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 Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.’s Sigma Beta Zeta Chapter in Roseville, Minnesota and did an interview with Danielle Andrews the Basileus(president) of the chapter.
The position of president of a Black sorority graduate chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Andrews, who is a family coach and family empowerment class facilitator, has served as the president of the chapter for seven months.
We interviewed Andrews, who is a Fall 2008 initiate and graduate of Alverno College 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?
Being chapter president is an honor. To be elected unanimously by my Sorors of Sigma Beta Zeta and trusted to lead the chapter in our Centennial year is not something I take lightly. It is a huge responsibility that comes along with a lot of expectations, pressure and at times stress that is connected with being the leader of the chapter. I am no stranger to leadership, as I am a past president of the Iota Zeta Zeta Chapter (Minneapolis), but I came in with the thought that this tenure would be the same, and I was wrong. This experience has taught me that being president is an ever evolving process, and you must be ready to introduce and embrace change to keep the chapter moving in the direction that Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated was founded upon.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the surrounding community?
Service looks different in our new norm, and my chapter has stepped up to the challenge to continue to serve the community in a myriad of ways despite the barriers. We started off our year with planning and donating towards the Back to School Drive for Elizabeth Hall Elementary School located in North Minneapolis hosted by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Chapter of the National Pan Hellenic Council (NPHC). Social Action is always in the forefront, as we partnered with the Minneapolis Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), completing several phone banking events to engage potential voters and get the community involved with the 2020 election.
Targeting mental health, we hosted a discussion surrounding life after a miscarriage with women who had miscarried, along with health care experts to share strategies on coping and other related resources. All these events are interrelated, as they are a push for education.
Supplying our youth, our scholars, with supplies needed to be successful in school is one less hurdle they (and their caregivers) have to worry about while on their educational journey. I am a firm believer of when people know better, they do better.
Calling families and speaking with them about getting out to vote and knowing who their representatives was very powerful. Introducing new information is the best way to spark interest in our community members by planting that seed.
Miscarrying is such a taboo issue in the Black community. Having the discussion opened the door to normalizing the trauma connected to it, thus prompting an abundance of requests for a part two, solidifying its therapeutic impact and need in our community.
What made you want to pledge Zeta Phi Beta?
In undergrad you walk around campus and see flyers posted everywhere by student groups to participate in activities. I saw events that were posted by the Zetas that piqued my interest, and I’m not easily impressed. I was a non – traditional student (I was 24), yet still felt very connected to the ladies of the chapter. Even though I come from a family of Greeks, I was never aware of the ladies of Zeta Phi Beta and wanted to know more. After volunteering with the ladies, seeing them out and about in the community for service as well as on campus, I appreciated their vibe, as well as their reputation for being very scholarly. They were highly visible, stood out and were a group of women that I wanted to be associated with and I had to figure out how I could become a Zeta.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
My chapter is unique for several reasons, but there is something special about living in Minnesota. We are such a transient state, as Sorors come here for work, the military, graduate school, and a plethora of other reasons, bringing with them various levels of knowledge and experience from Zeta. Our chapter is made up of women who work in various fields such as IT, education, the medical field, law enforcement, social service and so on. The beauty of Sigma Beta Zeta comes from the wealth of Zeta expertise and sisterly love shown and shared across the chapter. We have members who were initiated during COVID and have less than a year in, to Sorors who are Doves and have been members for 50+ years that pass down history that we wish we could have witnessed.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think alumni chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2021?
The best way to communicate and stay visible is now through social media and showing your letters and colors consistently. Whether the chapter is small or big, there should be at least a couple social media platforms to interact with partners, potential members, possible donors and the media. I’m not saying you need all of them, but pick a few, make sure they are high quality representations and content of the organization and they are updated on a consistent basis. Also, having a chapter website is always a great way to connect and have all your information centralized. As it refers to interest, be intentional in communicating with them, and set up several virtual opportunities to interact, and make things feel as normal as possible. Having a chapter Zoom account (if not at the moment) is clutch, and allows for the privacy needed to be professional and to conduct business.
How is your chapter adapting to navigate the pandemic?
Extending more grace to my Sorors takes precedent and allowing for support when needed, and when it isn’t. This has been a tough period in life and we all are going through personal situations and we need to be there to support one another, and we have been having more consistent opportunities for sisterhood activities. Zeta is a business, but at the end of the day, if my sisters aren’t well, am I really being a sister to them and putting business over their personal wellbeing? We also have moved to hosting mostly virtual events, instead of our normal public facing events. It has been an adjustment, but it hasn’t been that difficult to adapt.
What does leadership mean to you?
Visionary, open, resourceful, impartial and informed are the words that come to mind when I think of leadership. Being in a leadership position doesn’t make a person a leader, the people that willingly choose to follow that person because they trust the direction they are taking them does. It is a true commitment and you have to be all in. I believe that my chapter is a reflection of me; if they are not performing at their fullest potential I feel that I have not provided them with enough support and guidance. As the face of the chapter, it is my duty to ensure the chapter is successful, and that’s contingent upon all of our performance and not just mine. I continuously seek opportunities that allow for growth and development of my board members, grooming them, as they may be the next president of the chapter.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch the Yard is one of the few platforms that caters to Black Greekdom and celebrates us and our accomplishments on an amplified level. Although (most) Black Greek Letter organizations have been around for around 100 years, we are still an afterthought in main stream America. Not only does Watch the Yard allow us to elevate one another across orgs, we are able to connect, get informed about updated happenings and build relationships we otherwise wouldn’t be able to; kind of reminds me of when BET was at the top of their game.
What does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood is the principle that has been the most precious to me. I knew coming in that I would not always see eye to eye on everything with my Sorors and differences would occur, but I have always appreciated the sisterhood, and there is nothing like it. I have put in work for my organization my entire Zeta journey, and at the end of the day, my sisters are the ones who hold me down when I cannot hold myself. When I became sick and was unable to go on my Born Day trip, my sisters came to my house with a cake and sang Happy Birthday to me; I cried like a baby. That is what sisterhood is for me: unconditional love and support, even when I don’t know I need it.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
My chapter currently advises the newly chartered Sigma Phi Chapter at University of Minnesota, Mankato. Before they were even chartered their advisor, Sharhonda York, made sure she built relationships with them so they would know they were loved and their advising chapter had their back. The Undergraduate Committee consistently meets with Sigma Phi members, and is full of Sorors who are ready, willing, and able to support them in various ways: through embellishments, support, financially, trouble shooting, academically, promotional item needs and most importantly, personal situations. We love our young Sorors and we are there for them and walk alongside them in life, not just in Zeta.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Danielle Andrews for her work as the president of
Sigma Beta Zeta Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 2000.