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 Gamma Mu Zeta in Spartanburg and did an interview with Dr. Melisa Bush 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. Dr. Melisa Bush, who works as a director of Human Resources, has been in the position of Basileus for over five years.
We interviewed Dr. Bush, who was initiated in Fall 1993 on the campus of UNC – Wilmington through the Pi Nu 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.
Read the full interview below.
What motivated you to take on the role of alumni chapter president?
My motivation to run for the office of Basileus (President) was based on my desire to embrace the experience of being a leader of the chapter that embraced me when I was an associate member as an undergraduate. I am always up to a challenge and I felt that the women of Gamma Mu Zeta had poured into me the tools that I needed to lead our beloved chapter. I sat in the role of Basileus for two terms (4 years) and it was a phenomenal experience. I accomplished a lot and made many strides to get Gamma Mu Zeta back to where it was before. The second time I ran for the office (my current term) was strictly for my Sorors! After the pandemic, I noticed that the Zeta light of my beautiful Sorors was diminishing and the sisterly love and bond was almost nonexistent. I felt that I had to help bring the sisterhood and love back to the chapter so I placed my name on the ballot and thought all summer of ways to bring that Zeta zeal and love back to my Sorors.
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?
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated has many national initiatives to ensure that its members serve the communities where they live. The members of the Gamma Mu Zeta Chapter hold their duty of Zetas-Helping Other People Excel (Z-HOPE) close to their hearts. As a chapter, we hold mental health forums along with using our time and resources to support the mental health aspects of the people within our community to promote self-care. This not only helps the community as a whole, but as we consider the stigma of the black community of not wanting to address mental health issues, not having a safe place to confront the issues, and not having the resources that are necessary to enhance their everyday lives because of these issues, we feel that it is especially important that we as a body support the black community by helping them cope and confront the issues they may experience with mental health.
What made you want to pledge Zeta Phi Beta?
Why did I decide to join The Best Sorority of Divine 9 (smile)? One hundred percent…It was the community service for me! As a first-generation college student and graduate, I did not know anything about college organizations, not to mention sororities. As I reflect on the first time that I witnessed the ladies of the royal blue and white I am reminded of when I saw them doing a community service project on the campus of UNC-Wilmington. The passion that they had in making sure that every question was answered and that every person present had the resources that they needed to overcome the topic presented was phenomenal. I have always been a person who loves to help others and it was at that moment when I realized that the later learned service principle of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated aligned with my desire to engage with and help others be a better version of themselves.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Besides the fact that we are the #SpartanburgZetas, the Gamma Mu Zeta Chapter is unique because it was the fourth chapter to be chartered in the State of South Carolina. Additionally, we housed the first Associate State Director, now titled State Director of South Carolina. Triumphant Soror Claiborne Carter held the distinct title of Associate State Director from 1954 to 1959. Soror Carter was one of the chartered members of Gamma Mu Zeta and on May 1, 1948, the chapter was organized at the recreation center located on South Liberty Street, now called The CC Woodson Center. Regional Director, Soror Metella Maree of Savannah, Georgia was a vital part of the chartered celebration banquet along with our “Constitutionally Bound” Brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
The Prestigious Pi Rho Chapter was chartered on the beautiful campus of The University of South Carolina – Upstate on May 25, 2002. In fact, I was one of the six chartered members of the undergraduate chapter. Although I was already a member of Zeta during that time I was still an undergraduate student since I transferred to the university a year and a half prior. Gamma Mu Zeta takes pride in our beloved undergraduate Sorors, so of course we support our undergraduate chapter financially when necessary. I believe that financial support is essential, but I also believe that education is invaluable for their growth. The members of Gamma Mu Zeta, and especially the appointed Undergraduate Committee members who have trained to become certified advisors work extremely hard to teach our undergraduates “The Zeta Way.” We believe that a “Good Zeta is a Well-informed Zeta” and we make sure that they have the necessary tools to be successful. As you probably know they are young adults and are very independent. We understand the importance of allowing them to find their way to success and that is why allow them to conduct their chapter business in their unique way. However, when necessary we step in with sisterly corrections to make sure that they are conducting the business of Zeta properly and following the protocol of our organization, hence The Zeta Way.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
I am glad that you asked (smile). During my first term as Basileus, I introduced the MSK (My Sister’s Keeper) program to my chapter. This program was just an initiative to help us as Sorors to make a conscious effort to keep in touch with, get to know, motivate, and support each other by bonding and spending quality time or showering each other with small tokens of love. I found this to be effective during both my terms as Basileus because it eliminates those “cliques” since we change MSKs every year. Changing MSKs every year allows us to bond with more than one soror on a deeper level, thus helping us as members know who we labor among which is essential for growth. I feel that this strategy is very successful because each year they ask if they could get another MSK.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
The advice that I would give aspiring leaders who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within the alumni chapters is to first pray that God keeps them humble at all times and ask Him for guidance in making important “business” decisions. Sometimes as leaders, we want to lead in a way that our flesh feels is right rather than finding solutions that are for the betterment of the organization. I have three Sorors that I always lean on to help me. The first Soror I have is the one who almost always sides with me and allows me to say “Yes and that’s right.” I find that I must get that “fleshy” response out of my spirit so I can think clearer (smile). This Soror allows me to vent, after all, I am human too I get angry, sad, and wrapped up in my feelings too. The second Soror is the one who makes me see things from every perspective. This Soror gives me clarity and helps me remove from my flesh so I can react professionally rather than reacting with my feelings. My third Soror prays with me to help me evaluate what Soror number two has enlightened me with. This Soror helps me find the best solution, the strength to accept the decision that I have decided to implement, and the courage to follow through, especially if I know it will hurt someone’s feelings. I would also advise them to consider their time because although delegation of duties is a good thing, being in a leadership role consumes a lot of personal time and it can be exhausting if I am being honest. One will need to understand that sometimes your time is not your time as the leader of your chapter. Being in a leadership role also requires you to have tough skin. Leadership is not for the weak! A leader must remember at the end of the day you hold full responsibility for what goes on in your chapter, whether it is good or bad. The Word says “To whom much is given, much shall be required (Luke 12:48),” and my goodness I certainly learned this the hard way. Side note: I would not change a thing because it made me a better leader!
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?
Everyone needs a mentor personally, and professionally, and I have come to realize that it is also necessary to have a mentor who understands your organization as well. I have two mentors, one whom I call my Zeta mom and the other who helps me with understanding Zeta. My Zeta mom is more of a spiritual Soror who keeps me grounded, encourages me, and supports me with all things Zeta. My other mentor teaches me the Zeta Way and allows me to ask questions and she does not make me feel like I am less of a Zeta because I do not understand or know the answers. These two mentors have groomed me at different stages of my Zeta journey on how to be an effective leader within my organization. I believe with my whole being that if it was not for these two beautiful women I probably would not be the leader in Zeta that I am today.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
I think Watch The Yard is important to Black Greekdom because it keeps us connected as Greek Brothers and Sisters. I love how you all focus on the D9 as a whole and do not discriminate or think highly of one or the other. Although, we all feel that our organization is the best (Zeta is the Finest) at the end of the day we have the same mission and desire and that is to create a bond among like-minded and educated men and women who understand the need to bond together as one to change the world one person at a time within our perspective communities. We will make a change if we stay focus and stay the course.
I also appreciate how Watch The Yard always shines the light on my Greek Brothers and Sisters by letting the world know that we are not just a bunch of “Black” people in a cult but we are a bunch of BLACK people making a difference in the best way that we know how and that is through #service! It is a blessing and a bonus that we have fun while we do what we do!
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
As I reflect on my 30 years of being a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated there are several things that I love about being part of my beloved Zeta. However, if I had to pinpoint one thing that I love the most about Zeta it would have to be that not only am I a part of the legacy of Zeta but I was able to add value to Zeta’s legacy by grooming my two daughters on becoming members of Zeta. Calling my daughters Sorors is the best feeling in the world because I know that they have a servant’s heart just like their mother and to me, Zeta is all about serving others.
Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood to me means having the unconditional love and support of my sisters at all times. It is about being a part of something bigger than myself. Sisterhood means having a friendship that no matter what happens in life you know that you will never stand alone. Sisterhood to me is the collaboration of my 125,000+ sisters to fulfill the common goal of embodying our founding principles of scholarship, service, sisterhood, and finer womanhood.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Dr. Melisa Bush for her work as the Basileus of the Gamma Mu Zeta Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1948.
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