A worker at the Charlotte Convention Center sets up registration stations Thursday in preparation for the Alpha Kappa Alpha Boule, which kicks off Friday, July 12. (Photo: Glenn H. Burkins for Qcitymetro.com)
With the Alpha Kappa Alpha Boule just days away, Qcitymetro wanted to know what Charlotte should expect when about 11,000 sorority sisters arrive to drape our town in pink and green.
To get a sneak peek, we spoke with Melody McDowell, the sorority’s chief information officer and chairman of the international communications committee. For several weeks now, McDowell has been publishing columns about the Boule on Qcitymetro.com.
Official events begin on Saturday, July 12, and run through Friday, July 18.
Here is Qcitymetro’s Q&A with McDowell.
Q. Why Charlotte?
Honestly, we felt it was ready. We had never had an event in Charlotte, or for matter, in North Carolina. So with its emergence as a major metropolitan area and after the Democratic convention and all, we said, ‘Hey, let’s showcase it. Plus, the members here in Charlotte wanted to have it here, so we accommodated them. So this is a way of propping them up and giving them a lot of glory and showcasing the service project that they do. And, of course, after we are gone, we hope that they will continue to bask in the limelight.
Q. So these conventions are held every two years?
Yes, it’s our biennial convention that we in Greek land say is our ‘Boule.’
Q. Aside from member events, are there things for the public as well?
Absolutely. On Saturday, July 12, beginning at 9 a.m., we’re having a benefit golf tournament at the Ballantyne golf club, and Roland Martin of TV One is the celebrity golfer. All proceeds go to our educational advancement foundation, which is AKA’s arm for giving out grants and scholarships. That’s the first one.
That very same day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., we’re having a Stop Hunger Now initiative, where we’re going to be packaging meals (in the Charlotte Convention Center) to go to areas around the world where hunger is an issue. We’re still looking for volunteers. If you would just give an hour. We’re looking for 250 people per hour to total 1,000 people. Based on the work we’ve done in the past, 1,000 people can package 100,000 meals. So we’re going to be like eager beavers, and it’s going to be fun. This is not a girl thing; we want the guys to come out as well. And knowing that it’s for a very lofty cause and a worthy goal, that kind of energizes people to work even harder.
Then on Sunday, July 13, we hold our town hall from 1:30 to 3 p.m. in the convention center. We’re going to be dealing with a lot of the issues that African-Americans and all minorities tackle daily. That includes racism, voter rights, the stand-your-ground laws and African-American youth. It seems like the youth are funneled from school to prison – that pipeline – so we want to address that. We’re going to get very raw, so we’re looking to have a spirited conversation and a dialogue.
Then that evening, from 5:30 to 7, we’re going to have our public meeting, where we’re going to acquaint the public with the weeklong conference. We’re going to be giving out many awards to luminaries from all disciplines and all industries – civil rights, entertainment, education, social justice and other sectors. It’s a fun event, and our president will be talking about the service project we’ll be doing as well.
Then on Thursday, July 17, from 10 a.m. to noon is our youth summit, which is at Carole Hoefener Center. We do have groups that have been identified. However, if there are some youth that want to come, they can just go on the website and sign up for that. We will be giving out backpacks to everyone who comes.
Q. I’m sure there must be some partying going on as well.
I’m sure there is. I don’t really know about the parties. You’ll have to contact other people because I’m not Party Central. But I’ve been hearing about the parties. I’ve been even getting some emails myself saying, “You’ve got to make this party.” The different fraternities, especially, are welcoming us, so we’re looking forward to being there.
Q. So what’s it like to have 11,000 sorority sisters all in one place?
I’m going to ask you that after the 18th. I tell people we’re coming, and there’s going to be a sea of pink and green wherever you go. We tell people, ‘Get ready. Get the restaurants ready because we’re coming, we tip and we expect good service.’ You are going to be so uplifted seeing all these beautiful black women in your town – very accomplished, taking care of business, serving the community and making a difference.
Q. I hate to mention the “D” word, but when the Deltas were here, they held a parade in downtown Charlotte. No parade for the women of AKA?
We’re very happy for them. I’m glad they held a parade, but we are doing service. It’s one thing to show off in a parade, but it’s another thing to package meals, and it’s actually another thing to get your shovels out and dig and plant. So, while the streets may have been red and white and all that, we’re going to be leaving a legacy behind. We’re not knocking anybody. We love the Deltas. But given the choice between a parade and actually doing something to help and making a substantial contribution, I ask you: What would you like?