I confess. I’ve never watched a single episode of VH1’s Sorority Sisters. As a historian, as well as a social and cultural observer, I think it’s important that folk at least know what it is they are criticizing. But in this particular instance, there was no plot twist. The show was merely more of the same. Since their beginnings, “reality” show-depictions of black womanhood have at-most, left us sorely wanting for women we can identify with and of whom we could truly be proud.
That’s why when it was announced the show would meet its end, I gleefully responded: “Girl, bye!”
Undoubtedly, the online protests of Black Greek-Lettered Organization (BGLO) members, supplemented with the objections of National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), sealed Sorority Sisters’ inglorious fate–but I’d like to think that my personal boycott helped a little too.
I was compelled to live up to the observations I made last year, in “Five Challenges Black Sororities Must Address in 2014,” when I wrote:
In an age when reality television is anything but real and scripted dramas featuring black women who can’t “have it all” are all the rage, members of black sororities have endless opportunities to be living, breathing examples of black female achievement. Putting the politics of black respectability aside, there are still girls all over this nation and the world who could benefit from the example of the fictional Clair Huxtable, played by the very real Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority member [and Howard University alumna] Phylicia Rashad. We need to demand and support positive images of black women during prime time television, and in music too, for that matter.
After a year riddled with more unarmed black men, women, and children left dead after police encounters, I believe this is even more true in 2015. Because “Black Lives Matter,” depictions of black life matter, especially when homogeneous representations disallow positive examples of black life and culture–examples which are readily available within the ranks of female (and male) Black Greek-Lettered Organizations. I have heard folk say that there should be protests against all negative depictions of black woman on reality television. I don’t disagree. I’d only like to point out the pointlessness of criticizing Black Greekdom for taking the first step. Constructively criticize if you must, but even that is not enough. We must galvanize. We must control our narratives; and we must tell our story.
The truth is, Black Greek-Lettered Organizations, their histories, and maybe their futures, are inextricably linked to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Within our ranks are scores of women who provide compelling, positive representations of black sororities and of HBCUs. Here’s a list of nine divine HBCU sorority sisters you ought to know. And before you complain about the number of members of Delta Sigma Theta on the list, please note the listing is reflective of VH1’s Sorority Sisters cast.
President Roslyn Clark-Artis | West Virginia State University ’91 | ΔΣΘ
Dr. Roslyn Clark-Artis is the 13th President of Florida Memorial University and is the first woman president in the university’s history. A Trustee Scholar graduate in Higher Education Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University, she earned her Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership and Policy there. She received her Juris Doctorate degree from West Virginia University College of Law in Morgantown, West Virginia. The consummate professional, Dr. Artis has extensive experience in university fundraising and holds a Certificate of Fundraising Management from Indiana University. She has also earned a Certificate of Mastery in Prior Learning Assessment from DePaul University’s School of Continuing & Professional Education.
Eunique Jones Gibson | Bowie State University ’07 | ΔΣΘ
Now recognized as an Artist and Cultural Architect, Eunique Jones Gibson credits her college years with honing the go-getter mentality instilled in her by her parents as a child. She used her tenacity to land impressive internships and following graduation, Eunique accepted an online advertising position in New York City with Microsoft that allowed her the opportunity to foster relationships and strategic partnerships with companies whose work she admired. In 2013, Eunique launched the Because of Them, We Can™ campaign during Black History Month with a mission to empower the next generation to honor the legacy of their ancestors through their own individual pursuit of greatness. The campaign featured photographs of adorable children channeling leaders, activists, and celebrities, past and present. Because of Them, We Can™ quickly went viral and grew into something bigger than the twenty-eight day tribute she originally planned. It is now considered one of the most prolific and virally successful Black History campaigns of all time.
Keshia Knight Pulliam | Spelman College ’01 | ΔΣΘ
It was at the age of four that Keshia landed the role of Rudy, the youngest daughter of Clair and Cliff Huxtable, on the iconic television show, The Cosby Show. Keshia starred as Miranda on the TBS sitcom The House of Payne, for which she has won three NAACP Image Awards for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She also appeared in the reality television series Splash, beside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Louie Anderson, Guys with Kids a television series on NBC and starred as “Parker” in the original UP movie The Love Letter. Residing in Georgia, Keshia is a blossoming mogul with her own Atlanta- based production company, Kizzy Productions. She is also the proud founder of a non-profit organization for young girls, Kamp Kizzy.
Jamilah Lemieux | Howard University ’07 | AKA
Ebony.com Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux is a columnist, cultural critic, and editor based in New York City. She is a three-time Black Weblog Awards winner and in 2010, she ranked #94 on BlackWeb 2.0’s “100 Most Influential Black Women On Twitter.” In 2005, while attending Howard University, she launched the now-defunct blog “The Beautiful Struggler” which both documented her personal experiences and featured essays about race, sex and culture. The critically acclaimed site garnered national attention and Lemieux developed a reputation as an important young voice around issues of feminism and racial politics.
Dr. Tamura A. Lomax | Clark Atlanta University ’95 | ΔΣΘ
Co-founder, along with Hortense Spillers, of The Feminist Wire, Dr. Tamura A. Lomax is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University She received her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Religion, and she is specifically interested in the ways that linguistic and representational technologies of power construct and institutionalize ideas of race and gender and how these ideas not only establish notions of innate difference, but ultimately affect black women and girls in their everyday lives. She recently published Womanist and Black Feminist Responses to Tyler Perry’s Cultural Productions, a co-authored edited volume, and is finishing up her first single authored monograph, Loosing the Yoke: Black Feminist Readings on Black Religion and Black Popular Culture.
President Elmira Mangum | North Carolina Central University ’74 | ΖΦΒ
President Elmira Mangum began her tenure as the 11th president of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in April 2014–the first permanent female president. A seasoned administrator, Dr. Mangum has served at the executive level of nationally recognized institutions of higher learning for more than 28 years. From 2010 until her appointment at FAMU, Dr. Mangum served as vice president for planning and budget at Cornell University. While at Cornell, she was the senior administrator charged with managing the university’s resources and annual budgeting process. She graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a master’s degree in public policy and public administration, and earned a second master’s degree in urban and regional planning. She received a doctor of philosophy in educational leadership and policy from the University at Buffalo.
Francena McCorory | Hampton University ’10 | ΔΣΘ
Francena McCorory was a member of the 2012 United States Olympic team and won the gold medal in the 4×400 m relay at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. She is the reigning IAAF 400 meter Indoor World Champion (2014). A native of Hampton, Virginia, where she currently resides and trains, McCorory set the American Indoor 400m record in 2010 at just 22 years old. She has been featured in several prominent publications including Sports Illustrated and Essence Magazine.
Yolett McPhee-McCuin | University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff ’07 | ΣΓΡ
A native of The Bahamas, Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin is the head women’s basketball coach at Jacksonville University. She began coaching career as the assistant coach for Frank Phillips College [Texas], and went to work at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, where she earned her master’s degree in physical education. A more than ten-year coaching veteran, in 2013, she was named to the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, she is also the recipient of the Pathfinder Award for distinguished achievement outside of New England. As the first Bahamian female to sign a Letter of Intent to a Division I school, the first Bahamian female to coach at a Division I program, the first black female head coach at JU, and the Bahamian women’s national basketball team coach, McPhee-McCuin has become a trailblazer for aspiring females both in The Bahamas and abroad.
Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson | Benedict College ‘8o | AKA
Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson is the 29th International President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. A native of Sumter, South Carolina, she resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she is a senior vice president at Goodwill Industries. Her career in corporate America spans more than three decades and includes positions at the Xerox Corporation and S.C. Johnson Wax, where she was the first African American and youngest women promoted to brand manager. The first college graduate in her family, she holds a bachelor’s degree in business and economics from Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., where she was initiated into Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority through Psi Chapter in 1978. Wilson also later received an MBA from Clark Atlanta University. She is the mother of two young adult children: Courtney Renee, a 2014 Spelman College graduate and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and Quinton Charles, who is a senior at Hampton University. Under her headship the sorority launched a national campaign, Think HBCU℠ to highlight HBCUs and their contributions to the sorority and society through education, engagement and advocacy.
A proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated (ΔΣΘ), Crystal A. deGregory, Ph.D. is a graduate of the historic Fisk University ’03. She received her master’s and doctoral degrees in history from Vanderbilt University. She also holds a master of education degree in curriculum and instruction from Tennessee State University, ’14, where she formerly taught in the department of history, geography and political science. A professional historian and passionate HBCU advocate, she is editor-in-chief of the forthcoming The Journal of HBCU Research + Culture. She is also a regular contributor to HBCU Digest, is a co-host of Black Docs radio show, and offers a wide-range of expertise on multiple topics including history, culture, education, black fraternity and sorority life and of course HBCUs. Follow her on twitter at @HBCUstorian, visit her website at www.CrystaldeGregory.com, or contact her via email at cadegregory@HBCUstory.com.