In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the sorority sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.’s Omicron Theta Omega Chapter in St. Louis, MO and did an interview with Kimberly Hodge-Bell 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. Hodge-Bell, who works as a global science leader, has been in the position of Basileus since January 2023.
We interviewed Kimberly Hodge-Bell, who is a 1993/ Virginia Union University initiate of Alpha Kappa Alpha 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 motivated you to take on the role of alumni chapter president?
My primary motivation for becoming president of my chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® Omicron Theta Omega Chapter, was my desire to serve, which aligned with the mission of Alpha Kappa Alpha – ….to be of “Service to All Mankind.” Honestly, becoming the chapter president was the farthest thing from my mind because holding such an office in any organization comes with great responsibility and a major time commitment. I have held numerous leadership roles (e.g., president, chair, etc.) in many scientific and community-based organizations. However, I realized that my passion for inspiring others, my strategic (e.g., scientific) approach, and my ability to be an inclusive leader always intersect with my desire to serve. My predecessors, the past presidents, did a great job leading the chapter, and now it was time for me to take the baton and help write the next page in the history book. After much prayer, consultation with my personal board of directors and lots of conversations with those in my “ship” circle (mentorship, friendship, sponsorship), my time has come to serve as the 16th President of my chapter.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the local community or the broader Black community?
It is an exciting time for the chapter as we prepare to celebrate our 40th Charter Anniversary serving the St. Louis Metropolitan community. This year Omicron Theta Omega has several initiatives that seek to support and improve our local community, including our youth-focused initiatives such as Childhood Hunger, providing meals to students over the weekend and holiday, and our Youth Leadership Academy equipping young scholars in underserved communities with leadership and life skills. We also have initiatives focused on social justice, building wealth, the environment and health (mental and physical). Omicron Theta Omega Chapter is known for our signature event, the Pink Pizzazz Jazz Experience and our focus on HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Pink Pizzazz is a fundraiser established to help students fund their educational needs and highlight local black jazz artists in the St. Louis community. Our HBCU initiative focuses on increasing awareness about HBCUs, uniting HBCU Alumni in the St. Louis area and raising funds to support scholarships and community programs.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha?
I decided to become a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® because of its mission of promoting unity, empowering women, and serving the community.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Omicron Theta Omega is known for being a committed, hardworking, community and social justice-oriented Chapter. We were a trailblazer for the Charter School Movement in St. Louis, Missouri, establishing the first charter school in the city, the Ethel Hedgeman Lyle Academy. We established the first Metropolitan Health Fair, and today, we are a strategic partner with Harris Stowe State University and continue to raise awareness and support HBCUs.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Although the Omicron Theta Omega Chapter does not have oversight for an undergraduate chapter, we partner with Harris Stowe State University (HSSU), the only HBCU in St. Louis, MO, to collaborate and support undergraduate students. We partner with HSSU to stock their personal care closet that provides students with toiletries and personal care items throughout the school year. We also collaborate with HSSU student affairs to host a welcome-to-school celebration in August, a midnight breakfast during finals, and a graduation celebration in May.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
I work to foster a sense of unity through communication, collaboration and transparency. For me, communication is the key to any successful relationship. But it also requires a willingness to work together to reach a common goal. My last but not least strategy to foster unity is transparency. These three lead to a foundation of trust, camaraderie and unity.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
Preparation and collaboration are key! Read, attend workshops, and participate in business meetings. With each interaction, you will learn a little more! It is important to know your documents and the organization’s history at all levels (e.g., internationally, regionally, locally) as it lays the foundation to build on. Equally important is to identify key stakeholders (your “ship”) to support you along your leadership journey. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” -African Proverb.
How has mentorship helped you get to where you are today? Are there any specific people in your org who have made a significant impact on your life as mentors?
I would not be where I am today without my “ship” circle! Whether through mentorship, sponsorship, friendship, or any other relationships, it has all shaped me into who I am today. I have had several women within AKA who have encouraged me to use my gifts and talents to help elevate the chapter and organization at large. If I had to name one group of people that have had a significant impact, it would be those whom I call my “kitchen table.” These ladies helped me navigate difficult situations, educated me on different topics, corrected me when I needed it and loved me unconditionally. It definitely takes a village and someone speaking your name in the room when you are not there!
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
There are so many myths and inaccurate information in the media about the black college experience and Black greekdom. Watch The Yard provides a positive look into the black experience, provides a historical archive of the great news in our community and highlights stories on what unites all the greekdom family – Service!
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I love being a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® because of how it has helped me grow personally and professionally. Along this 30-year journey, I have sharpened my business acumen, developed as a leader, and increased my “ship” circle with a few Amazing, Knowledgeable and Accomplished sisters! Service is at the heart of who I am, just as it is at the heart of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®.
Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood represents a bond that I choose to invest in. I often call it an elevated friendship because it is an intentional shared experience that is built on trust and solidarity. Sisterhood is the essence of women uplifting and empowering each other. As I often say, I shine, You shine, We shine – that is what sisterhood is all about! This does not mean that we will always agree, but it does mean that we will respect, protect, and support each other even during difficult times and situations. I love my sisterhood!
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Kimberly Hodge-Bell for her work as the Basileus of the Omicron Theta Omega Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1984.
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