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Leadership Highlight

Leadership Highlight: Shafrarisi Bonner the President of Zeta Phi Beta at DePauw University

In an effort to highlight the young leaders who are leading undergraduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the sorors of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.’s Lambda Tau Chapter at DePauw University and did an interview with Shafrarisi Bonner the president of the chapter.

The position of president of an undergraduate chapter of a Black sorority is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. 19-year-old Shafrarisi Bonner has used the position to gain new leadership experience, improve the lives of other students on campus and help the community around her.

We interviewed the English Writing major and talked about her position, goals, future and what it means to hold a leadership on campus in the digital age.

Read the full interview below.

What does it mean to be a chapter president to you?

Being chapter President means being able to complete the puzzle. I have to be a support to my sisters, as well as, keep us on top of our operations. As chapter President, I am honored with being a support to my chapter with anything that they need.

What made you decide to attend the DePauw University for undergrad?

I attended DePauw University for my undergraduate degree because of a unique scholarship opportunity given to me from the Posse Foundation. The Posse Foundation is a super competitive opportunity and sends 9-10 students to college campuses to enact change. Along with having the support of the organization and being provided a close-knit community, I was sold on the academic rigor of my university. I knew that it would keep me challenged, change perspective, and always bring forth something new. Between that and the overall student engagement on my campus“ I was pulled to attend. The DePauw Posse network encompassed many Black scholars and activists that I had met throughout high school. I was admired by their work, zeal, and passion for bringing forth change. I wanted to do the same during my college career.

What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?

Some specific initiatives that our chapter is working on this year is our week of events, chapter academical scholarship, and partnership with our Association of African American Students’ Academy of Black Excellence. This year Lambda Tau will be providing a series of fun educational events around the stigmas within education. This ranges from the body shaming and fatphobia that happens within physical education classes, service opportunities to where we tutor Black youth in the predominantly white community our university is located in, showing the importance of art and theatre in education, and tabling for menstrual supplies that will be donated to schools in Indianapolis. Our chapter scholarship is usually awarded during our annual Finer Womanhood Ball and is namesake after a Soror and advisor to the chapter, Amber Pratcher who passed away in 2015. LT is hoping to expand our scholarship to donate to Soror Pratcher’s family to help with educational costs for her child. These will improve the campus and overall community by bringing awareness to the emotions and experiences that the classroom brings. Many of times Black scholars are denied the resources that they need to thrive in academic environments“ support, funding, location barriers, etc. Our week of events, co-sponsorship, and scholarship will help to provide a network that students on campus can rely on for that support.

What made you want to pledge Zeta Phi Beta?

I pledged Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated because of the continuous trailblazing that I have seen throughout the history of the organization. I had seen women of passion, women of zeal, and women of uniqueness. The illustrious women who are apart of this organization were able to do things that were uncommon for their time, for example from being the first to charter a chapter South of the Mason Dixon line and Africa to being the first to center its operations at a National Head Quarters to just name a few. From the history of Zeta and the chapter on campus, I had seen that a Zeta woman is dedicated and hardworking. I had also seen those qualities in myself and knew how amplified they would become with the help of Zeta. The amazing women that were on campus set that bar high for me always raking in awards of excellence (Highest Chapter GPA, Chapter of the Year, Highest Individual GPA). With their mentorship, I was able to have the most successful academic semester of my college career and be motivated to take my studies internationally to Accra, Ghana. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated showed me that true sisterhood can exist without biological ties.

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

Lambda Tau was charted on DePauw’s campus, March 8th, 2010. We are approaching our 10th year charter anniversary this Centennial which is exciting and speaks to our uniqueness itself. Despite being one of the latest organizations to be charted on campus (NPHC Council), we have been able to hold high ranking in terms of grades and programming. LT no matter the size of the chapter has always been able to be fully committed to programming (during and outside of our Week of Events) and service. One of our proudest accomplishments of our chapter was creating our Biannual African American Exhibit which celebrates Black accomplishments at our university throughout the years“ being the first organization to do so on this campus.

We now live in a digital world, what do you think undergraduate chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2019?

I think that undergraduate chapters across all organizations simply just need to get out there online. As President I also handle Public Relations. I make sure that LT has a heavy social media presence even if that means saying just Good Morning to our followers on our Instagram story. Being versatile with your social media platforms is always important and I urge chapters to expand on the social media outlets that they use to Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter even. Having a chapter website is beneficial also. It helps to keep track of the successes of the chapter throughout the years. You can also choose to incorporate a Contact Us forum which will help if other chapters across orgs would want to collaborate for programming or if anyone has any questions about the work the chapter does. What I find that is helpful is making your social media representation something natural. It helps when others are able to connect to the chapter’s execution of its organization’s national mission and be inspired by that. I try to find ways to bring our unique qualities and personalities to our online platforms without it being forced in any way.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership, to me, means being the unstoppable. A true leader is aware of their purpose and remains driven regardless of the circumstance. They are able to rise above hardships and to understand that despite how unsatisfying it can be, failure does not equate their destiny. A leader sees this as steppingstones to unleashing and perfecting their purpose. They are resourceful, impactful, and humane. Leadership to me means using your inner fire to light the torches of others whilst not forgetting to light your own. A leader continues to be themselves unapologetically, while understanding the risks however, their dedication to their purpose rises above that.

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

I think that Watch The Yard is important to Black geekdom because it provides a space where Black Greek leaders are highlighted and recognized. It helps to continuously spread and preserve the history of all Black sororities and fraternities. As Black greekdom continues to expand across the globe, the history and historical presence of our organizations needs to be remembered and cherish Watch The Yard helps with this. They also give amazing networking opportunities and connects Black greeks across both organizations and regions. I can’t tell you how many Sorors I was able to meet through Watch The Yard highlights. It’s amazing to see the work and commitment other undergraduate members are doing on their college campuses.

What does sisterhood mean to you?

Sisterhood to me means strength and continuous support. It is powerful and pushes boundaries. Sisterhood is inclusive and never abandoning. It means hope, the hope and reassurance that there will always be that one person there that you can count on. It is a trial and error at most, but that’s what makes sisterhood impactful and true. Sisterhood isn’t perfect, but it pushes you to be your best self.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

After graduation I plan on going to law school. At law school, I plan on studying public policy and human rights law. My career goal isn’t to necessarily practice law, but to draft legislation and do legal research.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Shafrarisi Bonner for her work as the president of Lambda Tau Chapter which has a long legacy that spans back to 2010.

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