Editor’s Note: AKA Journal is a daily report on some of the people we meet and scenes we encounter while covering the Alpha Kappa Alpha biennial convention in Charlotte. Check back for updates.
Queens for a week
With time winding down on their 66th Boule (the convention ends Friday) the women of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority on Thursday all seemed to have just one thing in mind – posing for pictures and snapping selfies. We found best friends Michelle Wilson, Lisa Wilson and Joyce Henry posing for a group shot in front of a large, decorative column .
“This is our documentation that we were here,” Michelle explained.
The three women said they’ve known each other “forever” and all traveled from Virginia to attend the seven-day event.
Michelle and Lisa are blood sisters, and Joyce is a longtime friend. It was Joyce, in fact, who sponsored Michelle in Norfolk’s graduate chapter.
“The graduate chapters are invitation-only,” Michelle said.
Joyce said she knew Michelle from church and had no reservations about recommending her.
“You watch and you observe young ladies who you believe have the qualities and qualifications for Alpha Kappa Alpha,” Joyce said. “You look for integrity, scholarship – the whole bit – and community involvement.”
So how did the three enjoy their stay in Charlotte?
“It’s been wonderful. Everyone is so friendly and have gone overboard to make us feel welcome,” Michelle said.
Added Joyce: “This is the Queen City, and they made us feel like queens. They have really lived up to the title.”
Pink and Green x 2
Tuesday was Pink and Green Day at the Alpha Kappa Alpha biennial convention in Charlotte. That means each of the estimated 11,500 sorority members in attendance was expected to don the officials colors.
We came across Deidre Davis as she entered the convention center sporting the AKA colors from head to toe, escorted by her fiancé, Juan Butler, who had also donned the pink and green.
“I’m working my way toward my honey-do certification,” he quipped.
Davis and Butler hail from Fayetteville, Ark. It was his first time attending an AKA convention.
“It’s exciting,” he said.
Davis pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha (Xi Omega Chapter) 34 years ago at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She’s now active in the Phi Alpha Omega Chapter in the town where she lives. She said she tries to attend as many of the conventions as possible.
“I came to enjoy and support my sorority sister,” she said. “I always have to be plugged in.”
Is there a doctor in the house?
Dr. Mary Palmore, center, looks on as a cold compress is applied to the leg of Lakisha Williams, who tripped while going down an escalator at the Charlotte Convention Center. (Photo: Qcitymetro)
In a small office just off the convention floor, Dr. Mary Palmore was talking with a reporter about her role as chief medical officer when a sorority sister was brought in with an injured leg. Lakisha Williams had tripped while descending an escalator but appeared in good spirits. Palmore sprang into action.
For the last eight years, members of Alpha Kappa Alpha who are trained in medical care have volunteered their time and talents to assist their sisters who fall sick during the convention or get injured. Palmore, a Chicago Obstetrician, said the medical team this year numbers between 50 and 60 women.
“It’s work, but it’s a joy,” she said. “It’s a labor of love for all of the women on the team.”
Palmore pulled out a manila envelope that contained a sheet representing each person her team had treated since Sunday. She counted 16 sheets in all. Nothing too serious so far, not like the time in another city when Palmore rode in an ambulance with a sorority sister whose heart stopped twice along the way. The patient survived.
Palmore said she’d like to see the sorority some day provide basic first aid and CPR training to all its members. It’s training that can save lives, she said.
As for Williams, who tripped on the escalator, she was just about to receive a cold compress when the convention crowd erupted just outside the door. The actor Boris Kodjoe had walked on stage, surprising the packed plenary session — an estimated 10,000 women.
Williams laughed and shook her head as Dr. Palmore and some others rushed out to see the Hollywood heartthrob.
A Surprise Guest
Like the thousands of other AKA members who packed the convention center floor Tuesday morning, Barbara Bellamy of Alexandria, Va., had no idea that actor Boris Kodjoe would make a surprise appearance.
The crowd of women erupted as he walked onto the stage to help sorority leaders pay tribute to AKA chapters that had excelled in specific efforts over the previous year.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” said Bellamy, who was initiated into AKA’s Beta Sigma chapter at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, S.C., in 1980. “Sometimes they do things like this…pleasant little surprise. It just keeps that momentum going.”
Bellamy said she looks forward to the biennial conventions, known within the sisterhood as a “boule.” This year is the sorority’s 66th boule.
“I do believe in giving back,” she said. “The boule is where we come together every two years to handle the business of AKA and also to give back to the community.”
As for the eye candy on stage…
“Well, this is a female organization,” she said.
OK, ladies, click here to see Boris.