Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

When it Comes to Alpha Kappa Alpha, Ms. Magazine Gets It Right

October 9th, 2008 by Ajuan Mance

In 1908, a mere 43 years after slavery was abolished in the United States, one year before the NAACP was founded in response to lynching and race riots, and during the rise of feminism and the suffragist movement, 16 young women — juniors and seniors at Howard University — founded the first black sorority.

— Jatrice Martel Gaiter in “100 Years of Sisterhood,” Ms. Magazine, Summer 2008

Mainstream publications often miss the mark in their coverage of African American issues in higher education. Popular magazines often seem at a loss when confronted with stories and topics that don’t reinforce those stereotyped notion of the African Americans as intellectually inferior, academically underprepared, and culturally constrained.

Kudos, then, to Ms. Magazine for it’s appropriately celebratory and historically accurate treatment of the 100th Anniversary of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (AKA). Ms. reporter Jatrice Martel Gaiter “gets it,” from the organization’s emphasis on lifelong sisterhood through active participation both during and after college to the emphasis on supporting a “diverse set of community-service programs.”

What accounts for the accuracy and appropriateness of tone in this magazine’s treatment of this uncharacteristically positive Black higher story? Well, it helps that author Gaiter is a member of AKA. From a journalistic perspective, this might call into question her ability to report on this topic without bias. Gaiter discloses her membership in AKA in the text of the article, however, and she limits her account to the established facts of AKA’s history and the details of its 100th anniversary celebration. The reporter avoids any treatment of the controversies surrounding the culture of Black Greek organizations and their impact on Black campus life. The omission of such content is, however, forgivable and even acceptable in an article whose primary purpose is to celebrate one of the nation’s oldest Black women’s organizations.

Disclaimer: Jatrice Martel Gaiter is a member of AKA, but I am not affiliated with this or any other Greek Letter Organization.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in African Americans, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Black History, Current Events, Higher Education, Ms. Magazine, race

4 Responses

  1. malou

    I assume you are a member of that sorority. Here in the Philippines we had laws being imposed on fraternity and sorority because of hazing, the law is anti-hazing law because there were numbers of neophyte died because of hazing..

  2. Clnmike

    Good for Ms. Magazine.

  3. SjP

    I’m just “tickle pink” with the article. Much obliged for posting and sharing.

  4. Ajuan Mance

    Thanks for stopping in. I have been pleased to see such positive coverage of this milestone year in the history of this historic organization. It is one of the few such stories about Black women that has received national coverage.