Welcome to the Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melissa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around equity, diversity, and inclusion. Each week I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in the space. Let’s get started.
I want to introduce you to two powerful women in my life, and I am excited that I get to share them with everyone here. So I want to make sure that I give you their background and their bio so that you understand who these women are. So first, Elizabeth Baker has made the city of Tracy, her home, along with her husband and two children for more than 30 years. Liz spent nearly 30 years in civil service with the Employment Development Department in various positions until her retirement in July, 2020. Her last position was a senior manager with the Labor Market Information Division where she led an exceptional team of research analysts, specialist and supervisors responsible for educating customers on the state’s economic wellbeing. Community service is considered an obligation for Liz, although she’s from humble beginnings, the eighth of nine children raised in inner city Los Angeles. She has a servant’s heart influenced by her father Ananias Nichols.
She always looks for ways to help others, even as a child when resources for her large family were scarce. Liz was the first in her family to attend and graduate from college. Her alma mater, San Jose State University is where she met her husband of 39 years. It was here that she was also initiated into the illustrious Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. Liz currently serves as the local chapter president. Liz engaged in many community outreach efforts over the past 30 years. She served on the Tracy Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee, Tracy Tomorrow Task Force, and was a founding member and president of the Tracy Women’s Forum. Liz has coordinated food distribution throughout Tracy, especially during the COVID shutdown. Participated in the annual diaper dash for the local Family Resource Center, and gathered a team to assist with holiday meals and toys distribution with various community partners.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright, a native of Cleveland, Mississippi. Earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Jackson State University and a master’s degree from Delta State University in education leadership. She recently completed an MBA with a concentration in public policy from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. After college, Stephanie returned to her hometown in the Mississippi Delta to begin her career as a teacher. In 2008, she relocated to Meridian, Mississippi where she taught middle school and served as a lead administrator in the Meridian Public School District. Over the years, Stephanie has invested much of her expertise in education as a consultant to local youth programs and agencies to enhance academic and social achievement. She shares a passion to teach and influence students to discover their potential. Committed to being a lifelong educator, mentor, and community advocate, stephanie has founded and co-founded such projects as Girl Power, Teens Taking The Lead and the Fellowship of Southern Christian Families Programs designed to bridge opportunity gaps for young teens and to strengthen healthy relationships among black families and their growing youth.
Stephanie joined the Meridian alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, incorporated in 2008, where she became the program chair for Delta gems, a nationally recognized mentorship program for teenage girls that would eventually span three counties serving young girls from over 10 public and private schools countywide. Stephanie Wright is currently a member of the Tracy Area alumni chapter where she serves as Social Action chair. The chapter addresses issues to improve funding, equity and public education, voter participation in rural and BIPOC communities, and access to quality mental health services in schools. Stephanie currently works for Parent Voices Oakland in Oakland, California as the special projects coordinator in policy and research for Early Childhood Education. She works with partner organizations across sectors to coordinate policy demands that address discriminatory and funding practices that negatively impact underserved population. She believes a true sense of community begins with us working collectively. Using our God-given talents and our generational wisdom and being good stewards of our inheritances.
In doing so, we must invest and be first teachers to our own children if we wish to see our legacies flourish. We have the power to be the change we desire to see. We must own it and live up to it. Stephanie currently lives in Mountain House, California. She’s married to Dr. Benny Wright, and they have four beautiful daughters, Amber Madison, Anna Bryce Bailey, and a five-year-old Frenchie Jordy. All right, so I am excited this week. Of course, we are continuing our conversation with the Divine Nine. So I am ecstatic to have my local chapter president and Social action chair for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated from the Tracy Area alumni chapter.
So Liz Baker, our president, along with Stephanie Eubanks, Wright, are here with me to talk a little bit about Delta Sigma Theta. And I’m just excited because I’ve had the opportunity to talk with several other fraternities, and now I want to get to some of the sororities and really kind of talk a little bit about Delta Sigma Theta. So why don’t we just start out, maybe you guys can talk a little bit about what Delta Sigma Theta is, where it came from, why did it get started?
Elizabeth Baker: Thank you, Melyssa. It is really nice to be able to talk to you and have this form to really educate our community more about the Divine Nine and specifically Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. So I just want to give a little bit of background regarding our organization, and I hope it’s not overwhelming because there’s so much to share that I’ll try to be as succinct as possible. So Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated was founded by 22 women on January 13th, 1913. So a 110 years ago, on the campus of Howard University in Washington DC. So the formation of our sorority was born from a desire for our founders to engage in public service with an emphasis on programs that assisted African-American communities. So yes, there was a sorority prior to the formation of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, but these women decided to break off to start a organization that had more emphasis on providing resources to the black community.
And so as a testament to their determination, just two months after their founding, these women, courageous women, joined the women’s suffrage March on Washington DC on March 3rd, 1913. So if you can imagine in 1913, the state of our country and the plight of black people during that time, what that really took for them to do that is pretty phenomenal, if you will. And then there’s reports, I mean, there’s lots of articles regarding the Women’s Suffrage March, but there are reports that there was about five to 10,000 women who were engaged in this march on Washington, which was the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inaugural address. And this small band of black women were marching for rights for black women, not just voting rights, but just equal rights as a people. And they were heckled. They had insults thrown at them from left, and as you can imagine, but they pressed on. And that really speaks to our legacy and who we are today and the shoulders that we stand on.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: I wanted to add something. When you talk about the richness of our history and the founders at that time, I think it’s so important that we highlight how young they were.
Elizabeth Baker: Yes.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: And even though that was a different time, they were 19, 20, 21 years old, but they were still forced into a world where they had to act as adults. They had adult issues that they were working to eradicate. And I think the other piece too that is so important is that, they were visionaries. It wasn’t a moment in time. It was really about what is it that we need to do today that’s going to make this world a better place for our children, our grandchildren, for generations to come. And so they knew that the vote was powerful, and in order to move policy to be able to have funding or whatever the vision was in terms of going into communities, because a lot of them were educators. A lot of people, I don’t know if people know that, but many of them were going to school to become teachers.
And so education was one of the top priorities in terms of what they wanted to improve in terms of access. But they understood the power of the vote. And in order to have the type of lifestyle and how they envisioned a thriving community, they knew that women needed to vote, especially black women. And I think that’s so powerful. When I read that history, I mean, I get chills because I think about how young they were. I think about… And it’s something to be said about a person who can actually see generations ahead and know one, understand, “I may not even live to see the benefit of this, but I know that my generations that will follow will benefit from that.” And I think that’s extremely powerful.
Elizabeth Baker: Absolutely. And there’s a quote that says, “If not now, than when? If not us, then who?” And I can just imagine them having that mindset of, there’s no better time than now. Because we’re still facing… 1913 was 50 years beyond the passing of the emancipation proclamation. And so we still had a long way to go. And so when do you start? 50 years later. And we were still being suppressed mean in every way. And so they decided, yes, we’re going to move forward. Young women, as Stephanie said. So it’s pretty amazing when you think about the sacrifice that they made and what they had to endure. I don’t think we can even imagine that today.
Melyssa Barrett: Well, and it’s so interesting to me because when we think of black history, we always think about prior mean, obviously history, we go back. But there are so much history being made even today, as they do it, they’re making history. And back then it was like, okay, we’re making history. I’m sure they knew they were making history at the time, being at the women’s suffrage movement. But it’s like sometimes we don’t think about how we are making our own history as we go as well.
Elizabeth Baker: Right. Yeah. It’s interesting you mentioned that because we just celebrated our 110th year anniversary of our founding of our organization. And I was thinking as we were going through our Founders’ day ritual ceremonies, just to remember the sacrifice of these women. Did they even know that their names would still be mentioned 110 years later?
Melyssa Barrett: Right. Yeah.
Elizabeth Baker: I mean, that’s amazing. Who can say that? I mean, I don’t even think that today, I’m sure my name is written down somewhere that I did something, but who’s going to be saying my name 110 years from now? I mean, it’s pretty amazing that what they’ve done and what they’ve started and the foundation that they laid for us to continue today.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: I think the passion is important and the humility in terms of doing what’s right when the time or the time is always right to do what’s right. And I think as you stated, a lot of times we don’t know when we’re out even today when we’re out doing the work. And we know that the work needs to be done, we don’t really know what the outcome may be. But it has to be done. And so I’m sure in their hearts that they wanted this organization to sustain a lifetime. And it has been going on. I mean, we are 110 years in, but I don’t know if they thought about it like that. But the founding that they set was so rich and it was so solid that they really left such a strong playbook for us to follow. And I think that, that when you talk about the black community and the culture and contributions, that should be a part of our legacy. We have to leave a roadmap for our people.
Because times change. And over time, I mean, think about the technology that we have now. Nobody knew back then that there will be… They had to mail each other letters in order to get the word out and send posters and all these types of things, we get on social media. So we have such tools that work for us now that can actually advance how we work and mobilize and change. But I’m grateful that there’s always been a playbook left for us when it comes to activism and really doing what we need to do to make an impact in our communities.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. That’s awesome. And that goes to my next question, which is really around, I know you both have different experiences in terms of choosing Delta Sigma Theta and how you came into the organization. Why did you choose Delta? Let me start there. And what was that experience like?
Elizabeth Baker: So I’ll start. I was actually thinking about this recently, and I attended San Jose State University, and the Deltas were the movers and shakers on campus, if you will. They were the ones who stood out for me, and especially with my desire to be in the community and servicing others, they’re the ones who stood out for me. I resonated with those young women who were on the campus of San Jose State. I’m not from a legacy. I wasn’t even exposed to Greek letter organizations until I got to college. And so I didn’t come in with this predisposed thought of joining a Greek letter organization. It was, wow, look at what they’re doing and I want to be a part of that. And so my husband is a Kappa, he pledged Kappa Alpha Si. I was on his court, and that was my first exposure to Greek letter organization.
Melyssa Barrett: Now we know. This is how it worked.
Elizabeth Baker: And so with him joining the Kappas and then that exposure being around more Greeks, at that time, it was the Deltas who I just connected with. And so there was no doubt in my mind of which organization I would join to further this cost. Deltas were always in the forefront, so I knew I made the right decision, so.
Melyssa Barrett: Nice, Stephanie?
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: Yeah. So for me, I am a third generation Delta. So my grandmother was a member of Delta Sigma Theta. May she rest in peace. She was a phenomenal woman. My mother, and we all went to HBCU. So my grandmother was initiated as a Delta. My mother initiated as a Delta, and they were both graduates of Alcorn State University. And so of course, as a little girl going into that room that you’re not supposed to go to in your grandmother’s house and you see all of her Delta like paraphernalia and just going rummaging, as she would say, “Stop rummaging through my things.” But she had such an impression on my life. And so that was sort of my first encounter. And I knew then that when I went to college that I wanted to be a Delta. And as we mentioned before, there’s a presence that I pledged at Jackson State, or I was initiated at Jackson State, and there was a presence that the Deltas had on the yard.
And I’m just, sorry. It’s something about that red wave. It is. And when we say representation matters, it does because there was an aura about them, there was a way that they carried themselves. It was even our advisors, they worked on campus and how they would step out and comport themselves in the work that they did on campus. So I knew in my heart that that’s what I wanted, I wanted to do, and I am grateful, I’ve learned so much as a member of Delta Sigma Theta. One thing that we’ve grown in as an organization is developing leadership development. We focus a lot on that as a national organization. And so that’s something that I can truly say is added to me as a personally and professionally as being a member of the organization. So am very grateful. And I know I made the right decision. Absolutely.
Melyssa Barrett: Oh my goodness. This friendly competition we have with all the Divine nine.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: It’s all love though.
Melyssa Barrett: It is.
Elizabeth Baker: It definitely.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: Yes, yes.
Melyssa Barrett: It is. And now, so you talk a lot about leadership and the leadership development that Delta Sigma Theta provides, probably many other sororities and fraternities do as well, in the Divine Nine specifically. But when I think about Delta Sigma Theta and we think about social action, to me it’s different than… It’s almost like every sorority or fraternity has a bit of what they are really focused on. And so can you talk a little bit about social action and Delta and what that means to our community?
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: Sure. Yeah. So social action is at the core of what we do. I think we lead with, if you want to talk from a very technical policy perspective, we’ve already mentioned about our founders and how their work was or what led their work. But the role of social action as a chair and as a committee, our goal is to educate, mobilize, and do advocacy work. And that has, I should say, over time, we have really built that process up to the point where there is education, there’s training, and it’s not just for social action chairs, it’s for everyone. Because this is a community-wide effort. We are an organization within a community. And so our role primi primarily is to understand our national legislative priorities, how does that align with some of our statewide priorities and work that all the way down into what we are focusing on in our communities, and how do we align all of that and operationalize it, whether it’s in advocacy work or the service that we do.
It’s not always easy because like I said, a lot of times when you talk about legislative, you have people who are equipped at different levels. And so you have to meet not just members in terms of education and teaching them some of the basic tenets of advocacy, what we can and can’t do as an organization. And then also when we do our outreach, and we are in the community, you have to meet people where they are. And I think that’s the balance too, because when you’re getting into the meat of legislation, a lot of times you lose people. And so we’re tasked with how do we take this issue that people can, they feel it, they understand it, but when it comes embedded in a bill, it can be really meaty and confusing. And so how do you take that information.
Melyssa Barrett: Usually.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: All the time. So how do you take that and you phrase it in a way that everyday person can connect, understand, and get behind it, or not necessarily get behind it. They can oppose it because we believe in, we are a nonpartisan organization. We are really out here just educating. And one of the things that we are big on going back, it’s voter suppression. So we believe that every person who’s eligible to vote should have the right to vote freely. And so right now, one of our primary areas of focus in the state of California, and it’s interesting, because we come across a lot of elected officials, we come across a lot of parents and school officials. We’ve done a lot of work to educate people on the law. California has a law where you can pre-register as a 16 or 17 year old to vote. And a lot of people don’t know that.
And I think that’s really important because once we get into those schools, get in front of these kids. And because just as we were talking about our founders, our young people are dealing with grownup issues. Some of them are having to carry the load and pay some of the bills in the house. And so they are seeing a world before them where they’re forced to make some decisions. And so giving them the opportunity to pre-register, I think is a path to give some type of respect to the process and say, “Hey, we recognize you. We want you to be prepared. These, this is what you have as an option.” And once you pre-register, have to register, you don’t have to register. It automatically becomes active once they turn 18. So those are the things that we’re trying to… And you set goals as social action and you’re like, Hey, we want to build partnerships with other D nine organizations that are one of our priorities too.
Because out where we are, it’s a very rural area. We have lots of area to cover in terms of our communities, in our service areas. And so another priority is for us to, we talk about D nine and some of these black-led community based organizations, partnering with them to take inventory and say, “Okay, what type of work are you doing? How can we compliment? How can we help build each other up? Whether it’s voter education, voter outreach, what tools do you have so we can work together and reach more people?” And then we learn from one another. You know, build trust. So those types of things are really important when you talk about social action and how we’re building capacity.
And it starts with a vision. And we are so blessed to have Liz Baker as our leader because she’s not only a visionary, but she’s… I’m like, “Hey Liz, I got this idea.” She’s like, “Okay, what do we need to do? What type of resources do we need?” And that means a lot when you are trying to position yourself to really respond to the needs of the community, you have to be flexible, you have to be prepared. And I think your leader is the person who really can help in terms of shaping the organization to be that way and be responsive and connected. So we’re really grateful. Yes.
Elizabeth Baker: Thank you Stephanie, I appreciate that. And as you were talking about the social action, aspect of our organization and that being the foundation, one of the other things that we, and you’re really great at it is connecting with those elected officials, because we can’t do this by ourselves. And if they don’t know who we are, then it just makes our job that much harder when we’re trying to go out and be advocates for some of these issues and advocate for black people, for people of color in general. And so I love that we’ve been invited to this platform, Melyssa, because it really, I think a lot of people see fraternities and sororities as these social organizations that party and swing off the chandeliers and have fun all the time. And I will say in college we did have fun, but we have-
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: Right.
Elizabeth Baker: Exactly. We were young. But now even from the collegiate standpoint, we have the five programmatic thrusts and one being political involvement and awareness. And so we’ve always been political activists. We’ve always been engaged in educational involvement and international awareness and economic development. We’ve Always.,. And so I think just for the community at large, to know us from a different perspective and just to learn about really who we are and what we stand for, this platform is beautiful and we need to do more of these so that people really understand our position and see where we can align and really move some of these initiatives forward to help our communities at large. Because like Stephanie said, we cover a lot of area, geographic area. We cover seven cities within our service area, and we overlap with many D nine organizations, and we’re trying to reach the same people. So yes, collaboration is very important and we are in this together to improve our communities.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: Yeah. And one beautiful thing just actually took place here in Tracy. We.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes. I was just going to bring that up. So you’re going right there. Go ahead.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: I mean, a message was sent out in terms of… So what happened there was I guess an oversight, I’m not sure what happened, but the outcome-
Melyssa Barrett: We’ll call it an oversight.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: Yeah. The outcome was that the Pan-African flag was overlooked in terms of one of the flags.
Melyssa Barrett: Resolutions.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: Raised. Yes. Each year, in perpetuity. And so the resolution, once that was seen, we were called in and there was an effort to write a resolution to include the Pan-African flag. And so we were tasked, it was a call to action for black folks to show up. And I was very proud because several of the organization showed up and we just didn’t show up. We actually, there were many people who came. And the key thing that I walked away with, there was some rumblings that there was some pushback. And I think oftentimes what we miss, going back to the education piece. A lot of times people make decisions or they make assumptions, and it’s because they have not been properly educated.
And I would say 90% of the people who stood up and spoke that night in terms of supporting to raise that flag each month for the month of February, they talked a little bit about the history, and not just the history of the flag, but how our history and what in our contributions were represented in that flag. And so it was, and I’m pretty sure some folks who were sitting there on the day as probably did not see it coming in terms of who was going to show up. But it was a beautiful moment. And I think, going back to what is social action? Social action is the ability to be able to answer the call and show up and be present and visible when it’s time.
Melyssa Barrett: And Liz was there and yes, stood up and spoke and really gave people a lesson on what it means. Some people may think flying a flag, maybe that’s is not a big deal. But when you’re talking about representation and who we are in the voice and being included in your community, it makes a difference. And I don’t know if you want to talk a little bit about what was said, but the thing that was interesting is, our mayor wouldn’t have actually been able to have a ceremony without the resolution. And her being the first black mayor with the first black police chief, we now have a city manager who, you know what I mean? So you sit there in bewilderment, I think in some cases when you know, can’t be acknowledged as to the people that we are.
Elizabeth Baker: There were so many great things said that night from many different community activists as well as other D nine organizations. But I think one of the things that was said that just was to me was just the icing on the cake was like, African American or black history is American history. And why would we exclude a piece of history just because it differs from what might be seen as the majority. And so why would we exclude any group? If it’s a part of American history, let’s raise the flag for the Pan-African flag for black people. Let’s raise his flag for Hispanics. Let’s raise the flag for whatever group. So let’s just be inclusive instead of trying to figure out ways to exclude things, let’s come together as a community and decide how are we going to… Let’s set the example, let’s set the standard for others and say, let’s include everybody. And what does it take to raise a flag?
What does that say to our future generations about their heritage, their rich culture? Just to show that their flag is at the city hall building. So there are a lot of great things said, I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was a beautiful moment, as Stephanie mentioned, that there was so much support. And the room wasn’t filled, but I think what was said was the most important thing. And it resonated with all the city council members. And it was voted unanimous to have it raised every year in the month of February. So I think they just need, again, it’s just a matter of educating. Because people think they know things and they really don’t. And so I think it is really on us to make sure that we show up, we show up, and we at least come with some information to share in order to help people make more informed decisions. And at a minimum, that’s what we can do.
Melyssa Barrett: And it speaks also to at the city level, but there’s a lot of corporations out there who have flags in front of their building. What an amazing opportunity for them to show support by putting up a flag or doing additional things within their own employee base.
Elizabeth Baker: I agree. I agree. I read something on the internet recently that said, black history is one month out of the year, but the other 11 months is about everybody else’s history or white history. And you don’t have to necessarily print that, but it’s like, we get one month. Come on.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: But I think the one thing too, Liz, that you brought up, you brought in what’s currently happening in other states where there’s an attempt to erase our history or revise so that we can coddle or placate to certain groups. And I think raising that flag, it’s also an opportunity to open conversation. And when we talk about our young people, when we talk about the decisions that we make today and how that impacts them tomorrow, there are a lot of young people who are not familiar with the history of that flag. And so to raise that flag also raises questions. And a lot of times people are afraid of the questions that come with symbols. And so I think it was a bold statement to say, we’ve got to raise this flag and we’ve got to start raising questions and be prepared to answer questions for the benefit of our children so that they will know their history and be proud.
Melyssa Barrett: Well, and that’s the dialogue. A lot of that is missing in our schools today. So I know one of our mayor… Our mayor was talking about the little girl who came up to her and was like, she was just so excited to see her as mayor, she could see herself in that role. And so it’s amazing when you think about just how the representation plays out around the world when people are able to see themselves in positions of authority and influence and power. So it’s phenomenal. So then back to my D nine, my Delta Sigma Theta sorority incorporated. In terms of some of the things, do you want to talk a little bit about some of the things you all are doing community-wise? Or if you have any events how can people connect with Delta Sigma Theta?
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: Well, from the social action perspective, we’re always pushing GOTV, get out the vote. That’s not a seasonal thing, it’s a mindset, it’s what we do. We are prepared to vote. And the understanding is that it’s a cyclical thing. So it’s not just, “Oh, I’m registered to vote. Okay, now I’m educating myself about who’s on the ballot. I’m involved in the process in terms of holding elected officials accountable.” So it’s an ongoing effort. So for us locally, we’re always available to come into the schools and speak to the young people about the rights that they have and to assist them to register if they choose to do so. And then just building relationships with community partners. Because it’s, again, if you’re able to go in with several organizations from all different backgrounds, what does that say? We’re one of the most diverse in terms of population. We’re in the most diverse area when it comes to student population.
So we’re looking to build relationships there and partner and expand our reach to increase voter participation. And then the other part is, more recently we have, there’s ongoing negotiations, but in the state of California, there was a bill, bill AB 2774, which was a bill that we became familiar with last year. And we had a guest speaker to come and speak to us. And it’s really about equity in school funding for black students. And that bill did not go through, but from my understanding, there’s still some work being done around it to negotiate or renegotiate.
So I mean, we’ll doing work like that, we’re working to set up some meetings with some elected officials at the state level to talk about some of the issues that are important to us. We have a focus on mental health, especially mental health for children. We’ve done some work with survivors of domestic violence. So public safety is a huge issue that we rally around and support. So we have a lot of things, and all folks have to do is just reach out to us and we can connect, we can set it up. We’re ready, and that’s the goal, just be ready. So yeah, we’re excited about what’s to come, so.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. Awesome. Well, that’s awesome. In terms of, do you want to talk a little bit about what you think it’s meant to our culture? I think you’ve hit on lots of pieces of it. But is there anything else you all would like to share about the organization? Because I mean, 110 years, I know you can’t possibly cover. But there’s so many influential people and maybe you want to highlight a couple that have had such an impact on the world, really, who are Deltas? I, and I think a lot of people may not know who they were or what organization they were with, but it’s amazing to me when I think about people like Dorothy Height and Marsha Fudge. I mean, she’s a perfect example today in one of the highest positions in terms of housing and urban development. And Kamala, of course came from, or should I say Vice President Harris came from another D nine organization, but her background with the Divine Nine and the support, I think that was created really transformed her role as well.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: Yeah, we actually have, I think it’s a leadership, well, I know that we do, we have a leadership institution that we are building out. And that’s one of the other mechanisms that the organization has in place to support women who have a desire to run for office, public office. And so that’s what she stood for. And she was a firecracker, so lots of positive things came out of the work that she did.
Elizabeth Baker: I did want to highlight a couple of things that has occurred, and I wanted to go back. I know we’re doing a lot of great things now, but just in doing a little bit of research myself, because again, our culture and our history is so rich that there’s just a couple things that I wanted to highlight. So first, and I don’t think that I mentioned this earlier, but Delta Sigma Theta currently has over 350,000 initiated members. And I think that’s pretty incredible. We have over a thousand chapters, and that combines both collegiate and alumni chapters throughout the world. Not just in the US but in Jamaica, in Korea and Hawaii. And I mean, our reach is quite extensive. And I think that’s something that we are very proud of because we’re reaching more and more people. Back in the early 30s, if you will. There was the first National Library project, so we talked about how these are founders, were just very young women and we’re just starting in their careers after college.
And some of the things that they were able to implement soon after the founding of our organization, a national library project, because again, they were trying to… We were being suppressed from learning. So Deltas were making sure that our communities had books to read. And then in the early 40s, there was a career development initiative where we were the first sorority to provide a program of employment counseling and career development for black women. We were the first to, back in the early 60s, we opened the Mary help of the Sikh Mission Hospital in Kenya. I mean, so even in the early sixties during the Civil Rights movement, I mean, we were moving and shaking across the pond, if you will, or in Europe, if you will. And so Delta has always been at the forefront, in my opinion, of just doing things above and beyond what was perhaps even expected of a black organization.
And I think that because of that, the roads that were paved early on allowed us to do these great things today. You mentioned March of Fudge, you mentioned Shirley Chisholm. I mean, and there’s so many other great women, and we have quite a few honorary members as well, who really just set the standard for Greek organizations to really have an impact on our communities. And so we are more than just a social organization. We are a movement really looking for equal justice for our communities throughout the world. And so I just wanted to make sure we highlighted a couple of those attributes. One of our, in the 1960s, our national president, Jeanne L. Noble was on the Social Action Commission appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and she also served under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. And so there’s just so much, I wish we had an hour to really delve into the depth of Delta and the impact that we’ve had on our communities. But I know that the podcasts are typically shortest.
Melyssa Barrett: We can go as long as you want. No, just kidding. Or you can always come back.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: History is so important. That’s an identity. And to not have that, and there’s so many parallels, but when we don’t have access to our history, it’s like we are in limbo. We’re kind of lost. But I think that what Liz is talking about is something that we probably need to talk about more when it comes to the Divine Nine organizations because of it was rooted in eradicating a struggle. It was not intended for black folks to continue to struggle. And so, you had individuals who again knew that there’s a way to do it the right way so that we could have lasting equality. And so that history is so rich. And I love it, I love being able to go back and read. And it makes sense when you’re trying to visualize what was happening at that time. You have to do not just the story, but put a timeline to it to really grasp [inaudible 00:45:27].
Melyssa Barrett: The context. Yeah.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: Yes. To really understand what was going on and taking place and what were the odds at that time. So really important stuff, really important.
Melyssa Barrett: Amazing. Amazing. Well, I cannot thank you all enough for joining me for this conversation. I know it will not be the last, because I am blessed to call these wonderful women sisters, and the sisterhood is strong when you think about what that bond really means. So I know it has meant the world to me, and I just cannot thank you all enough for joining me for the conversation.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: Thank you.
Elizabeth Baker: You’re welcome. And can I just add one last thing, Melyssa, if you don’t mind? So we are always looking for partners to help us in our scholarship program or our scholarship initiatives. Where we’re trying to ensure that our kids have level, the level, the playing field, if you will, for higher education. And so we have partnered with several local businesses as well as community activists or philanthropists if you will, to give out scholarships each year to our graduating high school seniors at the schools within our seven city service area. So if anyone is interested in donating and becoming a partner with us in that effort, they’re welcome to email us at Tracy area alumnae, that’s T-R-A-C-Y A-R-E-A A-L-U-M-N-A-E @yahoo.com. And we will definitely get back to them because we are always wanting to ensure that we are supporting our future generations.
Melyssa Barrett: Thank you so much for saying that. I think it’s so important for people to know how to get in touch and how to give. There are a lot of people that want to give. So thank you for putting that out there.
Elizabeth Baker: You’re welcome.
Melyssa Barrett: So with that, I will thank you all again. And for those of you out there listening who want to contribute, Liz just gave you a call to action. And so we appreciate you all for listening, and I always tell people like and subscribe. So we will be back with some additional Divine Nine organizations. And again, I thank you all for being here.
Elizabeth Baker: Thank you, Melyssa.
Stephanie Eubanks Wright: Thank you.
Melyssa Barrett: Thanks for joining me on the Jali Podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.