Founded in 1908 at Howard University and brought to UT in 1970, Alpha Kappa Alpha is the nation’s first historically African American sorority within Greek life. Today, the women of AKA continue to create networks, resources and support for their local communities, while bringing together like-minded women who share a common goal.
AKA is rooted in five targets: historically Black colleges and universities for life, women’s healthcare and wellness, building one’s economic legacy, the arts and global impact. At UT, AKA’s Zeta Delta chapter focuses on all of these targets, organizing events and taking action to spread awareness.
For example, the women of AKA at UT created a video that went viral interviewing students and spreading awareness about historically black colleges and universities through trivia and question-and-answer games. In creating a video that not only gave viewers a laugh, they were able to further educate students and viewers about HBCUs.
The chapter has previously raised $1 million for HBCUs through their own donations, and this year, the public will be given the opportunity to participate in the fundraising event, allowing for even more resources for HBCUs.
Another important target is women’s healthcare and wellness, which UT’s chapter supports in different events. AKA has hosted self-defense classes with UTPD in order to empower women against assault, and last semester, AKA hosted mobile breast cancer screening for women in Knoxville.
In addition to providing the Knoxville community with resources, AKA helps their members grow in service and strength past graduation through their networks and support system.
Carmen Danley, senior majoring in human resource management and international business with a minor in business management, is the president of UT’s Zeta Delta chapter. Danley spoke about how AKA has impacted her life and feelings of belonging within the organization through lessons she’s learned.
“I think this lesson that I’ve learned is really about sisterhood for me, understanding that joining this organization, I was given access to a network of women who are likeminded, who all strive for success, who all understand they need somebody to lean on, who all understand it takes a village,” Danley said.
Danley shared her experiences of being a human resource intern and learning that she was working with and being mentored by people that were also in AKA, adding that this was a meaningful experience.
“Whatever endeavors that I’m trying to be the best in, I look around and there’s someone who shares the same sisterhood with me, and I think that’s so encouraging to have people as you climb the ladder, to have people who look like you,” Danley said.
It’s clear that the women of AKA feel supported and proud in their sorority membership, extending past Knoxville and UT into the greater alumni community.
Kailynn Johnson, senior majoring in journalism and electronic media, serves as the programming chair, social media director and vice president of the chapter. Johnson spoke about her experiences with AKA, sharing some of the same feelings of support as Danley.
Johnson was inspired to join the sorority by her grandmother, who was also in AKA, and felt this was a way to stay close to her memory. As a legacy member, Johnson’s time in AKA is near to her heart, allowing her to feel connected to family across the U.S.
“One way I wanted to continue her legacy was of course to continue my journey into higher education, but I also knew that being her legacy in Alpha Kappa Alpha would mean so much more to me,” Johnson said.
Johnson summed up her experience and feelings about AKA in what seems to be a common experience within the sorority: belonging.
“It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made coming to college, I’ve gained 39 sisters and whenever we go to conferences, I make those connections with people,” Johnson said.
Through the networking, community service and commitment to continual support, AKA continues its legacy as a connection point for sisterhood in the African American community.