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Leadership Highlight

Leadership Highlight: Freda Koomson the President of Zeta Phi Beta’s Delta Iota Zeta Chapter in Liberia

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 Delta Iota Zeta Chapter in Monrovia, Liberia and did an interview with Freda Koomson the President of the chapter.

The position of president of a Black sorority chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Koomson, who works as a Global Healthcare Management Professional, has been in the position of president since January 2021.

We interviewed Koomson, who is a Fall 2007 initiate of Zeta Phi Beta’s Mu Iota Chapter and talked to her about her position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in the digital age.

Photo Credit: Alisha Johnson (Eta Pi Zeta Chapter)

Read the full interview below.

What motivated you to take on the role of alumni chapter president?

The motivation – The honor of leading the continuation of the work charter members before me started in 1948, the privilege of renewing our sorority’s legacy on the continent and within the NPHC, and the humility to lead our Sorors in being the change I so desperately saw was needed in the country.

The vision– I saw a great need to also reacclimate Liberia to organizations like ours that espoused [black] excellence and to service initiatives led by and fundraised by people that looked like them. The 14 year civil conflict which ended in 2003 halted the great work of many NPHC chapters & even Masonic lodges who were active on the ground. In the country’s resurgence like in many other sub-Saharan countries, “development” is now largely dominated by western & white- led NGOs, institutions and dollars. Since January of 2021, SY 21-22, SY 22-23, and the current SY 23-24 I have proudly served our sisterhood, our country, and our Determined & Dedicated Delta Iota Zeta Chapter as Chapter President with commitment, courage, excellence and integrity.

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 managing the sorority’s $100,000 + Global Day of Service 2023 project to raise awareness, provide education, and screen over 700 women for breast and cervical cancer in Liberia. This healthcare project, the first of it’s kind by any NPHC organization, and the brainchild of our International President, Dr. Stacie NC Grant, has already revolutionized the way cancer care is administered in the country.

To guide the focus of our small but mighty chapter, we organize our service activities into the following 5 programmatic pearls:

1) Health,

2) Sexual and Gender-Based Violence,

3) Childhood Nutrition,

4) Young Women & Girls

5) Women’s Economic Empowerment & Literacy

Assistance in these areas has come in the form of: 40+ hours of hands on service in Liberian communities, $7,500 fundraising dollars generated in Liberia; $12,084 raised in total in the last sorority year, 500+women screened for breast cancer since 2021, 400+ toy drive recipients at our Adopt-A-Hospital since 2019, 69 new mother kits distributed, 140 girls and boys educated on SGBV at our Adopt-A-School, $400 in scholarships and $300 in microloans for participants of a adult literacy for women’s program that we support, and monthly Food Donations to our Chapter’s Legacy project at the Antoinette Tubman Cheshire Rehabilitation Home.

Across the sisterhood then we have “Embraced the Extraordinary” (a campaign started by our International President) and are working zealously to realize the power of S.H.E.- Social, Health, and Economic Justice in this, our Sorority’s Year of the International Woman.

Sorors of the Chapter embrace each other and the International President Dr. Stacie NC Grant and International Area Director Salaine Atkins-Little on her first day at Liberia International Women’s Day 2023; Photo Credit: Parashoot Multimedia

What made you want to pledge Zeta Phi Beta?

The Liberia chapter has always held a special place in my heart and actually informed alot of why I chose this sisterhood. I learned that Zeta Phi Beta was a trailblazing organization that was willing to embrace the true ethos of social uplift not just in the US but on the African continent.

Zeta had captivated by spirit in the summer months of 2004 before matriculation at the University of Pennsylvania. Eventually, it would also be the amazing women of Zeta starting of course with our 5 Founders who exuded the very spirit of wanting to break the status quo and serve our communities in a different and more attuned, community-conscious way. The women of Zeta I met before Penn and in the Philadelphia area were all individually excellent and unique in their own right and seemed less occupied with fitting into a mold of what a Zeta woman should be. I was elated that the empirical evidence I gathered on my yard in Philadelphia reaffirmed my notions about Zetas, and that they didn’t seem to fit any of the stereotypes referenced in the infamous “School Daze” movie. Instead, the Zeta women I encountered in Philly and on my campus were refining themselves together and apart coming together to form a beautiful harmonic orchestra while retaining their individuality.

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

Delta Iota Zeta is the first international chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and the first Black Greek-lettered organization to be established internationally.

During the Boule in Philadelphia, December 1948, Soror Luellelia W. Harrison granted the charter making way for the subsequent establishment of Delta Iota Zeta Chapter. The chartering ceremony took place in Liberia and was conducted by Soror Nancy McGhee, the newly elected International Grand Basileus. Eventually, an undergraduate chapter (Upsilon Beta) and a graduate chapter (Delta Iota Zeta) existed in Monrovia.

This year during the month of March, our Finer Womanhood Month our International President and our Atlantic Region International Area Director joined us in Monrovia for 5 FINER Days to celebrate 75 years since the charter was granted. We engaged in service, sisterly love and fellowship and also were blessed to honor our surviving charter member Soror Mabel Fagans-Hill who turned 95 on December 2nd!

Delta Iota Zeta Chapter President Freda with Soror Mabel Fagans-Hill, Charter Member of Delta Iota Zeta Chapter; Photo Credit: Parashoot Multimedia

How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?

Social media spotlights of our sisters on their birthdays, when they have accomplished something major at work or in the community are ways that we have employed to foster unity and camaraderie among alumni members. As President, I’ve also tried to have a different signature initiative each sorority year that fosters connection and I’ve found it to be effective. In Sorority Year 2022-2023, the Sisters’ Keeper Basileus Initiative encouraged biweekly check-ins with a chapter Soror you were paired with and every quarter you were encouraged to exchange small gifts under a certain dollar value. This year, the initiative is a mix of reflection and affirmation setting where each Soror is asked to provide a brief reflection and intentional word for the month and Sorors can vote on the best reflection. The best reflection wins a prize that I am intentional about mailing out to the winning Soror. We are also being intentional about convening for more than just chapter business and doing fewer high quality programs well vs. doing several programs and leading to burnout.

What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?

Be Entrepreneurial – As a leader, it is up to you to seize the opportunities at hand, and sometimes even chart new waters. Don’t be afraid to reach out, your most powerful tool is your network. Where there is a will there is a way!

Delegate – You are only as successful as the team that supports you. While you may feel responsible for everything, it is not up to you to do it all yourself. Everybody has strengths, and everyone can lend a hand. Find out what each soror does best, and empower them to contribute. I am super grateful for the awesome team that I’ve had support me, our executive board, and the chapter.

Be Flexible – In my opinion, leadership is more Art than Science. There is no rigid formula on how to lead. Each of us has our own style, our own strengths, and our own vision. Often you will have to communicate with a diverse group, wear a lot of hats, and be willing to change and adjust along the way. Be easy on yourself, this too shall pass, so cherish the moment and the memories even the stressful times.

Delta Iota Zeta Chapter sorors along with visiting sorors from Ghana (Gamma Alpha Sigma Zeta Chapter) pose with their International President and surviving Charter Member at our Finer Brunch Event in Monrovia on March 11 2023; Photo Credit: Parashoot Multimedia

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 key role in my life. Without the influence of so many people I would not be where I am today. I have been blessed throughout the years to have been patiently mentored by so many Sorors starting with Jasmine Gaillard, Spring ’99 initiate of my undergraduate chapter and countless other Sorors of Mu Iota including but not limited to: Melissa Providence (SP’04), Tia Rideout (SP’99), Nikki Silla (SP ’96), Delceta Cotton (SP ’98), Andrea James (SP’96), Carol Williams (SP ’93), Malika Hinson-Mene (SP ’94), Catherine Barnett (SP ’90), Monique Wells (SP ’79), Danne Johnson (SP ’91) and so many more.

In the past 5 years, Soror Salaine Atkins-Little our International Area Director has truly taken me under her guidance, not only helping us reactivate the chapter, but assisting me personally in keeping a grounded, balanced and calm perspective through the ebbs and flows of leadership. “Leaders Don’t Just Happen”, they happen through the sacrifice of Sorors like her who are willing to patiently weather the growing pains right alongside me.

Ultimately, I believe mentorship is a two way street. While it is necessary to reach forward to draw on mentors, and learn, grow, and benefit from their experience, it is imperative to also reach back, and find someone to mentor. Having the opportunity to be President of the chapter gives me great practice with 9 remarkable women. It is a privilege to both be mentored by and provide mentorship and guidance especially to our newest Liberian Sorors of the SP’21 and SP’22 intake classes who hold a special place in my heart. Soror Fredical Mars Mulbah, Soror Decontee King-Sackie, Soror Moriah Yeakula Korkpor, Soror Elizabeth Wede- Fahnbulleh, and Soror Sara Buchanan.

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

For many unfamiliar with Black Greek life and especially the ways in which our members stay active and involved beyond our collegiate years, “Watch the Yard” is an essential informational outlet. For those of us familiar with Black Greek life it is the marketplace, bulletin board, water cooler, locker room, and family reunion picnic in virtual form.

It shows that there is a community of ever evolving black excellence that remains active and involved in helping to improve the social ills in our world but also counter the years of intentional disintegration of black diasporic bonds and communities.

Watch The Yard then is an important and essential platform that allows the public to see that we’re more than just song and dance, colors and calls but that we are professionals who care to give back and most importantly, who care to preserve the legacy of our respective founders for generations to come.

Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?

I love that the empowered, global-minded, Pan-African woman I aspired to be before I matriculated through college was largely shaped by the Zeta trailblazers I had read about like Zora Neale Hurston or Violette Neatley Anderson. I love that the woman I was when graduating college, the woman I was in my 20s and early 30s, and the woman that I am evolving into now has been shaped heavily by my membership in Zeta. If you truly embrace our principles, the experience can be refreshingly transformative. I love our principle of Finer Womanhood in particular because it implies an ever evolving woman, one who accepts that you never finally arrive at being your best or finest but that it is aspirational and encourages ongoing and continuous refinement, continuous scholarship, continuous service, and continuous sisterly love to show up as our true finest reflections.

I love that “when Zeta calls” Sorors truly have answered the call from around the world. I’ve gone through tremendous personal challenge as well over the last 2 years and honestly don’t know what I would have done without the anchor of our sisterhood to help distract from the bad and keep me focused on the blessing of our sisterhood and that even in times of struggle being a blessing to those less fortunate can be the best antidote!

I love that I’ve also received unconditional love from frat brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated as well and that we are truly the only 2 of 9 orgs that share a constitutional brother and sister bond relationship.

Delta Iota Zeta Chapter President Freda Koomson with Delta Alpha Alpha Zeta Chapter President Monigo Saygbay-Hallie at Zeta Day on the Hill, September 2023

​​Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?

I’d like to think about sisterhood through the lens of Sisterly Love. Sisterly Love is that bench that’s always there and always has your back, if you need it or if you don’t, when you’re sad or when you’re happy, when you need to just sit, breathe, and reflect in silence or with words. It’s there even when you don’t want it to be to remind you that love starts within but that there’s a reservoir of love in the women we’ve intentionally called our sisters there to replenish us when we’re low and a conduit to pour into when we’re over flowing.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Freda Koomson for her work as the President of the Delta Iota Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. in Monrovia, Liberia which has a legacy that spans back to 1948.

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