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 Nu Xi Omega Chapter in Middlesex and Somerset Counties in New Jersey and did an interview with Yomi A. Forsh-Hamilton 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. Yomi Forsh-Hamilton, who works as a Certified Pharmacy Technician, has been in the position of Basileus for three years.
We interviewed Forsh-Hamilton, who is a Xi Chi Omega Chapter, Peekskill, NY, Spring 2002 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?
I was motivated to run for the office of Chapter President because I had ideas that I wanted to see executed. I felt that there were members whose skill sets were not being utilized to propel the chapter forward and I believed that although we were a good chapter there was potential to become great. I felt confident that I was the person to usher in that change. I had the energy, time, resources, and a desire to serve in a leadership capacity.
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?
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.’s current administration has 6 initiatives with Strengthen Our Sisterhood being the “Foundation Initiative” as we strengthen our bonds to support our service mission. The remaining five are: Empower Our Families, Build Our Economic Wealth, Enhance Our Environment, Advocate for Social Justice, and Uplift Our Local Community. Currently, Nu Xi Omega Chapter, is executing a robust Childhood Hunger Initiative Power Pack (AKA CHIPP) program that has taken over a year to create and execute. The program is part of the Empower Our Families initiative and its purpose is to address childhood hunger and food insecurity, a concern that was glaringly revealed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students rely on school breakfasts and lunches for nutrition and to satisfy their hunger but what happens on the weekends or holiday breaks when school is not in session? How do those students get fed? The answer is CHIPP. My chapter’s brilliant and hard-working programs and CHIPP chairmen, along with our committed chapter members dedicate their time and resources to sorting food, checking expiration dates, planning meals, reviewing budgets, securing space for packing and distribution, packing the bags, and delivering them to students in the Franklin Township School District on Friday afternoon at dismissal. Through the CHIPP program we have established and continue to foster relationships with our community partners: Somerset County YMCA, Franklin Food Bank, Middlebush Reformed Church, and Franklin Township School District. Most importantly we are “feeding the babies” in our community. We were even asked to continue the program during the Somerset County YMCA’s summer program and are exploring the opportunity to scale the program up to serve other schools in the district and expand to other districts in a neighboring county.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha?
My sister had the privilege of being initiated into the Lambda Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and was the first person in my nuclear family to join a D9 organization. My sister and I are close and the fact that she created these strong bonds of loyalty, trust, and love with her chapter sisters seemed so special. It was a bond that was different from being born into the same family. As I spent more time with them attending events, both Greek and personal, I really appreciated how they supported each other through thick and thin. They were also very intentional about serving their community. As someone who has always been community-focused and close with my sister the opportunity to gain more sisters and serve the community was a win-win as far as I was concerned. I did not ever consider membership in another organization. I knew Alpha Kappa Alpha was the one for me.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Nu Xi Omega Chapter is unique for several reasons. Our members range in age from twenties to nineties. We are multigenerational. The communities we serve vary greatly regarding socio-economic factors (i.e. race, education, family size, and household income). Six former presidents are still active in the chapter, including the chartering president, in addition to a host of charter members who had the vision to establish an interest group which lead to Nu Xi Omega being chartered on December 6, 1980. We are privileged to have a former North Atlantic Regional Director in our chapter, several legacy members, first Greek in their family members, Latina members, and in accordance with our documents the chapter president is also president of the 501c3, P.E.A.R.L.S., Inc., founded in 2001, which has its own board of directors. In some chapters the chapter president is not the president of the charitable organization. In Nu Xi Omega we perform both roles.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
We currently supervise the Iota Psi Chapter at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Stay tuned for more about that!
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
As I mentioned earlier the “Foundation Initiative” of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s current administration is Strengthen Our Sisterhood. Our Membership and Sisterly Relations committees are busy! This initiative encourages members to perform random acts of sisterliness and with AKA Soror Squads members with similar hobbies, professions, etc. are grouped and encouraged to bond outside of chapter meeting. My chapter has a Secret Soror program that it has been executing for years. At the top of the year, members are assigned a person in the chapter who they spend the year getting to know, recognizing their achievements, celebrating birthdays and initiation anniversary, etc. all anonymously. The reveal comes in December. This is one of the many ways a sense of unity and camaraderie are fostered. Finally, serving together on committees and during service projects is always highly effective in getting to know members. When we work together, we learn how each other works, our strengths, and areas of opportunity.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
My advice to those who aspire to take on leadership roles in alumni chapters is know your documents. I cannot stress this enough. With that knowledge and familiarity of parliamentary procedure you will understand how your organization is structured and can mitigate the risk of missteps. When things get tough go back to your why. In addition, keep learning. Do not rest on your laurels. Remember you serve at the pleasure of the body so leave your ego at home. Maintain your integrity. Listen more than you speak. Draw your circle wide and be inclusive. Set boundaries because we all need our jobs and love our families! Finally, always pack your patience. We all come to these organizations for different reasons and it does not serve you to waste your energy by taking things personally when people are out of pocket. Leading can be lonely and it is important to have a support system who you can vent to, trust, holds you accountable, and gives sage counsel. As you ascend in leadership that circle becomes smaller.
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 the leader I am today were it not for mentors. Mentorship taught me to keep going after disappointment, to make my mess a message, and reminded me that I’ve got the sauce! Personally speaking, I am harder on myself than anyone else. Mentorship taught me how to extend the same grace to myself that I consistently extend to others. It taught me to strive for progress and not perfection. The Alpha Kappa Alpha woman who has made a significant impact on my life as a mentor is Former North Atlantic Regional Director, Constance R. Pizarro.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom because it offers a space to educate, highlight, and inspire. Reading about other leaders who are affecting positive change and creating an impact in their communities raises the bar for us all. Watch The Yard showcases Black success, Black innovation, and Black joy in the context of the D9 which is sometimes viewed in a negative light.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I love being a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha because it is a space where I can be my authentic self. I am never lonely because I have sisters all around the globe. Being a member of this illustrious organization affords me opportunities to learn, stretch, and develop as a leader, and the knowledge is transferrable to my personal and professional lives. In addition, I love when members encourage and invest in me because they see my potential, many times before I see it in myself. I then pay it forward by pouring into others and using my platform as chapter president to elevate and highlight the tools our members have to raise up the entire chapter.
Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood means having the hard discussions when necessary. It means wanting the best for your sisters. It’s empathy and it’s sharing all the things both joy and disappointment. It’s comfort during a loss. It’s accountability. It’s communication, graciousness, generosity, and humility. It’s love.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Yomi Forsh-Hamilton for her work as the Basileus of the Nu Xi Omega Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1980.
Share this on Facebook and help us highlight Forsh-Hamilton’s chapter.
Photo Credit: Lauryn S. Hankerson, Ritchie King Jr. – DVIFOTO LLC
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