More than 20,000 members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority from all over the world will converge on Atlanta from July 9-16, 2016, for the organization’s biennial conference, the 67th Boulé. Atlanta’s home to Alpha Kappa Alpha founder Marie Woolfolk Taylor and the late Dr. Mary Shy Scott, a prominent educator and motivational speaker who served as the sorority’s 23rd international president.
The conference will be held at the Georgia World Congress Center, as well as several hotels. Members from as far away as Germany, Japan, South Korea, Liberia, South Africa and Dubai are expected to attend.
Led by International President Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson, L.H.D., during the 2016 biennial conference, attendees will engage in service projects as well as leadership training and development.
“Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority is thrilled to bring our biennial conference to Atlanta,” says Buckhanan Wilson, who’s completing year two of a four-year term. She was initiated into AKA in 1978 at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, and has been an active member ever since.
“After more than 30 years since our last international conference here, the sorority returns to the city of Atlanta, home to thousands of members. Our service impact will be felt by the Atlanta community for years to come.”
Here, Dr. Buckhanan Wilson shares what Atlanta and members can expect and engages us on this year’s honorary members. –carles summerour
What can Atlanta and members expect of the conference?
This year, we are very fortunate to be convening in one of the cities that’s very historic in our organization, the city of Atlanta. So, meeting here in Atlanta, we will host over 24,000 and will all be meeting at the Georgia World Congress Center for business sessions and service project initiatives.
How many members are in the organization?
Currently, we have initiated approximately 283,000 since AKA was started back in 1908. Right now, we have active in the organization a record of 65,000-plus members in the organization, in which we are expecting here in Atlanta. 24,000 will be at the international convention, which will make this the largest gathering of AKA women worldwide in the history of the organization.
What are some of the organization’s current initiatives?
Currently, the international program is launching new dimensions of service and have a number of hands on projects that are designed for high impacting our communities. We have five specific program targets such as education, health, Black families (family strengthening), environmental ownership, and concerning on global affairs/global impact. Some of our major efforts right now includes our signature program, which is the ASCEND youth and enrichment program. ASCEND helps high school-aged young men and women make better choices as it relates to preparedness for life after high school — education, career, assessment and life skills. Beyond ASCEND, we have initiatives such as our One Million Backpacks program for the younger kids. Our goal over the four-year period is to collect and distribute to students nationwide, over a million backpacks. We are also working very heavily with several major health partners including, The American Heart Association, the American Stroke Association, Alzheimer’s Association, and NAMI [National Alliance on Mental Illness] a major mental health organization. We are also doing a lot of work as it relates to initiatives to the continent of Africa, and on our programming it shows we program in the U.S. but we have similar initiatives that focuses on our partners on the Continent. Specifically, we are working with Africare, one of the big projects we are currently working on is our Little Dresses for Africa project where we sewing and putting together 29,000 dresses for little girls on the continent.
A major area of focus for me would have to be making sure that we are engaged, community engagement is very important, not only to me but the organization. We want to make sure we’re inviting members to be a part of programs where they can actually see the results of their efforts, in terms of the community impact. As international president, my greatest area of fulfillment has been in seeing members being excited about being in a sisterhood and members coming back to the organization in large numbers because they see the programs that we are doing and the impact we’re making. Also, seeing ideas/initiatives that were put together by a planning team and put to life with true passion, brings joy to the organization as AKA because of the impact we are making together.
Why did you choose to join Alpha Kappa Alpha?
When I was an undergrad at Benedict College, I searched around campus to see what organization I could best contribute to, and more important, best reflected who and what I stood for as an individual. My grandparents were very active in the service community, so when I saw the service initiatives and the projects of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority i knew this was it for me. I attended a rush, got elected, joined the organization, and [have] been an active member for 38 years.
What was your path like leading to the international president position?
Most organizations you have to go through a path of serving various roles, AKA is no different. I started off as a chapter president in undergraduate, chapter president in a graduate chapter in Milwaukee Wisconsin, was asked to serve in numerous leadership positions on different levels, ran for and was elected to the international board as a regional director serving the central region, ran for international secretary where I was elected, and after that came international first VP, which in effect is a president-elect. That’s how I became international president. Honestly, working at all levels of the organization and being progressive, I made sure I was able to put into place initiatives and other things that would help the organization advance.
What are some characteristics an AKA woman might have?
I would have to say that there are a number of attributes our members possess. Being an organization of college educated women, we all have multiple degrees — in many cases — or at least one degree. I would have to say we are very highly educated and very much motivated to achieve academically. Alongside [that], we are about service. When we join this organization, we don’t just join for the college experience, we join this organization with our commitment of lifetime service. We like to help other people, we like to make a difference in our communities, we believe when it comes to making things better for those who may not have a voice, we as AKA speak up for them as advocates. More importantly, we believe that we have an obligation to make sure that every step we take we are building now and even more so for the future generation. I would have to say we are futuristically oriented as well.
Can you share who will be selected as honorary members?
No, I’m sorry I can’t. Reason being, our organization does not normally advertise in advance our honorary members. That’s one [thing] members like to see when they open their materials and see who those honorary members are and we don’t like to spoil that surprise for them.
Atlanta last hosted the organization’s international conference in 1980.
As part of the Alpha Kappa Alpha’s international program theme, “Launching New Dimensions of Service,” the sorority will host “23 Moments of Service” during the conference in honor of Dr. Scott. Dressed in their signature pink and green, members will package 100,000 meals in collaboration with Stop Hunger Now, participate in five playground restoration projects at local parks and schools, hold a school supply and backpack donation drive and receive hands-on CPR training, among other service activities.
Also, the sorority will host the Think HBCU Expo on July 9, showcasing historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as critical venues for moving students to and through college. Local high school students and families can explore offerings at many of the nation’s best HBCUs.
On July 10, there will be a public meeting to highlight Alpha Kappa Alpha’s global service mission and accomplishments and to honor civic leaders, both locally and worldwide. Awards will be presented to international leaders during this event, which is also free and open to the public.
Kappa Omega, the oldest AKA chapter in Atlanta, was chartered in 1923. For years, it was the only Alpha Kappa Alpha chapter serving the Atlanta community until the chartering of Alpha Pi Chapter at Clark Atlanta University in 1930. There are also AKA chapters at Emory University, Spelman College, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Mercer University and Oglethorpe University, and several graduate chapters throughout metro Atlanta.