Black American Sorority Boasts It Has Snagged Michelle Obama’s Acceptance
Michelle Obama is sometimes compared to Jackie Kennedy, but she may now have something in common with another first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. The wife of F.D.R. became a honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, an historically black organization founded in 1908, and the group announced this week at its Centennial Convention in Washington that Mrs. Obama had agreed to join.
The sorority said that once Mrs. Obama is formally inducted into the organization, which has 225,000 members, she can’t become a member of any of the other “Divine Nine” organizations, as black sororities and fraternities are often called. Other honorary members of Alpha Kappa Alpha include the poet Maya Angelou, the late Coretta Scott King and former astronaut Mae Jemison.
But tonight a spokeswoman for Mrs. Obama, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, said: “Because of her respect for each of the historically black sororities and fraternities, her membership is
non-exclusive. She looks forward to working with all of them to help
bring change to their communities.”
Black fraternities and sororities have long been strongholds in the African-American community, taking roles in organizing during the civil rights movement. Most are involved in charitable causes and they enjoy an occasionally friendly rivalry at events such as step-shows. .
There has been speculation on black college campuses in the past year about whether Mrs. Obama would accept an invitation to such a group. Joining different organizations is often seen as an indicator of personality type. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for example, belonged to Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest historically black fraternity. The Rev. Jesse Jackson is a member of Omega Psi Phi.
“I know that there is a very large powerful A.K.A. contingent in Washington, D.C. and Chicago,” said Lawrence Otis Graham, the author of “Our Kind of People:Inside America’s Black Upper Class,” a book examining elite black social organizations.
Mr. Graham attended Princeton with Mrs. Obama and said there was not a chapter of the organization on the campus then. Mr. Graham said the fact that Mrs. Obama hadn’t been a member of a sorority before underscored her lack of “elite” ties in black social circles.
“It definitely gives them bragging rights,” Mr. Graham said of AKA. “She is the Jacqueline Kennedy of this period right now.”
According to Alpha Kappa Alpha, the criterion for consideration as an honorary member is that “prospects have made outstanding achievements that set them apart in their communities and careers.”
SOURCE: The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com
ALPHA KAPPA ALPHA SORORITY WEBSITE: http://www.aka1908.com/
ALPHA KAPPA ALPHA Worldwide Webcast of Centennial Celebration Events: http://www.aka1908.com/celebration/