100 Years of Sisterhood, Captured in a Night

Despite life changes, Delta Sigma Theta's centennial showed this writer that her sorority's ties always bind.

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By the time we arrived at the famed Fortitude statue on Howard's main campus, the storm of red was practically a monsoon. Despite living in Washington for more than seven years, I had never seen Fortitude in person. Like a native New Yorker who'd never been to the Statue of Liberty, I knew it was there without having to lay eyes on it. Still, the experience was overwhelming.

"Commissioned by the sorority and unveiled at Howard University in 1979 as a tribute to the founders, the Fortitude sculpture is a visible symbol of the celebration of black womanhood," according to Delta's official website, and the history I memorized by heart all those years ago. "The statue symbolizes courage, hope, wisdom and strength."

I've recited those words like a mantra before, but seeing them come to life in front of me was a different experience. Hundreds, if not thousands, of women filled all the available space within the Fortitude line of sight. This was "sisterhood" as a verb. We were doing what we said we would do: coming together.

The singing started right after midnight, after we'd laughed and hugged and cried and shouted to the heavens like women celebrating the New Year, Christmas and a birthday all at once. At first we strained to hear the right notes, but they kept getting swallowed by the fog. So we gave up and gave in.

"What verse is this?" a soror next to me asked.

"I have no clue," I answered. So we both just swayed, knowing that we'd catch up eventually because the song would go on.

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter. 

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Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.