed and feel like we have to put on this facade to please other people. Right now, it feels nice to not have to do that but still be part of something bigger than ourselves.”
Beatrice Nisoli is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BeatriceNisoli