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 Xi Alpha Omega Chapter in Houston, Texas and did an interview with Tracey R. Lewis 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. Lewis, who is a Managing Director of the Houston Institute for Teach For America, has served in the position of Basileus for four years.
We interviewed Lewis, who is a Fall 1997 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?
Since January 2016, I’ve had the privilege to serve as president of the EXTRAORDINARY Xi Alpha Omega Chapter in Houston, Texas. My goal was to focus on unlocking the full potential of the chapter collectively and the members individually. A President should encourage their members to collaborate and be efficient and effective in both our community service projects and in their professional and private lives. I believe the measure of a great president is to lead by example and I made I was right there with them at the Activities working alongside our member. Rather than lead from the front a president should lead from within.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the surrounding community?
Xi Alpha Omega Chapter is supporting the 5 Program Targets under the Exemplifying Excellence Through Sustainable Service Administration of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated International President, Glenda Baskin Glover.
The Targets include:
Target 1. HBCU For Life: A Call to Action
Target 2. Women’s Healthcare and Wellness
Target 3. Building Our Economic Legacy
Target 4. The ARTS!
Target 5. Global Impact
The Signature Program of the EXCELLENCE Administration is #CAP (College Admissions Process), an initiative where we help high school students prepare for the college admissions process by offering assistance with finding scholarships, completing the application, preparing for the ACT/SAT, and writing the application essays. Xi Alpha Omega’s #CAP Committee, led by Chairman Thelma Johnson and Co-Chairmen Jacqueline Davis-Gilmore, Tondelyn Johnson, and Freddie Proctor, is our South Central Region 1st Place Award Winning Program Initiative, where they just welcomed over 60 students to the 2019 launch of the program at Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in the historic Southpark/Sunnyside Community in Houston, TX. We have students traveling in from as far as Livingston, Texas, to participate in our specific program. The #CAP recently sponsored 50 students, parents and chaperones of the Program to attend the Labor Day Classic Football Game between Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M University. We are making a huge impact by exposing these students to the HBCU experience and getting them excited about attending college!
What made you want to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha?
A woman of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated with more than 50 years of active membership, my mother, Mazie Glover Lewis, was my very first role model and one of many reasons I wanted to become a member of this great sisterhood. My earliest memories involve the women of Alpha Kappa Alpha in Columbia, South Carolina who mentored me and treated me as their own. I saw the service they provided in the community and the support they gave to each other and knew that this was the sorority for me. I learned at an early age, that being an AKA was about life long sisterhood and service. As a student at the College of Charleston, I was initiated into the Iota Omicron Chapter in the fall 1997.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Xi Alpha Omega Chapter is EXTRAORDINARY! We’re the third largest chapter in the greater Houston area with over 400 members. We consider ourselves a “big little chapter,” where chapter members have close relationships with each other and there is always an activity in which members can participate. One unique aspect of our chapter is that we provide babysitting services for members during our monthly meetings, creating an inclusive environment for our sisters with children. Members of our chapter and those who visit, often speak of the way they feel welcomed into our chapter at meetings and events.
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?
Social Media is a major part of Xi Alpha Omega Chapter’s platform. We use it as a tool to: 1)promote the community service activities of the chapter and provide information about additional community resources and support, and 2) highlight the accomplishments and impact of the chapter members good works to enhance the brand of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Xi Alpha Omega Chapter. We call ourselves Brand Ambassadors for both the chapter and the sorority. What’s great about Social Media is that it is being used inter-generationally and we are able to communicate our message to a larger and more diverse demographic. For example, the Sorority used social media platforms to help raise over $1 Million in ONE Day for Historically Black Colleges and Universities in 2018. All BGLO should utilize social media to build greater support for our individual and collective missions.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority means that you are prepared for anything. Some days it’s listening to a committee chairman or member and helping them think through an idea. At other times leadership is making a decision that you know won’t make everyone happy but is in the best interest of the chapter. Leadership is knowing that you can’t do this work alone – identifying and leaning on mentors as well as empowering others in their leadership journey.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard is important, not only to Black greekdom, but is a great source for the main stream media to highlight the positive and historical aspects of BGLOs. WTY has a special opportunity to showcase the many great community service projects Black Greek organizations sponsor and participate in that have an immediate impact on the communities in which we live and serve. WTY can also feature the political and economic power and capital BGLOs utilize early to enact real change locally, nationally and globally.
What does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood is knowing that someone always has your back. On good and bad days, my sisters will always lift me up. Sisterhood is having someone you love call you and tell you where you went wrong or how you made them proud. I am blessed with two biological sisters, but through Alpha Kappa Alpha, my sister circle expanded tremendously .
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Since being chartered in 2001, Xi Alpha Omega Chapter has had the honor of serving as the supervising graduate chapter for Sigma Theta Chapter at Houston Baptist University. Under my administration, Sigma Theta Chapter has had an excellent Graduate Advisor, Sonja Kirkland, along with a Graduate Advisor Council that has served as mentors for the undergraduates both for the Sorority and for professional development. We attend and support their campus activities and incorporate them in our chapter meetings and events. We assist them in attending conferences and work to ensure they have a smooth transition to the graduate chapter level. We want our Undergraduate sisters to know that they are equal members of this great sisterhood, that their voices and ideas are being heard and appreciated and that the contributions they make are truly significant and impactful in our service to all mankind!
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Tracey R. Lewis for her work as the Basileus of the Xi Alpha Omega Chapter.