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Delta Sigma Theta Soros
Delta Sigma Theta Soros from throughout Los Angeles gather on steps of City Hall with Councilwoman & Council President Pro Tempore Jan Perry and Councilman Bernard Parks during the 2010 Delta Day in LA City and LA County.

A New Collaboration With Community Partners

Sentinel News Service

When "a wave" of African American women, dressed in red, converged on the headquarters of county and city government in Los Angeles, the security guards, the concession vendors, civil servants, and general staff were heard explaining to onlookers, as if announcing the arrival of returning champions. "Those ladies come each year and light up the place." Then to the Delta's, they remarked with a welcoming spirit, "So, you are back!"

All members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., they represented each of the 13 alumnae chapters and 3 collegiate chapters based in Los Angeles County, which covers more than 4,000 square miles, is nearly the size of the state of Connecticut and much larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Appearing before the County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles City Council, the sorors were participating in Delta Day in LA, where for the last four years, the sorors have presented their action agendas for the communities served by Delta chapters. This year, the group was inspired by the national initiative set forth during our annual Delta Days in the Nation's Capitol to convene a Strategy Session to develop an action plan that might ensure a full count in the African American community for the 2010 Census.

"Social action is the fabric of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. We will continue to partner with our elected officials to advance our agenda as it impacts the communities served by Delta in LA City and LA County," opined Dr. LaVerne Gray Davis, the Farwest Regional Director and member of Los Angeles South Bay Alumnae Chapter.

"The fact that all 13 alumnae chapters in Los Angeles County were represented and that we networked with the larger community around problem solving is something that all Deltas can be proud of," said Soror Carmen Taylor-Jones, member of Compton Alumnae Chapter and LA Regional Area Manager of the US Census Office. Century City Alumnae Chapter's President, Dr. Erica Melbourne shared in the pride of the alumnae chapters and three collegiate chapters combined forces as she commented, "The soror's responded to the call for action. We were very serious and dedicated to the issues put forth by our national Social Action Commission."

Led by Century City Alumnae, the chapters included: Cerritos Area Alumnae; Compton Alumnae; Foothill Alumnae; Inglewood Alumnae; Lancaster Alumnae; Long Beach Alumnae; Los Angeles Alumnae; Los Angeles South Bay Alumnae; Pasadena Alumnae; Pomona Valley Alumnae; Rolling Hills-Palos Verdes Alumnae and San Fernando Valley Alumnae along with Pi (University California Los Angeles), Xi Xi (Cal Poly Pomona and University of LaVerne), and Tau Delta (Loyola Marymount University) collegiate chapters.

Dr. Tenika Jackson, Social Action Chair of the Los Angeles Alumnae Chapter, said, "When Delta women come together, we are a powerful force." Los Angeles Alumnae Chapter President, Mrs. Essie Jeffries continued saying, "Our chapter's Delta GEMS were involved this year, and for them it is a life changing experience."

"It is spiritually uplifting to see all 13 chapters from Los Angeles county coming together on any mission, but this year the Strategy session with 9 community partners convened at LA City Hall to discuss strategy for increasing the response the census in the African and African American communities was especially significant," explained Soror "Jackie" Dupont-Walker, who co-chairs along with Soror Kimberlee Smith, Century City's Social Action Committee, and choreographed the united Los Angeles area initiative.

Delta's united to influence public policy on issues such as housing, homelessness, economic development, health, public safety and transportation. "Funds to impact each of these issues are directly tied to the outcome of the 2010 census count, thereby making the Census Strategy Session a vital link to the ongoing work of Delta," offered Soror Dawn Boykins Owens, co-chair of Cerritos Area Alumnae Chapter.

"As Deltas, we thought it was important to advocate on behalf of issues of importance to African American women, and our community's economic viability," explained Soror Cynthia Jones, Social Action Chair of Foothill Alumnae Chapter.

Sorors agreed:

"In order for social change to occur, citizens must be active participants in the decision-making process. Delta Days in L. A. demonstrated our continued commitment and understanding that our engagement with elected officials is essential to ensuring problems within the respective communities we serve are addressed," said Soror Cushondra McNeal, Social Action Co-Chair of the Pomona Valley Alumnae Chapter.

Soror Krystle Evans, Farwest Regional Representative and member of Pi collegiate chapter wanted more dialogue with key players about engaging college students in every phase of government. Now that is a sign of hope from emerging leadership.

The day started early as sorors traveled by car, bus and train. Soror Gloria Riddick Williams, a member of the Lancaster Alumnae chapter, left her suburban home before dawn to drive nearly 75 miles to the downtown civic center area, a trip that can take more than two hours during the congested rush hour. Most sorors drove, however, a group from several chapters in the outlying areas supported Delta's "green" agenda by using the Metro system.

"We were warmly greeted by LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the first African American male member of the board, who played a key role in hosting Delta Day LA among his supervisorial colleagues. During a welcome reception, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas welcomed partnership with Delta in making government work more effectively.

After a review of the agenda and schedule, a briefing on legislative dos and don'ts by Soror(s) Dupont Walker and Smith, the Delta Advocates signed up for individual chapter meetings with elected officials. The Deltas were prepared. The first public stop: the meeting room of the Board of Supervisors.

Soror Erica Melbourne, President of Century City Alumnae, explained why so many Delta women were in attendance to the five supervisors; each represents a district that has two million residents. "Delta Day is a day of advocacy and outreach to our elected officials," she said, "and manifests our sorority's biennial theme, 'A Sisterhood Called to Serve: Transforming Lives and Impacting Communities."

"As an organization committed to public service," she added, "it is our goal to partner with each of the supervisors in serving the community, and making a difference in the communities in which we live, work, and serve."

The supervisors acknowledged the Delta's and each presented a proclamation to the chapter president or representative.

Next stop: City Hall.

After the sorors crowded into Council Chambers filling half of the chamber, their host Los Angeles City Council Member Jan Perry, who was also presiding as the City Council President Pro-Tempore introduced Delta to the council in session. Council members Herb Wesson, Bernard Parks, Janice Hahn, Bill Rosenthal, and Dennis Zine added comments about the wonderful work by Delta chapters in their districts and shared their anticipation of a productive visit later in their offices.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sent Deputy Mayor Aileen Adams as well as LA City Census Director, Norma Vega to be a part of the strategy session. The offices of Senator Curren Price, Assemblyman Mike Davis, were a part of the panel listening and providing leadership.  Council members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry made urgent pleas for every participant in the Strategy Session to make the census count as a priority. Soror Ann Haley Brown, a deputy city attorney, represented her boss City Attorney Carmen Truniach before the chapters left to keep their constituent appointments. More information and opportunities for involvement were shared by Greg Akili of the NAACP, Nikki Legesse of the Ethiopian Full Count Committee, Wilma Marshall Tucker of the Mid City PAC, and Willis Edwards of the national NAACP board.   Other community partners present included Jack and Jill, Top Ladies of Distinction, Order of the Eastern Stars, Order of the Masons, and the Panhellenic Council.

Soror Maleika Walker, president of the Long Beach Alumnae Chapter, echoed the challenge she accepted and has given to her chapter, "Delta Day in LA area is wonderful way to get the African American community around LA to come together and our chapter will continue to work with partners in the Long Beach area."

"Finally meeting Mr. Parks and seeing how he responded to the questions," was the day's highlight for Soror Cushondra McNeil, a member of the Pomona Valley Alumnae chapter.

Final stops: Each chapter chose one or more of the 15 city council members or five county supervisors in whose district that chapter/chapters provide services.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich and his staff, Supervisor Gloria Molina's staff, Supervisor Don Knabe and his staff, Supervisor Zev Yaroskavsky and his staff received representatives of the Delta chapters serving within their elected districts near the conclusion of the day.   Having begun the day in dialogue with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and his staff, and wrapping up in meetings with the other Supervisors, the Delta's strongly felt that new horizons have been conquered and that the opportunities are limitless for problem solving.

The City Council members' receptivity to questions, visions for partnership and offers for assistance proved to be very encouraging to Delta. Soror Gwendolyn McMullins, President of Pasadena Alumnae Chapter proudly asserted, "Now both proactive and reactive agendas can be merged to create a community action plan to be implemented by the Delta chapters in their service areas."

Soror Rena Black, Social Action Chair for the Inglewood Alumnae Chapter was inspired by the Strategic Planning session, which she says, "Gave us ideas to take back to our local Complete Count Committee and the encouragement to work not only in the African American community but in the Spanish speaking communities and with the faith-based groups."

"We came together as a sisterhood with one purpose and on a mission of change," said Soror(s) Lula Davis Holmes and Rachel Johnson, Social Action Co-Chairs in Los Angeles South Bay Alumnae Chapter and both elected officials in their communities. Soror Ngwebifor Fobi, President of the Rolling Hills - Palos Verdes Alumnae Chapter said, "I loved seeing that sea of red and was "triply" proud be have been a part of Delta Day in LA, Delta Days in Sacramento and Delta Days in the Nation's Capitol this year."

Soror Cherise Moore, Social Action Chair from San Fernando Valley Alumnae Chapter was encouraged about the enthusiastic responses from elected officials' offices as she contacted the various offices to schedule the meetings.

Soror Erica Melbourne, President of Century City Alumnae, concludes, "It was very fulfilling to see this important social action initiative grow from 25 sorors in 2006 to 130 attendees during the daylong advocacy and community empowerment effort to craft a community strategy. It just couldn't get any better!"  Submitted by- "Jackie" Dupont-Walker

 

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