Past and present members of Stanford’s Xi Beta Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated expressed their deep appreciation for Xi Beta’s emphasis on sisterhood, service and scholarship following the chapter’s 40th anniversary on June 25.
Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. is the oldest Greek-letter organization established by African-American college women. The sorority was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1908, and the Xi Beta Chapter was later chartered at Stanford on June 25, 1981.
Current members celebrated their 40th Charter Day via an interactive Zoom call that drew 90 Xi Beta alumnae, according to chapter president Kennedy Gamble ’22. Attendees ranged from the founding members of 1981 to new initiates from 2021. Gamble added that the event was particularly meaningful for the new initiates because they were able to meet and hear from the women who founded the chapter — an interaction that “they will cherish forever,” she wrote.
For Shayla Smith ’12, the 40th anniversary is “a celebration of our legacy on Stanford’s campus and the impact that we’ve had on Stanford — not just the Black community at Stanford but Stanford as a whole,” she said. “I think celebrating the accomplishments of the women who’ve come before us, and laying a foundation for all of the women that will come over the course of Xi Beta to come.”
When asked about favorite memories during their time in Xi Beta, many of the members recalled spending time on service projects. Smith recounted the chapter partnering with the Stanford Bookstore for an Angel Tree Project each Christmas while she was at Stanford.
“We would set up a tree and everyone would be able to pull a name tag that had like a gift, and the gifts would go to kids whose parents are incarcerated,” Smith said.
More recently, Gamble wrote about the fundraising Xi Beta did for the Justice For Black Lives campaign. The chapter raised more than $200,000, which Gamble wrote was “a significant amount of money that went to help fight the injustice Black Americans face in the U.S.”
Many members said Xi Beta’s focus on community and sisterhood had an irresistible allure that ultimately encouraged them to join.
As a frosh, Krista Cooksey ’15 was thousands of miles away from her home in Chicago where she lived with her siblings. Coming from a large family, Cooksey said she yearned to find one on campus. When she attended the student activities fair and met some of the Xi Beta members, she felt drawn to the organization’s commitment to service, academics and sisterhood. After getting to know the members of Xi Beta, she said she quickly came to see them as her older sisters — as a family away from home.
Cooksey and Smith said they were also intrigued by Xi Beta’s emphasis on scholarship. Smith recalled the chapter winning an award for scholastic achievement during their regional conference one year and consistently winning academic awards each year.
Xi Beta’s focus on community extends beyond the confinements of the chapter. Gamble wrote that the chapter centers many of their events around the Stanford community “to help bring the community together and help educate them on an array of topics, such as wealth accumulation, wellness and Black history.”
Alumnae emphasized that the sisterhood and network of Xi Beta and Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. do not end after college. Cooksey recounted spending time with some of her prophytes and line sisters in Chicago a few weeks ago, and Smith recalled women from the Alpha Kappa Alpha chapter in Johannesburg, South Africa organizing a meet and greet and letting her stay with them while she was doing research in South Africa for graduate school.
“I think that just shows the expansiveness of the network and the sisterhood — just being able to really travel around the world, and still have that network of women who are there to support you,” Smith said.
Despite the unprecedented nature of this year due to COVID-19, Xi Beta maintained its commitment to building community. With guidance from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the University, Gamble wrote that the chapter hosted virtual events aimed at the Stanford community, including virtual Workout Wednesdays, Netflix parties and poetry workshops.
“In a time of uncertainty and change, one thing that has remained constant has been the resilience, sisterhood, and excellence of Xi Beta,” Gamble wrote.
Cooksey expressed immense pride for the work that current members are doing to continue the Xi Beta legacy and to uphold the important pillars of the chapter, especially during a pandemic. “I want to say kudos to them for being able to kind of navigate such a rough time, and still being able to really just continuously show up for the community,” she said.
And to chapter members of the past, Gamble wrote that she is grateful for the legacy of excellence they left for the current and future members.
“They have worked so hard to ensure the perpetuity of this chapter and created a culture of hard work, service to the community, and sisterhood,” Gamble wrote. “They are amazing women that have accomplished so much in the chapter and their respective industries, and I hope I can accomplish just as much as they have.
Carolyn Stein contributed reporting.