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Leadership Highlight: Takija Gardner the President of Delta Sigma Theta’s Oakland East Bay Alumnae Chapter

Photo Credit: Natalie Wilson

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 Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.’s Oakland East Bay Alumnae Chapter in Oakland, Alameda, Castro Valley, Emeryville, San Leandro, and San Lorenzo and did an interview with Takija T. Gardner the Chapter President of the chapter. 

The position of president of a Black sorority chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Gardner works as the Senior Vice President of Governmental Relations and External Affairs for the YMCA of San Francisco, one of the largest non-profits in the Bay Area. She is the primary liaison between partnerships with agencies, focusing specifically on federal, state, and local government entities and other non-profit organizations focused on issues affecting social change and equity programs. Her work includes representation at community, corporate, and government events to foster relationships with local leaders to impact communities served across three counties (San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin). Takija also provides strategic counsel on the executive level, including fiscal management of roughly $50 million in private and public funds. Her work dives into board governance, capital improvement, legislative and budget analysis, and strategic planning to cross-collaborate and uphold the Y’s mission to provide equity and access for all. Gardner has been in the position of chapter president since July 1, 2023. 

We interviewed Gardner, who is a Oakland East Bay Alumnae Chapter-Spring 2010 initiate of Delta Sigma Theta and talked to her about her position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in the digital age. 

Photo Credit: Natalie Wilson

Read the full interview below. 

What motivated you to take on the role of alumni chapter president?

My decision to step into the role of Chapter President for the Oakland East Bay Alumnae Chapter is a testament to my profound commitment to “Answering the Call to Serve.” Motivated by a deep sense of purpose, I embraced the opportunity to provide Transformational Leadership and deliver Exemplary Service to the communities we serve. My unwavering dedication to making a positive impact and meaningful change drives my decision to lead. I have a visionary mindset and passion for service, with the fortitude to empower others to join me. 

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?

The Oakland East Bay Alumnae Chapter actively engages in several initiatives aligning with our National Strategic Plan. Youth Initiatives – We foster academic achievement and personal growth through our Delta GEMS program, focusing on mental health, abduction awareness of young black girls, and college and career preparedness. The Oakland East Bay Alumnae Chapter also provides over $20k annually to deserving high school graduates accepted into college. Health & Well-being – We promote physical and mental well-being within our chapter and community. By partnering with local and national organizations, we organize health fairs, educational forums, and activities that promote healthy lifestyles. Social Action & Voter Education – Our chapter actively engages in social action initiatives to address critical issues affecting our community. We collaborate with local organizations to advocate for positive change, promote social justice, and support communities of color. We strive to create a more equitable society through community events, workshops, and awareness campaigns. We recognize the importance of political involvement and voter participation. Our chapter conducts voter education initiatives to empower community members with the knowledge and resources to make informed decisions. Through our National partnership with Get Out the Vote, we provide information on voter registration, voting rights, and the significance of participating in local, state, and national elections. These initiatives reflect our commitment to empowering the Oakland East Bay community through education, social action, and political engagement. We strive to create meaningful and lasting change in the areas that matter most to our members and the communities we serve. 

Photo Credit: Portia Nichols

What made you want to pledge Delta Sigma Theta?

It was the sisterhood and service for me! I pledged Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. because I wanted to be part of a strong legacy of women making positive change in the communities they served while maintaining the bond of sisterhood. 

What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?

The Oakland East Bay Alumnae Chapter (OEBAC) stands out for its powerful presence, just like the defining moment of the Black Panther Party. Just as the Black Panther Party left an indelible impact on Oakland, OEBAC continues to make a lasting difference in the community through its commitment to social justice, education, and empowerment. Both embody the spirit of resilience and determination, leaving an enduring legacy that inspires future generations. 

How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?

The Oakland East Bay Alumnae Chapter members provide scholarship support for undergraduate members to attend regional and national events. Going back to our founding on January 13, 1913, we recognize the vital role collegiate Sorors have played and continue to play in the organization. It is only fitting that we continue to invest in the future and sustainability of our organization. 

How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?

To foster a sense of unity and camaraderie among our members, we first start by ensuring that everyone understands the mission, vision, and values of the organization/chapter. We also host an annual retreat where we aim to reestablish our connection to the work ahead and each other through various group/team-building exercises. Throughout the year, we also implement the following strategies: Communication Channels: We have dedicated communication platforms, such as a weekly newsletter, email listserv, and private social media groups. This facilitates ongoing interaction, sharing updates, and fostering connections among members. My Sister’s Keeper Triad: This program pairs young and older members in a triad. Triad members are encouraged to support one another when an issue arises and participate in fun outings/activities, which helps to bridge different generations of sorority members. Internal Development: We offer internal development opportunities/workshops to strengthen the sisterhood. Recognition and Awards: Recognize the achievements and contributions of members through awards and spotlights in newsletters or social media platforms. Celebrating their accomplishments acknowledges their impact and motivates others to stay connected and engaged. 

What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?

As an aspiring leader within Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. who aims to take on roles of leadership within an alumnae chapter, here are a few pieces of advice: Embrace continuous learning: Strive to expand your knowledge and skills by attending leadership development programs, workshops, and conferences. Seek opportunities to enhance your understanding of the sorority’s values, mission, and goals. Build strong relationships: Cultivate meaningful connections with fellow sorority members within your alumnae chapter and across the organization. Collaborate, network, and engage with others to foster a supportive and inclusive community. Develop effective communication skills: Communication is key to successful leadership. Practice active listening, articulate your thoughts clearly, and foster open dialogue within your chapter. Effective communication helps build trust and ensures that everyone’s voices are heard. Seek mentorship: Look for experienced leaders within your sorority who can provide guidance and mentorship. Their wisdom and insights can be invaluable as you navigate your leadership journey. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice and support when needed. Lead by example: Demonstrate integrity, authenticity, and a strong work ethic in your actions. Be a role model for others by upholding the values and principles of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Your leadership style should inspire and motivate others to make a positive impact. Remember, leadership is a journey of personal growth and service. Embrace the opportunity to lead with passion, empathy, and a commitment to uplift and empower others within your alumnae chapter and the larger community. 

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 has been a significant part of my life. Most importantly, I have had sponsors open doors and prepare tables before I entered the room. I can name many Sorors who have significantly impacted my life, most of whom are past chapter presidents, line sisters, and close friends. 

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?

Many members of Black Greekdom find “Watch The Yard” vital because it helps promote unity, pride, and awareness within our respective organizations and the broader community. It also serves as a platform for networking, sharing achievements, and fostering a sense of belonging. 

Photo Credit: Scott Taylor Photography

Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?

I love being a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. because we are the change we want to see in the world. We lead in every space and profession. We are dedicated to making a positive impact and leaving a legacy of excellence. 

​​Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?

Sisterhood means unity, empowerment, mutual respect and support. 

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Takija T. Gardner for her work as the president of the Oakland East Bay Alumnae Chapter.

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