By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
Ivy is a fast growing group of leafy plants which, as vines, climb upwards in or outdoors.
The plant is associated with leadership among the community for entrepreneurs, creatives, and innovative professionals who are passionate about making a lasting positive impact and establish lifelong bonds.
The Ivy has been adopted by the Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority, as their symbol.
All across the nation, thousands of the sorority’s members are now showing their pride and organizing to support one of their own, Kamala D. Harris.
On August 11, Harris was chosen as Joe Biden’s running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket.
From her middle class roots in Oakland, California, Harris added to her resume Howard University, Hastings Law School graduate, Prosecutor,
California Attorney General and U.S. Senator.
Now she is just one electoral step away from the nation’s second highest elected prize.
Colita Nichols was among the 20 or so Howard University undergraduates who pledged AKA in 1987. Ronald Reagan was President then and one of the hottest issues facing student activists at the private HBCU was apartheid in South Africa.
Apartheid was the mirror image of Jim Crow in the United States that an earlier generation of Black students had fought against.
As tradition has it, the previous pledge line indoctrinates the new one into the sorority. Harris had pledged in 1986.
Nichols made it through in 1987.
Today, she is Dr. Colita Nichols Fairfax, the Professor of Sociology and Histography at Norfolk State University.
She recalls members of the AKA Pledge Class of 1986, including Kamala D. Harris, who were assigned to pledging her.
“I knew her. You had to know the name and background of the sorors who pledged before you,” said Fairfax. “She was a leader.”
“I am not surprised that she is the nominee for Vice President ,” said Fairfax, who was born in Richmond. “This is exciting and historic. We are all proud of her. It shows that an HBCU has the ability to produce world class leadership.”
Dr. Benita Stephens, was one of the 38 pledgees including Kamala Harris who became an AKA in Spring 1986.
Today, 36 of that 1986 class are still alive, said Stephens, who lives in Myrtle Beach.
She is an educational consultant, who works to turn around failing public schools, most of which have majority poor and Black student populations.
Along with Senator Harris, Stephens said her line included people who are now a judge, lawyers in various high profile firms, marketers, and one is a producer for CNN.
“Most of us did very well,” said Stephens, who was an educator for 30 years. “We are all supportive of each other and very close. When Kamala started moving up each time, some of us was always there—when she was Attorney General or Senator. We hope we all can be there
when she makes the next big step.”
“When we pledged, she was a leader,” said Stephens. “We all knew she would not be happy unless she reached the top.”
Stephens said that Harris always claimed her African American heritage.
“To her there was no doubt,” said Stephens. “The racist trope about her not being Black? We have been down that road before. We know better.”
On the evening Stephens talked to the GUIDE, she was readying for a conference phone call with sister AKAs who were organizing and seeking to support the Biden-Harris ticket.
She said sorors from across the nation will be pitching for fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts in the coming weeks.
Harris, Stephens nor Fairfax were born when Doris Jones, crossed over with 20 other sister pledgees at West Virginia University (then College) in 1946.
Jones was a Math Major at the college where six years earlier Catherine Johnson, one of NASA’s first Black female “computers”, graduated.
Jones was born in Norfolk’s Huntersville Community on Lexington Street and was a 1942 graduate of Booker T. Washington High School.
“I got interested in AKA because of Marion Anderson, who was the famous singer who performed in in Norfolk,” said Jones. “She was an AKA, too. I was in the fifth grade at the time.”
After she graduated from West Virginia University in 1947, Jones said she returned to Norfolk where she taught at the Intermediate School at Booker T. Washington High School.
“Back then, there was no middle school for Black children,” she said. “One half was a middle school called Booker T. Intermediate and the other side was the high school.”
Jones said she taught for over 30 years before she retired.
She is 94 now. Next year she will be celebrating her “Diamond” Anniversary as an AKA and one of the oldest of the sorors in Virginia.
“First I hope to see Kamala Harris make history this year,” said Mrs. Jones. “This will be so historic. We are all so proud of her. We have made history once with (Barack Obama). I hope we can do it again.”