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Leadership Highlight: Kim O’Neale the Basileus of Sigma Gamma Rho in Brooklyn and Queens

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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 Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.’s Eta Nu Sigma Chapter in Brooklyn and Queens, New York and did an interview with Kim O’Neale 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. O’Neale, who is a Non Profit Executive Director, has served in the position of Basileus since July 2018.

We interviewed O’Neale, who is a Fall 1991 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?

I am honored to serve as the 2018-2020 Basileus of the Eta Nu Sigma Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, inc. I enjoy seeing the growth of our chapter, our alumnae Sorors, our undergraduates and our Rhoers.

What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the surrounding community?

Our chapter will be hosting our annual Swim 1922 program, our sorority’s national initiative to promote water safety and help reduce incidents of drowning in 2020. This past year, we cosponsored the event with New York State Senator Kevin Parker and USA Swimming to hold a half-day clinic for more than 50 adults and youth. The clinic was held at the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club at Thomas S. Murphy in Brooklyn, location of the only public pool in district 21. During the class, our Soror, Olympian Maritza McClendon, the first Black woman to represent the United States on the USA Swimming team, taught kids basic swimming skills including floating and breathing while in the water.

What made you want to pledge Sigma Gamma Rho?

I became a Soror my sophomore year in College. I chartered the first Rhode Island chapter with six other women from Brown University in the Fall of 1991. I was initially interested in Sigma because of the members in New England. I was impressed by their genuine sisterhood and commitment to community service. As I researched and learned more about the organization, I was truly inspired by our seven illustrious founders and our national programs.

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

Our chapter is filled with over 100 diverse women; including educators, doctors, entrepreneurs, lawyers and business women. We advise three undergraduate chapters and support our local youth affiliate group the Rhoer Club. We are focused on doing impactful programming, like Swim 1922, our Annual Youth Symposium, and Operation Big Book Bag. But we also have fun bonding and making unforgettable memories with each other. Our Founders Day Brunch Party is a blast. It is an opportunity for sorors from all over NYC to join our chapter in celebration of the founding of our organization. We hosted an overnight chapter retreat in June, over half of our chapter members were in attendance and we had a great time. Also, we travelled as a group to the National Museum of African American History in DC, with our families and friends. In 2005, Eta Nu Sigma Chapter established the Seven Roses Legacy Foundation that serves as the charitable arm of the chapter. The mission of the Foundation is to serve the Brooklyn and Queens communities of New York City by empowering youth to expand their cultural and social horizons, improve their financial literacy, and pursue higher education opportunities.  All programming endeavors are geared towards supporting the mission, providing resources to assist the educational and personal development of young people and increasing the positive impact each volunteer has within the community.   

For more information on Seven Roses Legacy Foundation (SRLF) please visit http://sevenroses.org.

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?

Alumni chapters must have engaging social media accounts and websites today. Chapters can facilitate the receipt of funds with online payment options.

What does leadership mean to you?

“Leaders instill in their people a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders empower people to accomplish their goals.” – Unknown Author

As Eta Nu Sigma’s President, I encourage members of our executive board and our committee leads to focus on our chapter and Sorority Strategic Plans. While our chapter leaders are all working on a variety of projects(fundraising, community service, marketing, or membership), we are all focused on meeting our overall chapter goals.

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

Watch the Yard highlights the positive work the BGLO are doing. Watch the Yard has highlighted some of our chapter’s innovative programs and Sorors. You’ve highlighted Soror Monica Montgomery’s, Museum of Impact – the world’s first mobile social justice museum, and our chapter’s support for her innovative project. Recently, there was an article about our national initiative Swim 1922.

What does sisterhood mean to you?

Sisterhood is life long friendships. Many of my closest friends are also my sorority sisters. I love traveling with my Sorors! Many of my Sigma travel buddies are from my undergraduate chapter. We’ve traveled to various parts of the U.S., the Caribbean, Europe and Africa together.

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

Eta Nu Sigma supports three undergraduate chapters: the Kappa Xi Chapter at SUNY Old Westbury, the Nu Tau Chapter at Hofstra University, and the Tau Tau Chapter at Brooklyn College. Each chapter is assigned an advisor from our graduate chapter. Eta Nu Sigma offers mentorship, and training to our undergrads. Undergraduate Sorors are encouraged to attend graduate chapter meetings and events. Our undergrads recently participated in our annual Operation Big Book Bag program, a school supply drive, with our chapter, the Brooklyn YWCA, and St. Joseph’s College.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Kim O’Neale for her work as the president of Eta Nu Sigma Chapter which has a long legacy that spans back to 1991.

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