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Delta Sigma Theta sorority 90 and still blazing

BY ASHLEY HAUGO | APRIL 03, 2009 7:37 AM

Courageous trailblazers.

For Quinnetta Claytor, those two words define her fellow Delta Sigma Theta sisters, nearly 100 of whom will descend upon the UI campus this weekend to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the university’s chapter.

“We have earned a lot of milestones — in terms of the sorority and America,” Claytor said. “[The anniversary] shows how much historical significance the University of Iowa has in connection with the African-American culture.”

With only four current members, the predominately black sorority may not have a big presence on the UI campus, but it has definitely left its mark.

“Every day, we learn something new,” member Keisha Stubbs said. “Every day is an historical day.”

Upon the chapter’s charter in 1919, the eight members shared a home at 942 Iowa Ave., known as “Federation Home,” with other black women at the UI.

During that time, the residence halls were closed to minority students, so the Iowa Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs purchased the house with funds from a statewide fundraising campaign.

While the sorority maintained the residence for just two years, the house remained open for the other students until 1950, when the UI residence halls opened to blacks.

Today, UI’s Delta Sigma Theta is still without a home, but that does not mean it is without an enduring foundation.

“We strive to pick people we know are leaders and willing to work,” said Tyna Price, the sorority’s adviser. “That’s part of how we can keep going.”

Price, an active participant since her initiation in 1975, noted that the number of members in the sorority have fluctuated between nearly 30 people to a lone student some years.

Membership aside, the group continues to maintain its commitment to scholarship, sisterhood, and service through a strong support network, sorority members said.

“The lean back means she’s holding me. She has my back,” Claytor explains as she queues up with her sorority sisters to demonstrate a symbol of Delta Sigma Theta. With ease, the 21-year-old lets herself fall into the waiting arms behind her.

It is this strong bond that draws Melita Pope Mitchell, an alumnae member, from her family and full-time job in North Carolina to the anniversary celebration.

“[Delta Sigma Theta] is kind of like family. No way I’d miss the event,” she said.

Over the course of nine decades, America’s social landscape has undergone great transformations, but Delta Sigma Theta continues to blaze ahead.

“We’ve come a long way, but we have so much further to go,” Stubbs, a UI junior, said, her usual smile replaced with a more subdued grin.

With a definitive nod of agreement, Claytor affirmed the assessment: “Exactly.”


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