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 Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.’s Alpha Omicron Sigma Chapter in Dallas, Texas and did an interview with Kamisha Knight-Johnson 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. Knight-Johnson, who works as a OCOK Permanency Specialist, has been in the position of Basileus for 1 year 2 months.
We interviewed Kamisha Knight-Johnson, who is a April 11, 2005 Gamma Iota Chapter initiate of Sigma Gamma Rho 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?
Impactful leadership and hard work are part of my core values. As a Soror that moved directly from my undergraduate chapter to my current graduate chapter, I knew that it was my time to cultivate the next generation of leaders. The legacy of Sigma Gamma Rho Dallas plays a vital role in our community. And I want to continue that legacy.
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?
1. Operation Big Book Bag was established in 1996 in partnership with the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order, Nobles Mystic Shrine, Inc. (Shriners). The goal was to provide access, tools, and mentorship for school-age children. Access can be provided through many forms such as educational tutorial websites, computers, iPads, laptops, software, flashcards, learning games, and reference materials. Tools can include basic school supplies such as pencils, paper, pens, rulers, calculators, notebooks, and student planners to support the students with their coursework. Finally, mentorship includes mentoring and tutoring with students who need just a little more support personally, socially, or academically. Sigma Gamma Rho Dallas donated over 100 hundred backpacks full of school supplies to Gateway Charter Academy.
2. SWIM 1922 is a partnership with Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. and USA Swim. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority member and Olympic Gold Medalist, Martiza McClendon, is the National Spokesperson for the partnership. Sigma Gamma Rho in conjunction with USA Swim has provided swim clinics in various cities throughout the United States. Sigma Gamma Rho Dallas helps to promote SWIM 1922 in the local community by providing swim clinics and partnering with a local agency to provide swim lessons. Some of our community partners include Children’s Hospital, City of Dallas Parks & Recreation and YMCA Dallas. Our goal is to ensure that minority children in the DFW Metroplex are able to learn water safety and obtain access to free swim lessons.
3. Women’s Wellness Initiative is geared toward creating steps to make long term commitments toward wellness and well-being. We seek to provide relevant information and education on issues such as mental health, domestic and intimate partner abuse, stress management, nutrition, and much more. Sigma Gamma Rho Dallas is dedicated to focusing on issues that impact all women, but specifically women of color.
What made you want to pledge Sigma Gamma Rho?
I grew up in Austin, TX and am a proud graduate of Paul Quinn College. Attending school away from home can be intimidating, especially when trying tp form new relationships. Anytime I attended an event on any campus, the ladies of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. always treated me as family even before I joined. After doing my research, I learned that the Sorority’s mission aligned with my personal mission. The mission of Sigma Gamma Rho is to enhance the quality of life for women and their families in the U.S. and globally through community service, civic engagement and social action, I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
As the oldest chapter in the DFW area, Sigma Gamma Rho Dallas is a chapter is full of leaders. Our chapter leads in the Sorority and in the community. Within our chapter we have a Past International Legal Advisor, Past International Rhoer Coordinator, Past Regional Director, and Past and Present Regional Officers/ Committee Chairs (Regional Membership Chair, Regional Expansion Chair, Regional Protocol Chair, Regional Social Action Chair, Regional Parliamentarian, Regional Treasure, Regional Rhoer Coordinator, Regional Philo Coordinator, Regional Historian). We embody leadership!
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Sigma Gamma Rho Dallas strives to support our Undergraduates by attending their on-campus events and being a consistent resource. We also prioritize their needs and try to create an environment where they can thrive even after graduation. Our goal is also to ensure that our undergraduate Sorors have well trained graduate advisors to help guide and nurture them.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
My chapter has implemented what I believe is one of the greatest ways to bring camaraderie amongst the members. Dallas is a huge city and our members live all over the DFW Metroplex. Our chapter has created geographical affinity groups to help keep us all connected. Sorors are grouped by location and this approach has helped to solidify our bond.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
There are many ways to lead and effective leadership starts with service. Take the time to understand what leadership entails in your organization and look for ways to take it to the next level. Prior to becoming the president of my chapter, I served on each committee and held several offices. Through those experiences, I have a greater understanding of servant – leadership. If you discover that you aren’t ready to take on a leadership role, look to become a vital part of the committees that support leadership.
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 very important to me. One of the primary reasons that I have the opportunity to serve as president is because of mentorship. My chapter has a past president committee that has been very influential in the growth and success of me being a great president. Sorors Miesha Butler, Denita Branch, Robin Birt, Quiana Mitchell and Past Regional Director Henry Etta O’Neal are a few incredible mentors that encourage, challenge, and support me. The past presidents always have my back and they are also there to hold me accountable.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard is so important because it helps our organizations tell stories of the meaningful work we do in our communities. Black greekdom extends beyond the strolling and the parties. Our community service changes lives. And media outlets such as Watch The Yard help to share the significance of our organizations.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I love being a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. With all of my heart! We are Greater Women creating a Greater world and building a legacy for the future.
Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood is more than the three letters that are Sigma Gamma Rho. It is a true bond for life. Sisterhood is accountability, patience and love. Even through there are ebbs and flows, a true sisterhood bond can never be broken. Sisterhood is working together for a common goal while creating lasting memories.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Kamisha Knight-Johnson for her work as the Basileus of the Alpha Omicron Sigma Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1944.
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