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Crossing the Desert Sands

“In Service to All Mankind” – Alpha Kappa Alpha motto

Without exception, every African American Greek-letter fraternity and sorority formed during the 20th century came into being on a college campus. The organizers of these groups acknowledged their desire for social camaraderie, but they also recognized their responsibility to serve the communities from which they came. Most of these groups were civic and social. They joined with other organizations to protest discrimination. They supported the legal challenges to segregation launched by the NAACP. They encouraged self-help and organized summer programs to improve quality of life for the impoverished. They stressed cultural awareness and community involvement.

Local chapters of national African American fraternities and sororities have flourished in Central Virginia. When college students returned home after graduation or relocated to the area, graduate chapters of Greek-letter organizations formed. These groups became cultural ambassadors. They aimed to enrich the lives of their fellow citizens while maintaining the fellowship of the college years. Central Virginia has boasted local chapters of many men and women’s fraternal orders. Men’s groups have included Omega Psi Phi, Kappa Alpha Psi, Alpha Phi Alpha, and Phi Beta Sigma. Sororities have included Zeta Phi Beta, Delta Sigma Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho, and Alpha Kappa Alpha.

“Crossing the Desert Sands” is the name for the initiation ceremonies of African American fraternities and sororities.

Exhibit Items

  1. Gamma Iota Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha
  2. Gamma Omega chapter of Omega Psi Phi plans Third District meeting
  3. Life Membership card of Ruthard Haze Dixon
  4. Local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta at the Legacy Museum

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