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 Psi Xi Omega Chapter in Alabaster and Shelby County, Alabama and did an interview with Tijuana J. Everhart 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. Tijuana Everhart, who works as a Owner of TJ Everhart Consulting, LLC a boutique consulting firm that focuses on strategic planning and workplace development training for public and private sector organizations, has been in the position of Basileus for two years.
We interviewed Everhart, who is a Spring ’02 Omicron Mu (Samford 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 motivation is the firm belief that I should be the change I want to see. It is easy to sit back and complain, but that is not my nature. I am action-oriented, and complaining doesn’t lead to action; it can lead to discord. The previous presidents of my chapter had done a great job of carrying us in our short time of chartering, and I recognized that I had a set of skills that could help us continue to be the great chapter we are. My strength is leadership development; my vision is that my chapter is “Leader full.” That was my motivation to take on the role of chapter president.
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?
Our chapter aligns our initiatives to our international initiatives which are all designed to improve our local community and the Black community. Those initiatives are: Empower Our Families Build Our Economic Wealth Enhance our Environment Advocate for Social Justice Uplift Our Local Community Our chapter have planted trees and we recycle plastic bags. We planted a garden at one of the area women’s and children’s shelter. We understand that black community has $1.6 trillion spending power. To leverage this, as it relates to Building our Economic Wealth, for the month of June we wore pink, spent green and shopped black. We also showcase black businesses consistently throughout the year and we maintain a roster of local black-owned businesses. Another initiative we have is a Youth Leadership Institute that is a black youth-led program to develop them to be world changing leaders of the future.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha?
I am blessed to have a family of AKA’s; there are 10 of us. From a young age, I had the ability to see the work of the sorority through their eyes. I saw trailblazers and women of strength and class. It was the way the women of Alpha Kappa Alpha carried themselves while at the same time keeping the service of the community at the forefront that showed me that AKA was the only way for me.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
We are The Loving Chapter. Not only do we serve together; we care about each other. Because we are not an extra large chapter, we have the opportunity to know each other. We know when you haven’t been at chapter meeting for a while and we will call to check on you. We are there for our sisters in their celebrations and in their hard times. When sorors visit us they always leave saying that they felt so welcomed by the atmosphere we have. Not only do we care but I believe that the work of the sorority should be fun and I do all that I can to create that type of atmosphere.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
We are the supervising chapter of Mu Mu, The University of Montevallo. Not only do we support them financially but we serve with them. We do joint community service projects with them and we hold a joint chapter meeting with them twice a year. We also mentor them as they serve in leadership roles within their chapter. We celebrate their successes and we are their biggest cheerleaders. I am blessed to supervised such a wonderful group of highly intelligent, kind and amazing young ladies of Mu Mu.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
We have sister squads where chapter members with similar hobbies gather together and meet on their agreed upon times and dates. We also have a sisterly relations activity in every chapter meeting to help each to learn more about each other. Those activities could be table topics centered around finding out something that they did not know about the sister that is sitting at the table with them.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
None of our organizations can thrive without leaders. All of our organizations will suffer when we don’t have effective leadership in place, so know that you are needed and you can do it. Identify what your strengths are and where you can lend your talent to the area that will work best for you and the organization. Know your why. Do not go into the role for the glitz and glamor because you will surely be disappointed. Your motive has to be for the betterment of the organization. You have to know that God has called you into a leadership role because times will get tough, but that will help you to not quit. Learn, learn and learn some more. Shadow the role that you are interested in so that you can learn about all aspects of it. If shadowing is not offered, ask the current leader to mentor you. Let nothing stop you
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?
Mentorship is paramount for my role as president because I don’t know everything. I am so glad that I have mentors to guide me when there are times of ambiguity. I utilize my president peers who have succeeded in an area of where I would like to take my chapter. But the most impactful mentors are the past presidents of my chapter. I am thankful that I am able to call each of them because they all have a specific skill of their own that is so helpful to me.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard is so important because it highlights the great things about Black greekdom especially for those who are not greek. I love the fact that people can see that we celebrate each other and not just one organization. Its also helpful for people who may be the first generation college student or for those who do not have a lot of knowledge about D9 organizations. Its a resource of the positive things we do within our community and they we are far more than just a group of people stepping and partying.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I love the fact that no matter where I go within the United States and some abroad, I am never alone. I had to travel to Lima, OH from Alabama and realized the night before my flight that I could not find my driver’s license. I printed off a paper copy of my license and when I arrived to the airport I had to go through extra security instead of TSA Pre-check because of it. I then arrived to Indianapolis, IN and I could not rent a car because I had a paper license. I was able to find a sorority sister in Indianapolis who I have never met who arranged transportation for me. She advised people in her chapter of what I was dealing with and another sorority sister of mine, who I had never met, came and picked me up from the hotel to take me to another rental car place the next day once my driver’s license arrived at the hotel I was staying in. That’s my sorority. That’s why I love being a member of my organization. For we know there’s no other like our sisterhood. And then to top it off with the impact we make to the community is the cherry on the cake. To bring tears to the eyes of a student that we blessed with a scholarship or a donation to an organization that support cancer patients makes it all worth while.
Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?
It means that we may fall out, we may disagree, we may have moments where we don’t like each other, but just like how I deal with these things with may natural sisters, I will never leave you. For me it means that if no one else is there, I am there. I am your sounding board, your cheerleader, your supporter and I’m also the one that will correct you in love.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Tijuana J. Everhart for her work as the Basileus of the Psi Xi Omega Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 2011.
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