Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. just completed its 84th Central Regional Conference in St. Louis April 5-8. The weekend of activities began with a cleanup of Tandy Park, located across the street from Charles H. Sumner High School in the historic Ville neighborhood. It was followed by lasting honors to the AKA sorority’s principal founder, St. Louis native Ethel Hedgeman Lyle, a 1904 graduate of Sumner.
A commemorative program was held in the auditorium of the legendary school, attended by selected students and sorority members and presided by Peggy Lewis LeCompte, program chair. Brief comments were made by Faye B. Bryant, 21st international president; Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson, current international president; Kathy Walker Steele, central regional president; Norma Solomon White, 25th international president; and Mattelia B. Grays, 18th international president.
“We spent the last three and a half years putting into place commemorations just like this one so that we could document our history, because those who have an accurate portrayal of their history are the ones who document it themselves,” said Bryant. “And we did not want to come here to St. Louis for a regional conference and not have something in honor of our principal founder, Ethel Hedgeman Lyle.”
She said the sorority also launched a campaign with 110,000 signatures requesting that a U.S. postage stamp be named in Lyle’s honor, which is under review by the U.S. Postal Service’s commemoration committee.
Dais guests included Shantel Harris, the great granddaughter of Ethel Hedgeman Lyle, Sumner 9th-10th grade Principal Christopher McNeil, Sumner 11th-12th grade Principal Michael Triplett, St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams, 4th Ward Alderman Samuel Moore, 19th Ward Alderwoman Marlene Davis and aldermanic President Lewis Reed.
After the formal program, a wing of the school was named in Hedgeman Lyle’s honor. Sorority members also dedicated and unveiled a granite bench located in the front of Sumner to its distinguished graduate.
Nearly 2,900 AKAs from St. Louis and Cape Girardeau in Missouri, and from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin attended the conference in St. Louis, along with sorority leadership from throughout the U.S.
Members of the eight-state region conducted sorority business and implemented programs focused on educational enrichment, health promotion, family strengthening, environmental ownership and global impact.
At its public meeting on Friday evening, AKAs recognized local organizations whose services are in line with the sorority’s programs of service. Saint Louis Public Schools and Harris-Stowe State University were recognized for educational enrichment. The Greater Missouri Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association was recognized for health promotion. Better Family Life, Inc. and the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House were recognized for family strengthening. The St. Louis Solid Waste Management District was recognized for environmental ownership. The United Nations Association – St. Louis Chapter was recognized for global impact.
Belleville, Illinois resident Kathy A. Walker is at the end her tenure as the AKA central regional president. “It’s always good to be home, and St. Louis has a prominent place in the history of Alpha Kappa Alpha,” Walker said. “To have over 2,800 members of the sorority and their guests come to St. Louis to celebrate our regional conference at the place where our founder was from was powerful and impactful.”
On Saturday, Sonya L. Bowen of the Lambda Tau Omega Chapter in Chicago was elected as the Central Region’s next president. She will be installed at the 68th AKA Boule in Houston, Texas, which takes place July 6-12.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. is the first Greek letter organization for African-American women, founded in 1908 on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. According to its website, the AKA sorority “flourished into a globally-impactful organization of nearly 300,000 college-trained members, bound by the bonds of sisterhood and empowered by a commitment to servant-leadership that is both domestic and international in its scope.”
For more information about Alpha Kappa Alpha, visit AKA1908.com.