Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Zetas Doing Good In the Community
I celebrated the last weekend of Women’s History Month not traveling but with the women of Pi Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta. I knew several Zetas from other organizations and the invite was special on so many levels. My mom is a Zeta. One of my favorite aunts is a Zeta, my son is a Sigma and his wife is a Zeta. (No, I am not Greek). I called home to tell my mom that I would be attending the Pi Zeta’s 75th Diamond Jubilee Anniversary Blue Revue. Her response to me was what I expected, “It’s about time you attended our events. You better blog about it too.” I reminded my mom that she told me years ago; “keep my life off your blog”. I only complied with her wishes. Since being a Zeta is a big part of her life, I knew I could not mention the Zetas without writing about her.
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc was founded in 1920, on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. as the sister organization to Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. Five women chose not to embrace the tenets of established black sororities, and chartered Zeta Phi Beta Sorority to encourage through scientific, literary, cultural, and educational programs; promote service projects on college campuses and in the community; foster sisterhood; and exemplify the ideal of Finer Womanhood. A private nonprofit organization, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority is incorporated in Washington, D.C. and in the state of Illinois.
Since its inception, the sorority has chronicled a number of "firsts" among the established black sororities. In addition to being the only organization constitutionally bound to a fraternity, the sorority was the first to charter international chapters, those in West Africa and Germany; to form adult and youth auxiliary groups, the Amicae, Archonettes, Amicettes and Pearlettes; and to organize its internal affairs within a central, national office administered by a paid staff.
My mom pledged Zeta many moons ago at Jackson State University. Many family members and friends are in one Greek organization or another but I have seen a Zeta, literally, from my first moment of life. After speaking to my mom, I became really excited about attending the Blue Revue because I knew secretly, in her heart, she was proud that I called to say I was attending. I was invited by a woman who I respect tremendously and has always represented quiet strength in the Nashville community, Mrs. Veonie McKinnie aka “Miss Veonie”. I have mentioned her on many occasions to my mom. If my mom was to visit Nashville, I would take her straight from the plane to her Soror, Miss Veonie. Both are strong advocates of higher education and serve their communities without the need to be out front.
Miss Veonie called me twice to make sure I was not traveling and each time I reassured her wild horses could not stop me from attending. Besides, I couldn’t back out because I shared the info with my mom. She was going to want an update to share with the Zetas in Mississippi. The event was on a rainy Saturday afternoon. But the rain did not stop the room from being packed from corner to corner with Zetas and Sigmas. I felt at home and thoughts of my mom, my grandmother, my son and my aunt kept invading my head. They would have been in blue heaven!
I noticed everything from the moment I stepped through the door. I took in every detail; soaking in the atmosphere of the room, delighting in the décor, marveling at the Zetas in their ornate hats, and the students with their proud families. One of the things that stood out to me at the Blue Revue event was the focus was on the scholarships and students and not Greek organization. For a non-Greek, this was so refreshing! Education was stressed at every turn. I sat right next to Dr. Judith Presley not realizing she was a judge. She had a hard job along with Michael Green and Cynthia Dirkson who were judges also. I did not envy their tasks. The competition was tough. The seniors competing for cash prizes were: James DeShawn Lovan, East Literature Magnet; Remo Weaver, Hunters Lane; Harvae Herod, Whites Creek; Jocelyn Jones, Hume Fogg; and Tiffany Vann, Good Pasture Christian.
The Pi Zetas’ scholarships are the stuff of legends. Every participant receives cash for college. The Pi Zeta Chapter has a history of providing scholarships to high school seniors as a way of assisting these students with an opportunity to continue their education. Started in the 1950s, the Blue Revue was introduced as an annual scholarship fundraiser for high school girls. However, in the early 1960s, this event was opened to first year college women. Olivia T. Brown is noted as a winner of the Blue Revue as a college freshman. She went on to join Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated and serve as president of the Pi Zeta Chapter.
The Blue Revue has evolved from a means to help raise funds for college to an outlet by which participants can interact with other like-minded, college-bound youth and attend enrichment workshops that will aid them in future endeavors. Though the Blue Revue moved to a bi-annual schedule in 1976, it still remains one of the biggest and most successful events hosted by Pi Zeta. Currently, this event is open to young men and women who are high school seniors. Pi Zeta regards itself as the premiere graduate chapter of Nashville in continuing to aid our youth in achieving the goal of higher education while exemplifying the sorority’s long-standing ideals of Sisterhood, Scholarship, and Finer Womanhood. On the Pi Beta’s website the word Scholarship is before Sister and Service. You know I love that.
The students were not only talented orators but showed us grace with their dance skills. No hip hop clowning here! My mom would have been beaming like a lighthouse. The students were coordinated, poise, and proud. You could see and feel it. Since the Blue Revue was open to young men as well, they announced the Mr. Debonair winner first. Jamal DeShawn Lovan won. It was mentioned at my table that he also won the Top Ladies of Distinction Bowtian Crown in December. At the rate he is going, college will be paid for by the time he graduates from high school. He is a member of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church and wants to major in Criminal Justice. His speech, titled “Obama Haters”, had the women and men in blue saying "amen" throughout his presentation.
Tiffany Janielle Van won the oratorical contest and the title of Miss Blue Revue. She is a member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and wants to be a pediatrician. Her speaking skills and grades will take her where ever she wants to go in life. Her family was so proud and rightly so. All of the contestants were wonderful and not one left without monetary funds to help them on the higher education journey. Nearly $10,000 was split between five students. God is good!
I left on a high note and did a little research about the Pi Zetas once I got home. Since Pi Zeta's inception, the chapter has grown tremendously. Presently, there are over 75 active financial members. (Translation…dues paying folks). Pi Zeta was the first female Greek letter organization to sponsor a chapter on the campus of American Baptist College with the help of Soror Melvia Russell. To date, Pi Zeta sponsors five undergraduate chapters. They are:
• Epsilon Alpha (Tennessee State University)
• Kappa Gamma (Fisk University)
• Mu Theta (Middle Tennessee State University)
• Gamma Nu (Austin Peay State University)
• Phi Nu (American Baptist College)
There is no denying that the Pi Zetas are “doing good” in the community. Miss Veonie reminds me often that she sponsored the hardest grant writer ever, Dr. Pat Mitchell-Juarez’s chapter on Fisk campus. After leaving Miss Veonie’s house, I would carry my mom straight to Pat’s kitchen! I always nod my head as if I heard her story about Pat for the first time. When Miss Veonie is proud of you, she tells the world!
Well as you can see, I truly have something to write home to my mom. Dr. Debra Smith, principal of Jones Paideia Magnet School ended the evening with “It’s a great day to be a Zeta”. My mom would have said, “Amen”, loudly without hesitation. I want to say "thank you" to all the Greek organizations who contribute much to the quality of life in our community and who keep the education of our youth at the forefront. We are in tough times and young people need more and more role models every day. And I want to say a big special "thank you" to my mom, Dr. Stringer, a proud Zeta who I love dearly!
(pics from event will be added this week)