In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the sorors of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.’s Tau Iota Omega Chapter on the “Northshore” of Louisiana and did an interview with Erica D. Williams-Bell, Esq. the Basileus of the chapter.
The position of Basileus/president of a Black sorority chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Williams-Bell, who is an attorney, has served in the position of Basileus for three years.
We interviewed Williams-Bell, who is a Spring 1998 initiate of her sorority, and talked to her about her position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in the digital age.
Read the full interview below.
What does it mean to be a chapter president to you?
This has been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, experiences that I have encountered in my adult life. The challenging part is finding balance in my commitments and responsibilities to my family and work with that of the duties and responsibilities that are required of me as the President of my chapter. I consider this position to be an honor and a privilege. In this capacity, I am afforded the phenomenal opportunity to be in the company of professional women who look like me. Unfortunately, this is something still rare in the legal community where I primarily practice law. In my role as President, I have learned so much about my chapter members, the sorority and myself!
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the surrounding community?
Tau Iota Omega Chapter will continue to focus on the initiatives set forth by our International President, Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover. They are as follows~
Target 1: HBCU for Life: A Call to Action
Target 2: Women’s Healthcare and Wellness
Target 3: Building Your Economic Legacy
Target 4: The Arts
Target 5: Global Impact
The chapter has awarded scholarships to graduating high school graduating seniors and encouraged them to attend an HBCU, organized health fairs, offered free financial seminars, made dresses and shirts out of pillowcases to send to children in Haiti, donated eyeglasses to Lions Club International and shoes to the Soles 4 Souls project. Everything that we do has a purpose and that purpose is greater than us. Tau Iota Omega’s goal is to try to leave a person or a community in a better condition than which we found them.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha?
My answer is short, sweet and simple. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated was and is the ONLY decision for me. A lot of the ladies that I most admire and respect, are members of Alpha Kappa Alpha. When you surround yourself with greatness, you can’t help but become great….Next Question.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Tau Iota Omega Chapter is unique in that we do not serve just one city on Louisiana’s Northshore. Our chapter includes; but is not limited to, members from at least five parishes (counties). Therefore, we have the ability to reach a lot of rural communities that would otherwise not be serviced. The State of Louisiana is rich in culture so this makes the community service projects and forums that we have fun, yet informative and educational. Our graduate chapter is also located in the same state that is home to four HBCU’s (Dillard University, Grambling State University, Southern University and A&M College, and Xavier University of Louisiana) so we definitely support and promote the sustainability of such important institutions.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think alumni chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2019?
The digital world should be used as an online road map for the graduate chapters and its program initiatives. It should also communicate the vision and what we are doing to accomplish said vision. Graduate chapters should use social media platforms the same way undergraduate chapters are utilizing it if we want to capture audiences and make ourselves known worldwide.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership means to act in the best interest of the group that you are leading, because it’s not about you. True leaders should be the image and the voice that others look to for representation and guidance. Therefore, you should always govern yourself accordingly because you never know who is watching. Leadership demands commitment and a willingness to adapt to whatever the situation requires. Leaders should be educated and well versed on subject matters relevant to the position. However, be humble and recognize that you do not know it all and that there is always something new to learn. Finally, you need to have tough skin because leadership roles can be brutal at times!
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard has managed to capture both undergraduate Greek and graduate Greek audiences at the same time which, quite frankly, is not easy to do! The stories on Watch The Yard portray Greek-life in a positive light and do not play into stereotypes. Watch The Yard highlights community service, academic excellence, sisterhood and brotherhood of African- American Greek-life and culture (past and present).
What does sisterhood mean to you?
True Sisterhood is a bond that can never be broken. It will certainly have its ups and downs. However, it is the power of God and the strength of sisterhood that will hold you up and be there to support you when you simply cannot do it on your own or for yourself. Our chapter’s motto is actually “Sisterhood Matters.”
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Tau Iota Omega Chapter serves as the sponsoring graduate chapter for Lambda Omicron Chapter located on the campus of Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. In this capacity, we elect a Graduate Advisor who is the direct liaison between both chapters. Each undergraduate chapter member is assigned a mentor from the graduate chapter. In an effort to bridge the gap, we have a joint chapter meeting each semester and sisterly relations activities throughout the academic year. Upon graduation, we invite them to join our local graduate chapter or we help them locate a graduate chapter in the city that they are relocating to.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Erica D. Williams-Bell, Esq. for her work as the Basileus of the Tau Iota Omega Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1992.