Black History Month: Sorority promotes scholarship, service

CAMBRIDGE – The women of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. have come a long way since their first public act, the Women’s Suffrage March in 1913.

“One of the goals at that time was to advocate for people in need and for equality,” Cambridge Alumnae Chapter President Tosha Deal said on Friday. “Since then, we’ve pushed forward with an agenda that emphasizes scholarship and service.”

The African-American sorority was founded that same year of 1913 by 22 women attending Howard University. The group’s origin at Howard and the sisters’ support of scholarship is maintained in the sorority’s tradition of requiring members to be either college graduates or undergraduates.

The sense of mission, tradition and sisterhood attracted Jamie Jenkins to the chapter. There was also an influential family connection – Ms. Jenkins’ aunt Marian Niskey was president of the Cambridge Alumnae Chapter.

“She was extremely active,” Ms. Jenkins said. As a mother of two teenagers, Ms. Jenkins said she joined in December, 2017, because, “I wanted to pass something down to my girls.”

The sorority’s sisters not only socialize and enjoy each others’ company, but they also are busy with projects such as scholarships, feeding the hungry and youth programs. In one, called, “Teen Lift,” some of the chapter’s 63 members take tenth- and eleventh-graders on tours of historically black colleges and universities; in others, they volunteer to serve food at homeless shelters or to distribute scholarships to local high school students.

Every year, the Deltas award four $1,000 scholarships for books. Since 2011, they have also sponsored voter registration and educational forums.

For the past seven years, Ms. Deal said, the sorority has held a health fair on the Eastern Shore. This year, it will take place April 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Salisbury Salvation Army.

That’s a long way of saying the Delta sisters give away a lot of money, either directly or indirectly. They pay for these activities with fund-raising events including the Delta Doll Pageant, held every other year, and a fashion show, also held every other year.

This year, the fashion show will take place May 5 in Salisbury. A crab feast and cruise also brings in cash to help fund the group’s programs.
The Cambridge Alumnae Chapter was established April 18, 1952, and is one of four Delta chapters on the Eastern Shore. They provide service to all areas of the Shore, except for Cecil County.

The Deltas follow a five-point program, comprising economic development, educational development, international awareness and involvement, physical and mental health, and political awareness and involvement. The members form committees with specific tasks, then work to identify the needs, complete assessments and begin working to serve their neighbors.

While that focus brings them closer to those in need, it also binds together the members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

“I wanted to work in the community,” Ms. Jenkins said. “I wanted to be part of a sisterhood.”

Ms. Deal said, “I’m very proud to be a part of it.”

For more information on the sorority, visit dstcacmd.org.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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