Standing left to right: Nida Thomas, Janet Matthews (Treasurer), Margaret Simmons, Gloria Hill, Sylvia Ebanja, Claramarie Cannon, Paula Rollins, Gerri Jefferson, Daisy Al stork, and Anne deRamus Brown
Seated left to right: Marian Amory, Muriel Griffin (Chapter Vice-President), Alvania, Hill (Chapter Secretary), Aloncita Flood (North Atlantic Regional Director), and Ernestine McElvene (Chapter President)
Delta Mu Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. ® (AKA) was installed in 1947. In the 1940’s few blacks lived in the Capital District of New York State. As was true in the rest of the country, at that time, there were few opportunities for blacks. Recognizing the need for a cultural and service organization that would work to improve the welfare of the black community and promote its history and achievements, four local college-trained women: Marian Hughes, Evelyn Nelson, Bernice Marion and Doris Yarborough, met in 1944 to plan the chartering of an Albany chapter. The need was evident both on the national and local scenes. This post-war period presented many challenges for blacks who experienced rampant racism. The original group of four women increased to six when Paxton Green and Mabel Johnson joined them.
On February 15, 1947, Delta Mu Omega Chapter (DMO) was installed at the home of Doris Yarborough with the late Sophie Fowler, then-Regional Director, officiating. Marian Hughes was elected the first Basileus; Doris Yarborough, Anti-Basileus; Evelyn Nelson, Grammateus; and Bernice Marion, Tamiouchos. After Charlotte Coles and Thelma Thompson became members, and the officers were installed, DMO held its first banquet to celebrate AKA Founders’ Day. Later, on September 26, 1947, George Kelly, a jewel in Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., introduced the eight-member chapter to the Albany community at a formal dance.
Approximately 6,000 blacks lived in the Capital District area during this period. Most blacks were non-professionals; few college-trained blacks lived in the area, and there was not a large enough population from which the chapter could draw for membership. Some members left the area to seek employment elsewhere, and Delta Mu Omega began to dwindle in size. Local members became general members by joining the Boulé, and the chapter soon became inactive.
By 1964, new members who were interested in interacting with other AKAs began to move into the area. One such member was Ernestine McElvene, who moved to the Capital District after graduating from Wilberforce College, and finding a position as a cancer researcher at Albany Medical Center. Ernestine discovered that she did not know anyone in the Capital District, and there was little social life for blacks; therefore, she reached out to Marian Hughes, an AKA she had met when Marian visited Wilberforce. Ernestine shared with Marian her desire to reactivate Delta Mu Omega Chapter. Marian introduced her to Doris Yarbrough, and Doris agreed to help with the reactivation efforts.
Ernestine subsequently met the AKA who would join her focused effort to travel the Capital District, searching for members. As fate would have it, one day when Ernestine was shopping at David’s Clothing Store, she made eye contact with Alvania Hill. Ernestine eventually approached her and introduced herself to Alvania, and asked if Alvania knew any AKAs in the area. “I’m an AKA!” Alvania exclaimed. The two women hugged, and thereafter became inseparable in their journey to find the 15 members the national office required for chapter reactivation.
Over the next couple of years, Ernestine and Alvania spread the word throughout the black community that they were looking for “sorors.” They followed leads they received about their whereabouts. They crisscrossed the state, sometimes driving long distances and in unfamiliar territory, to meet other AKAs. It was difficult, but the women received much encouragement from the sorority’s national office to continue the effort.
Their strong determination and spirit soon paid off. Slowly, the number of members who joined the group increased. Still, however, the women struggled to reach the 15 needed for reactivation. In the meantime, the few members who had already joined the reactivation effort alternated hosting meetings at their homes on Sunday afternoons. Often their efforts were aided by others in the community who connected the women to other AKAs in the area. The Albany Chapter of the NAACP was active in the 1960s, and it was at a dinner hosted by the organization, that the group met Paula Mia Rollins.
Eventually, other members joined the reactivation effort: Estelle Avery, Nida Thomas, Margaret Simmons, and Janet Matthews. After more than two years of searching for members, spreading the word around the black community, holding meetings, driving throughout the state, and communicating with the national office; the women finally reached the required number, and were given the green light to proceed. Janet Matthews collected and submitted the necessary paperwork and fees for each member, and the women were able to reactivate the chapter.
On January 29, 1966, the chapter was reactivated in the home of Geraldine Jefferson. The late Aloncita Flood, then-North Atlantic Regional Director, officiated. Afterwards, the group celebrated at Herbert’s Restaurant on Madison Avenue. The 15 original members of the reactivated DMO Chapter were: Daisy Alstork, Marion Armory, Anne Brown, Claramarie Cannon, Sylvia Ebanja, Muriel Griffin, Alvania Hill, Gloria Hill, Geraldine Jefferson, Janet Matthews, Ernestine McElvene, Paula Rollins, Margaret Simmons, Nida Thomas, and Doris Yarbrough. The reactivation was strengthened by a bond of sisterhood; the women shared the goals of fostering their sisterhood and performing community service. The reactivated chapter, committed and proactive, hosted several community service events, and sometimes collaborated with local churches, schools and other community organizations. Delta Mu Omega Chapter has remained active since 1966 and continues to thrive today.