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 Theta Alpha Sigma Alumnae Chapter in Greater Hartford Area (Hartford, CT) and did an interview with Terrika Foster-Brasby 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. Terrika Foster-Brasby, who works as on-air talent and a reporter for ESPN, has been in the position of Basileus for 1 year.
We interviewed Foster-Brasby, who is a Spring 2016, Theta Alpha Sigma (Hartford Alumnae) 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 knew when I joined the sorority at some point, I was going to want to be Basileus. I have always thrived in leadership positions, so it was a goal of mine for many years, but I saw the work and the progress that was being made within the Theta Alpha Sigma chapter, and my heart leaped at an opportunity to expand and elevate our presence in the community, especially as we entered our Centennial celebration. The encouragement and guidance of the previous basileus, Life Member Natasha Holmes, along with the support of my chapter sorors and other sorors who also serve in the role of president, inspired me to go for it. Being the president comes with many responsibilities, not only to your chapter but to your community at large. It was important to me to ensure I was emotionally, physically, mentally, (and financially) prepared to for such a prominent position within our chapter.
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?
Theta Alpha Sigma Alumnae Chapter is fully committed to “Greater Service, Greater Progress” in the Hartford community through the implementation of our 5 national programs, under the umbrella of Project Reassurance. These initiatives are geared towards assisting those in need through national and local partnerships and have made a substantial impact in our community. The initiatives include: 1. Operation Big Book Bag – a program designed to address the needs, challenges and issues that face school-aged children who are educationally at-risk. Through this program, we collect and donate educational materials, equipment, and school supplies. In 2022, Theta Alpha Sigma partnered with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun and Champion Sports to supply nearly 700 backpacks and supplies to all 3 locations of Jumoke Academy, a charter school system ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade. At the time of this article, our OBBB program is underway, and our aim is to donate 500 stuffed backpacks to support the Boys & Girls Club of Hartford. 2. Project Cradle Care: It’s Takes a Village Community Baby Shower – this program is designed to raise awareness of disparate and inequitable maternal and infant health outcomes Black women endure. Our chapter will host our 8th Annual Community Baby Shower, where expecting mothers are honored and presented with essentials to assist in the welcoming of their newborn baby, including cases of diapers, cases of wipes and gift baskets baby necessities. Over the last couple of years, Theta Alpha Sigma has also been able to present mothers with car seats, baby baths, and pack and plays. The event also includes the of sharing information from community resources such as WIC, MIOP (Maternal Infant and Outreach Program), and local medical professionals, as well as from our national partners like the March of Dimes. 3. Swim 1922- created to address the disparities in drowning rates in the African American and Hispanic population, who disproportionately have access to swimming pools and facilities, this program in partnership with USA Swimming is dedicated to teaching the community about water safety and how to swim. Theta Alpha Sigma will be hosting our annual Swim 1922 Water Safety Clinic in the spring. Previously our chapter has hosted this event with Olympian and Soror Maritza McClendon, and in 2022, was sponsored by the U.S. Water Polo team. Additionally, we engage with local swim teams, colleges, and universities who also volunteer their time to assist in swim training for the Hartford youth.
What made you want to pledge Sigma Gamma Rho?
I have always been inspired by those who actually do the work, not just speak of the work to be done. Members of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. that I have encountered were more than just women who wanted to present a check to show their philanthropic efforts. They were “boots on the ground” kind of women who impacted their communities similarly to the seven brave educators who started this sorority. Sigma embodies the “quality over quantity” mindset and that appealed to me. I am also a non-traditional (not mother/daughter) legacy soror, having many cousins as members of this illustrious sisterhood, including Mary T. Washington Wylie, the first Black certified public accountant in the US. Although I was unable to join on an undergraduate level, women of Sigma Gamma Rho continued to impact my life as mentors, friends, and colleagues. After a 10-year delay, on April 2, 2016, I was able to make my dream a reality and it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
The Tenaciously Authentic chapter of Theta Alpha Sigma is a chapter of first. We are the FIRST graduate chapter in the state of Connecticut. We are the FIRST chapter in New England to establish our Rhosebud Club Affiliates (for girls ages 8-11). And we are the FIRST chapter to establish our Philo Affiliates (for non-degree holding women with similar ideals and support for Sigma Gamma Rho). We are the largest alumnae chapter in the state with nearly 60 active and financial members. Since 1995, we have served the Greater Hartford community with diligence, excellence, and intentionality. We are a diverse chapter, and we exude inclusiveness. I will always have a special place in my heart for Theta Alpha Sigma. Recently, a close soror said to me that she equates “TAS” to “They Always Shining.” I laughed with so much joy because that’s precisely the way I hope that people who see what our chapter is doing envisions us. We shine because we do the work above all else.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Theta Alpha Sigma advises the Nu Mu Chapter at the University of Connecticut (the first chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho in the state), as well as the regional undergraduates (student from schools where a chapter or colony does not yet exist) from the University of Hartford. We are also currently in the process of engaging students at Trinity College. We engage with our undergrads by providing support for their events and fundraisers, offering training and development opportunities, encouraging new ideas, and increased participation in regional and national sorority events (i.e., conferences and meetings). We also invite our undergrads to partner with us on select service opportunities, as well as sisterly bonding activities in which relationships between the UGs and alumnae members can be fostered. Since becoming Basileus, I have established an Undergraduate Committee within our chapter whose purpose is to work directly with the Undergrad advisor at each institution to assist in the undergraduate affairs as needed.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
Alumnae chapters are typically filled with women from various walks of life and often various undergraduate experiences. It’s important to instill a sense of pride in your Alumnae chapter in your members, the same as many have for their undergraduate chapter. In TAS, we have established an Activities Committee whose goal is to create monthly bonding and sisterhood activities that are exclusive to members of the chapter only. These include escape rooms, dinners, outings, etc. We also host our annual “RHOck The Bells Christmas Party,” which is always a ton of fun. It’s important to realize that sometimes relationships exist outside of the sorority structure, so you can’t take it personal when some connections are stronger or deeper than others. But the goal is having a cohesive chapter where there is mutual respect for all.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
Go for it! Leaders are born and if your inner desire moves you to want to take on a leadership role, don’t be afraid. Couple of keys I would additionally are: 1. Understand the role (read your bylaws and know what it entails and what your responsibilities are). 2. Make sure your skillset aligns with the position. (Passion will drive you!) 3. Pack your patience, you will need it! 4. Have a strong support system. 5. Asking for help shows more strength than weakness. (You won’t and don’t know everything, so seek advice, counsel, and assistance when you need to!)
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?
The beautiful thing about Sigma is that everyone is assigned a mentor upon induction to the sorority; however, mentors come in many form and can be Sorors in and outside your chapter. I have been mentored by so many Sorors, who may not even know or realize the impact they have made on my Sigma journey. I think of Sorors like LM Natasha Holmes, who for 30 years has been active and financial and the backbone to many in the state of Connecticut. Or, like Past Regional Director Thomasina Gore, who managed an entire region during an unprecedented pandemic. She taught me how to preserve even in the most uncertain times. Or, like immediate past International Grand Epistoleus (Historian) the late Tamika Williams-Clark, who guided me in understanding that you cannot embrace your future if you are not aware of your past and how you got there. She instilled in me the importance of knowing your history and loving where you came from. These are just a few women who have poured into me. But there are so, so many others. Mentors will guide you, encourage you, and pull your coat tail when you need to be redirected. All leaders need that.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch the Yard continues to spotlight the positive in Black Greek life. There are many who are unfamiliar with what we do and WHY we do it. WTY gives a glimpse into the why and accentuates the how. This platform helps to grow exposure to the excellence that lies within our organizations and it’s important to have a place where that narrative is driven consistently and accurately.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I love being an SGRho because of our inception, our foundation, our growth, and our commitment to “greater service, greater progress.” Sigma Gamma Rho has given me sisters for life and has taught me the value of leadership and what it means to truly have a global impact. I moved to Connecticut in 2014, two years before being inducted into the sorority. The relationships that I’ve made here and bonds that have been curated here would not exist without the love and support and sisterhood I have gained from Sigma.
Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood is loving unconditionally. It’s choosing to show up for your sisters in the biggest and smallest moments. It’s celebrating each other’s victories and encouraging each other in defeats. It’s not letting a disagreement dissolve the bond, but instead using those moment to display grace, understanding, forgiveness and patience. Sisterhood is the trueness that lives within us if we are open and kind enough to let others in to experience it.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Terrika Foster-Brasby for her work as the Basileus of the Theta Alpha Sigma Alumnae Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to .
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Photo Credit: Barbara McClane
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