I have always been a tomboy. My idea of a knight in shining armor is a guy who gives me ice cold beers and watches sports. I play flag-football on Saturdays. You will rarely catch me in a dress.
I might seem like an unlikely candidate for AKA, but I really didn't have much of a choice. My mother's two best friends were AKAs and just happened to be with my mother the night I decided to arrive in October 1976. Both of them have sons, so I was always considered their shot at legacy.
Oddly enough, it was my 1993 debutante ball that convinced me to become a member. Set aside the poofy white dresses, the etiquette classes and having to wear skirts. The day I knew I was to become an AKA was when the debutantes did a service project: a haunted house for a local school for the blind. Peeled grapes for eyeballs, spaghetti as worms, we got so much joy from scaring these kids with words and touch.
That's what hooked me. I started to see the purpose, the hours on end, work and determination that all of the girls had, collectively, to perfect our waltz formations and transitions. It showed me what women could do with purpose and planning: to effect change in the larger community.
In spring 1995 (March 12, 1995 to be exact) I became a woman of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. I credit my years as an AKA (along with my mama) for making me the woman I am today: A doctoral student and health educator. I experience that initial joy from '93 every time we have a baby shower, dinner or an eight-hour shopping trip (with poopy diapers and all.)
As our centennial celebration kicks off next week, though, I worry about the state of our sisterhood. That we are falling into stereotypes. I worry about what message we are sending in the last photo taken in our publication, the Ivy Leaf which showed our president (and other officials) on Howard's campus in full-length furs.
I feel for our hard-working sorors who can't afford the $500 registration fee, the hotel, etc. I worry about the caste system created by a $1,908 VIP pass. I worry that the ostentatious spectacle to be on display next week will give folks the wrong idea about what our organization is all about.
I joined this sorority because of the amazing things a group of women can do with a collective purpose. But, to me, having a VIP section at a once in a lifetime event, shutting out anyone who doesn't pay up—even from the parade down Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue—goes against everything I believe the organization to be.
In many ways, I'm the same 17-year-old girl, hoping to feel that initial joy again. But now, I am beginning to see the superficial uppity side many others see in my sorority.
As we celebrate 100 years of sisterhood, will we show the world that we are more than "just a sorority of light skinned-ed negresses?" How do we change a century of assumptions to reflect the mentoring, fundraising, scholarship-donating, diverse group of women that we are?
Do we, as members of Alpha Kappa Alpha, seek to influence, uplift and redefine our society and race or just mimic its faults of elitism, celebutante and ruling-class mentalities?
All of this has inspired me to start a revolution. A Pink and Green Power to the People Movement, a sort of guerrilla warfare—from the inside out. I will become active again in the chapter to see how I can bring my joy back.
Don't be surprised if you see someone marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in pink and green camouflage, sunglasses and a green beret. Here I come, ladies, ready or not!
Autumn Saxton-Ross is a health and wellness coordinator in Montgomery County, Md.