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 Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.’s Pi Sigma Zeta Chapter in Forest Park, Ohio and did an interview with Dr. Littisha A. Bates 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. Dr. Bates, who is the an associate professor of sociology and africana studies, has served as Basileus for one year.
We interviewed Dr. Bates, who is a Spring 2003 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?
To be chapter president is an honor, it indicates that those who have elected you trust you to continue to build on an already established legacy of excellence. It is a humbling feeling to know that your Sorors see you as someone who embodies everything the organization stands for and sees you as someone who can be the face of the chapter we all work tirelessly to sustain and grow. This presidential term feels especially special as we head into our sorority’s Centennial and I’m grateful for this amazing experience.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the surrounding community?
Pi Sigma Zeta is best known for our annual GirlZ to Women ™ Retreat. For close to 19 years during our Sorority’s designated time of Finer Womanhood observation we host a free day long retreat for young girls and their mothers/aunts/grandmothers. Over the years we have held sessions on things such as Self-Love, Financial Literacy, Educational Awareness and Self Defense. Our goal is to equip our young ladies and their mothers with useful information and skills to navigate their everyday lives. We also want to give them a safe space in which they can speak their truth and have their presence valued. There is no way to measure the value of feeling seen and heard as Black women and offering this space is vital to our mission in our community.
What made you want to pledge Zeta Phi Beta?
I wanted to become of member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated because of the sisterhood and commitment to academic excellence that was present at my undergraduate institution, Grand Valley State University. No matter what was going on at Grand Valley or with Chi Xi (my undergrad chapter) our grad chapter Pi Rho Zeta made sure our grades and studies were top priority and that really mattered to me.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Pi Sigma Zeta is a chapter with range. We have hosted all types of events from spades tournaments, book bag drives and skating parties to our Sapphire NightZ citywide comedy talent search that put 3 of the Greater Cincinnati areas best comedians in front of Sheryl Underwood to perform at our Sold-Out formal event. We are also a principled chapter, we stood by our commitment to social justice in 2018 and cancelled what had in the past been a highly successful Scholarship NFL Bus Trip fundraiser. These two qualities show that we CAN do anything, but we WON’T just do anything and that matters to the people that we hope to serve.
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?
I think alumni chapters across all orgs need let the savviest members take the helm of the social media accounts, if we are going to have visible, branded, high trafficked social media accounts. I think we sometimes find ourselves in situations where change makes us uncomfortable or resistant and this move to social media everything is one we must get on board with. There is no getting around the fact that all the PR for our orgs is now happening through social media. It’s imperative that what the public sees aligns with the principles of our organizations and successfully showcases all the work that we are doing in our communities.
What does leadership mean to you?
I very recently heard a pastor preach that a leader smells like sheep and that resonated with me. To me a leader is in the trenches working just like everyone else. To me being a leader is about more than being the forward-facing person but being someone that is ready and willing to set the tone and utilize every talent and skill at the table. I’ve been told that I am a person that can bridge the divide between generations and I think that is especially important in graduate chapters. To be a successful leader in this specific context you have to speak all generational languages.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
With the easy access to information it is important to have a platform where we can showcase the history and Black excellence of Black greekdom. Watch The Yard has become a space where those of us who are already members can see what is happening across organizations beyond our local NPHC chapters. This platform can also serve as a soft entry point for prospective members, a place they can go to learn about each organization.
What does sisterhood mean to you?
To me sisterhood is about an unflappable bond, one that can get pressed to the max but doesn’t break. One thing that is so important to remember about NPHC orgs is that this is lifetime commitment, you will not hear someone say “I use to be a Zeta,” it is like a family. We are going to have conflict as humans that is what we are hard wired to do but at the end of the day you are my sister and our goal is to service the community and see our organization grow and flourish.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Pi Sigma Zeta has the pleasure of mentoring the Illustrious Xi Rho Chapter at Miami University in Oxford Ohio. We support our undergraduates in several ways. Our graduate chapter financially supports their programming and ensure they have sponsorship to attend sorority sponsored events such as Boule. We also make sure they are aware of any potential funding streams that may benefit them academically or within the sorority. We have a wonderful 3rd Vice President that serves as their advisor and she has built a dedicated committee. Pi Sigma Zeta Sorors also support them with our presence at their events and make sure they know we want to see them be successful. We also mentor them to be effective in their roles within the organization and prepare them to one day matriculate into a graduate chapter. Finally, we also make sure they know we are available for basic life stuff, it doesn’t have just be Zeta stuff. From resume review to introductions within a given industry, when Zeta calls, we answer.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Dr. Littisha A. Bates for her work as the Basileus of the Pi Sigma Zeta Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1996.