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About 60 crimson-clad women, members of the Evanston/North Shore chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, kicked off their centennial year at the soon-to-open Chicken & Waffles on Dempster Street on Jan. 13.

The nationwide sorority, with both undergraduate and graduate chapters, was founded on Jan. 13, 1913, at Howard University by 22 women who “envisioned an organization built on Christian principles and sisterhood,” according to the sorority’s Protocol and Traditions Committee. Those five principles are to promote academic excellence, to provide scholarship, to provide support to the underserved, to educate and stimulate participation in the establishment of positive public policy, and to highlight issues and provide solutions for problems in communities.

The sorority is the nation’s single largest African American women’s organization. Some of the members, such as Amanda Wright, are the first Deltas in their families; while Carmelia “Cam” Hill, a member for more than 60 years, is the daughter, mother and sister of Deltas.

Last year the Evanston chapter donated toiletries and The Smith Residence, a not-for-profit organization serving homeless women veterans and their children.
The local chapter continued three youth programs, the Delta Academy, Delta Gems and EMBODI. The Delta Academy, for girls aged 11-14, and Delta Gems, for young women 14-18, are education enrichment programs with specific emphasis on math, science, technology and service.

EMBODI – Empowering Males to Build Opportunities for Developing Independence – though sponsored by the sorority, is run by males and focuses on young black males. EMBODI is designed to help young black males reach their fullest potentials educationally, socially and emotionally.  (See April 14, 2011, RoundTable)

The morning of the Jan. 13 celebration, the sorority sisters attended worship services at Second Baptist Church. Reciprocal honors were bestowed, with the church noting the Deltas’ ongoing service and the sorority praising the church for “its 130-year tradition as a Beacon of Light in this community.”

“One hundred means wisdom; one hundred means success; one hundred means endurance,” said Darnell Johnson, owner of Chicken & Waffles.  He said he and his team had worked hard to get the restaurant in shape for the celebration, before its scheduled grand opening, but was delighted that the sorority had chosen his restaurant for their luncheon.

Mr. Johnson’s wife and restaurant co-owner, Tanya Johnson, said [I am] “overwhelmed to see all you beautiful ladies. I appreciate that you chose us for your luncheon.”

Community leaders expressed their appreciation as well. Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite said, “We recognize the contribution you have made to this community.”

Judge Lionel Jean-Baptiste said, “Your [sorority] is extraordinary and has been at the cutting edge of civil rights.”

Delores Holmes, alderman of the Fifth Ward and member of Delta Sigma Theta, said, “Deltas get it done.”