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 Lambda Sigma Sigma in Stockbridge, Ga serving Henry, Clayton, Fayette, and Rockdale Counties and did an interview with Tanya Blackshear 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. Tanya Blackshear, who works as a Director of IT for AT&T, has been in the position of Basileus for four years.
We interviewed Blackshear, who is a March 10, 1990, Zeta Mu, Lewis University 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?
I’m deeply honored to serve as the president of our local chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. For me, this is not just a position but a calling, a commitment to a legacy that is greater than any one individual. Having been involved with the sorority for several years, I’ve experienced firsthand the transformative power of sisterhood and the enormous impact our service projects have on communities. I wanted to be president to lead by example, to be a catalyst for change, and to ensure that our chapter continues to live up to the ideals that Sigma Gamma Rho was founded upon. I also believe in tapping into the incredible talents and skills that my chapter members possess. One of the most rewarding aspects of being in a leadership role is the opportunity to mentor younger members and to be mentored by our more experienced members. There’s a wealth of knowledge, experience, and passion within our chapter, and as president, my goal was to harness these resources effectively for the betterment of our community and the enrichment of our sisterhood. Lastly, I felt a personal calling. Sometimes you are driven to take up a responsibility not just because you think you can do it, but because you feel you must do it—for the betterment of others and for the nourishment of your own soul. Sigma Gamma Rho is more than just an organization to me; it’s a lifelong family that has helped shape me into who I am today.
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?
This year, our chapter is excited to spearhead several impactful initiatives that we believe will not only enrich our local community but also have a broader positive impact on the Black community as a whole. These programs underscore our commitment to education, health, and well-being. Mobile Library: One of the major initiatives we’re rolling out is a Mobile Library program aimed at enhancing literacy and educational support in undeserved communities. Providing Scholarships: Financial constraints should never be a roadblock to higher education, and our Scholarship Program seeks to alleviate some of these challenges. Swim 1922: Swim 1922 is an initiative very close to our hearts, aiming to combat the alarming statistics around accidental drownings within the Black community. Each of these initiatives addresses a critical need within the Black community—be it educational, financial, or related to health and safety. We believe that through these programs, we can uplift individuals, thereby contributing to the collective progress and resilience of the Black community.
What made you want to pledge Sigma Gamma Rho?
Joining Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated was one of the most defining and transformative decisions of my life, and several factors fueled my desire to pledge. First and foremost, it was the organization’s unwavering commitment to community service, education, and the empowerment of women that deeply resonated with me. From the moment I learned about the sorority’s history and mission, I knew that this was a sisterhood I wanted to be a part of—a sisterhood that would enable me to contribute positively to my community and help me grow as an individual. In addition to the values and impact of the organization, I was genuinely captivated by the symbolism of our shield. To me, the shield was so cool! It’s not just aesthetically pleasing; it’s also rich in symbolism that encompasses the principles and values that Sigma Gamma Rho stands for. Every time I look at it, I am reminded of the legacy I am a part of, and the responsibilities that come with it. The shield serves as a visual affirmation of the strength, unity, and protection that our sisterhood offers, both to its members and the community at large. I was also drawn to the genuine camaraderie and deep-rooted friendships I observed among the members. These were strong, educated, and ambitious women who were committed to lifting each other up while serving their communities. I wanted to be surrounded by individuals who not only shared my goals but were also willing to work together to achieve them. The profound impact Sigma Gamma Rho has had on communities, its emphasis on sisterhood and academic excellence, coupled with the undeniable allure of the shield, were the key elements that made me want to pledge. This sorority has not only enriched my life in countless ways but has also provided me with a platform to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
I couldn’t be prouder to lead the Lambda Sigma Sigma alumnae chapter, and what truly sets our chapter apart is the incredible diversity of the women who make up our members. From teachers, nurses, and entrepreneurs to insurance agents, pharmacists, IT developers, accountants, and project managers—our chapter is a rich tapestry of professional and personal experiences. Our members range in age from 23 to 70, and each sister brings her own invaluable life perspective that enriches us all.Lambda Sigma Sigma is not just a chapter; it’s a sanctuary. It’s a place where you’re not just welcomed but embraced wholeheartedly. When you join our sisterhood, you’re not joining an organization; you’re joining a family. A family that gives you a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, and, most importantly, a safe place to land. The strength of our chapter is rooted in the power of our diversity, yet unified in our common goals and values. We aim to uplift not only one another but our broader communities as well.Our members have an astounding breadth of knowledge and skills that we utilize in our service projects and mentorship programs. Whether you’re a young professional looking for guidance or an experienced veteran willing to share your wisdom, there’s a place for you here. The cross-generational relationships that develop within our chapter are beautiful to witness and be a part of. These relationships, often mentor-mentee in nature, offer mutual benefits that transcend typical friendship, creating bonds that last a lifetime.But it’s not just about what we can do for you; it’s also about what you can bring to us. Our sisterhood thrives on the unique qualities and talents of each member. And it’s this mutual respect and recognition that make Lambda Sigma Sigma a truly unique and exceptional chapter.To me, Lambda Sigma Sigma represents the epitome of what a chapter should be—a supportive network of extraordinary women committed to each other’s personal and professional growth, and to making meaningful contributions to society. And I’m honored to serve as its president.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
It’s a privilege to be at the helm of Lambda Sigma Sigma alumnae chapter, especially when it comes to supporting the next generation of outstanding women in our community. The undergraduate chapters we take great pride in supporting is the Rho Lambda chapter at Clayton State University. Our engagement with them is both multi-faceted and intentional, focusing on financial, moral, and developmental aspects to ensure these young women have the best possible experience and resources at their disposal. Financially, we offer chapter funding every year specifically tailored for members of the Rho Lambda chapter. Moral support is equally critical. Our 2nd Anti Basileus Chalae Young gets many of our Lambda Sigma Sigma members to act as mentors to the Rho Lambda members, providing them with career advice, study support, and personal development guidance. We’ve established a robust mentorship program, pairing alumnae with undergraduates based on career interests, life experience, and even hobbies. This allows for a more personalized and impactful relationship. We also make it a point to attend Rho Lambda events, cheering them on, whether it’s an athletic competition, academic presentation, or any other event that’s important to them. Our presence is a small but impactful way to show that we stand with them, and they are not alone in their journey Lambda Sigma Sigma is more than just an alumnae chapter; it’s a support system, a network of resources, and most importantly, it’s a family. The relationship between Lambda Sigma Sigma and Rho Lambda isn’t just a traditional sponsorship; it’s a partnership built on mutual respect, shared goals, and the heartfelt desire to see each other succeed. We’re not just investing in their today; we’re investing in their tomorrow, and the future they will help shape. And that is a commitment we take very seriously.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
Fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members is a multifaceted task that requires strategic planning, open communication, and genuine concern for the well-being of the community. Based on my experiences, here are some strategies that have proven effective: Regular Communication: One of the simplest yet most effective ways to foster unity is through regular communication. Monthly newsletters, emails, and social media updates about chapter news, upcoming events, and individual achievements create a sense of belonging and keep everyone informed. Networking and Social Events: In-person gatherings can work wonders in building rapport among alumni members. Whether it’s a formal gala, a casual dinner, or a family-friendly picnic, events that cater to different demographics within the alumni community can help bridge generational gaps and encourage bonding. Virtual Meetups: Given that not everyone can attend in-person events, virtual meetups can serve as an inclusive platform for members to connect. These can range from professional development webinars to casual coffee chats. By implementing a combination of these strategies, you can build a robust, engaged, and unified alumni community that not only supports each other but also contributes positively to the broader objectives of your organization.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
Leadership in an alumnae chapter offers a unique opportunity to not only serve your sisters but also to leave a lasting impact on the broader community. Here is some advice for those of you contemplating such a meaningful journey. First and foremost, do not be afraid of failure. Leadership is a learning process, one that comes with its set of challenges and setbacks. Each ‘failure’ is merely an opportunity for growth, a lesson in resilience, and a stepping stone on the path to becoming an effective leader. The fear of making a mistake should never deter you from stepping up and taking charge. Each of us who has served in a leadership role has faced challenges, and it’s how we rise from them that defines us. Invest in building relationships. Leadership is not just about being at the helm; it’s about fostering a sense of community and building a team. Take the time to get to know your sisters, their strengths, and their passions. The most successful projects and initiatives are often the result of collaborative efforts, so understanding and appreciating the talents within your chapter is crucial. Always be transparent and communicate effectively. A leader’s role involves making decisions that affect the chapter as a whole, and it’s crucial that you’re open about your processes and reasoning. Communication builds trust, and trust is the bedrock of any successful leadership endeavor. Finally, leadership within an alumnae chapter offers a fulfilling experience that is both challenging and rewarding. It allows you to contribute to the longevity and efficacy of a sisterhood that extends far beyond college years. So if you’re contemplating a leadership role, remember to embrace each challenge as a learning opportunity, build strong relationships, continuously improve, communicate openly, and focus on the long-term vision. Your journey in leadership will not be without its obstacles, but don’t let the fear of stumbling prevent you from running the race. We’re all here to support you, to uplift you, and to celebrate each triumph along the way.
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 played a transformative role in my journey, both within the sisterhood and in my personal and professional life. My mentors within the sorority were instrumental in shaping my values, refining my leadership skills, and imparting the importance of service to the community. They modeled the qualities of strong, compassionate, and empowered women, setting a high bar for what I aspired to become. Navigating Sorority Life: Starting from my pledge days to my current involvement, seasoned sisters provided me with invaluable insights into how to navigate the complexities and responsibilities that come with being a member of a Black Greek-letter organization. This guidance was especially crucial as I took on leadership roles within the sorority. Networking: Mentorship extends beyond the immediate circle of my chapter, given that Sigma Gamma Rho has a national and international presence. This has allowed me to network with influential sisters who are making strides in various sectors, from business to politics to academia. Paying it Forward: Perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of mentorship is the chance to pay it forward. As I’ve matured within the organization, I have had the honor of mentoring younger sisters, thereby perpetuating the cycle of empowerment and leadership that is so crucial to the fabric of Sigma Gamma Rho. Mentorship has been an integral cornerstone of my development, and many of the successes I’ve achieved can be traced back to the wisdom, encouragement, and opportunities that were generously offered by my mentors within this incredible sisterhood.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard acts as a bridge connecting different generations, organizations, and facets of Black Greek life, while serving as a loudspeaker that magnifies our collective impact and relevance in today’s society.
Watch The Yard does that in the following ways:
Visibility and Representation: Watch The Yard amplifies the voices and experiences of Black Greek life in a society where positive representations are still fighting for space. It allows us to tell our own stories, and in doing so, it gives prospective members an authentic glimpse into what Black Greek life is about.
Preservation of History: Black Greek-letter organizations have a rich history rooted in activism, academic excellence, and community service. Watch The Yard serves as a digital archive, capturing key moments, spotlighting leaders within the community, and chronicling the impactful work being done by various chapters.
Unity and Network Building: Watch The Yard serves as a centralized hub that fosters inter-organizational interactions. Through features, profiles, and stories, we get to learn about and celebrate the accomplishments of other organizations within the Pan-Hellenic council, reinforcing a sense of unity and collective identity.
Education and Awareness: The platform is not just for current members or alumni but also serves as an educational resource for those who may not be familiar with Black Greek life. Through its wide reach, Watch The Yard helps debunk myths and provide facts, thereby educating the public about the actual roles and contributions of Black Greek-letter organizations.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
Having been a dedicated member of Sigma Gamma Rho for an incredible 33 years, my sense of pride, love, and community within this sisterhood is truly immeasurable. Through this organization, I have formed life-altering relationships with women spanning generations, from the spirited 20-year-olds to the wise and resilient 75-year-olds. Each interaction has enriched my life in ways I never could have imagined. Without the foundation and opportunities provided by Sigma Gamma Rho, these relationships would simply never have been possible. The depth of our bonds goes beyond casual friendships or professional networking. It’s a unique, empowering sisterhood that sustains us through trials and celebrates with us in triumphs. We mentor and uplift one another, standing shoulder to shoulder as pillars of support and fountains of wisdom. We have laughed together, cried together, and most importantly, grown together. Our sisterhood isn’t just an aspect of my life; it’s an integral part of who I am. When one of us succeeds, it feels as though we all do; when one of us faces hardship, we all shoulder that burden. It’s an intergenerational tapestry of diverse yet like-minded women, all aiming for progress, community service, and educational empowerment. Our shared values and commitment to making a difference in the community create a synergy that is truly unmatched. This is not just an organization to me; it’s a lifelong family and a nurturing home that I have been fortunate to be a part of for over three decades. As the years have gone by, my affection and commitment to Sigma Gamma Rho have only deepened. I’ve seen firsthand the transformative power of our collective efforts, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the boundless opportunities to grow, serve, and love through this extraordinary sisterhood. So yes, the bond we have in Sigma Gamma Rho is unparalleled. It’s a haven of friendship and personal growth, a platform for service and advocacy, and a lifelong journey that has shaped me into the person I am today. I look forward to many more years of sisterhood, knowing that we’ll continue to uplift each other every step of the way.
Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?
To me, sisterhood in Sigma Gamma Rho means unconditional love and relentless support. It means having a support system that functions like a safety net, ready to catch you when life throws curveballs your way. It’s having a group of like-minded women who share your values, ambitions, and even your struggles. It’s about providing and receiving mentorship, drawing from a well of collective wisdom that spans generations. It’s being a part of a continuum, an ongoing story where each member plays a vital role. But it’s also about accountability. It’s having sisters who won’t hesitate to call you out when you’re wrong and who will provide the constructive criticism you need to grow as an individual. And it’s about doing the same for them in return, in a space of mutual trust and respect. Over these 33 years, the sisterhood has also meant witnessing and partaking in profound personal transformations, including my own. I’ve seen young women grow into successful professionals and leaders, not just in their careers but also in their communities. I’ve seen the shared joy in each other’s milestones—graduations, promotions, marriages, and births. But I’ve also shared in sorrows and setbacks, knowing that this sisterhood offers a sanctuary of compassion and understanding. The sisterhood has provided me with opportunities to give back, to mentor younger members, to influence positive change, and to build something that outlives us all. When I participate in our service projects, or when I contribute to our scholarship funds, I don’t just see it as charity; I see it as an investment in the future of a sisterhood that has given me so much. So, when I say sisterhood, I mean a lifetime of shared experiences, a continuum of love, a legacy of empowerment, and an unbreakable bond that has enriched my life in immeasurable ways. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Tanya Blackshear for her work as the Basileus of the Lambda Sigma Sigma Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 2012.
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