I remember the day that I was inducted into Delta Sigma Theta, I walked that aisle with tears streaming down my face. Never in my wildest imagination did I think my dream of being a Delta would come true.
I always wanted to be a Delta. It's just that my first two years in college I was so busy in politics registering my classmates to vote, boycotting the university's foundation because of it's investments in apartheid South Africa, that I never got around to pledging. Then I quit school to hit the road to work on Rev. Jesse Jackson's presidential campaigns and by the time I went back to school I was 27 and then I made a transition to AIDS. When I made a transition to AIDS, I knew that I would never be a Delta. Back then, the life expectancy was 2-3 years at most for someone living with "full-blown" AIDS.
Then as I rose to fame in my HIV/AIDS activism, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc. was the first to call. It was an unofficial /official call to see if I wanted it. It was a done deal I was told, if I said yes. I took a deep breath and said, while I respect your organization, I cannot accept. I have always wanted to be a Delta and it wouldn't be fair to you for me to wear your letters. Delta didn't call for another 4 years, but they called.
|The Day I was Inducted!|
I've been to every convention since I was inducted but two. One I missed because it was around the same time I graduated from seminary, and the other I missed because I never got a return call from the national office. I had been struggling with my health and got a late start.
The 12 years that I was a member of Delta, I went to conventions and I hung with Soror's and gave my support to the sorority as best as I could. Often coming home so wiped out it would take over a week to re-group with my health.
While some will say get over it. I say, this is not your life and it's easier for you to dismiss my pain. Delta has always been in my heart. I had Soror's tell me that they had never seen Honorary members until me, stay the entire convention and hang out with Soror's. I attend even the collegiate events. That was me, I was all in!
|Hanging with Soror's the day I was inducted|
Be clear, I'm never going to stop talking about this ever because I understand when we stop talking about something, we silence history. Just like pledges have to know who Honorary members are and their accomplishments, I will continue to tell my story of this sad and painful ending.
|Me and other Honorary Members|
For sure, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority has written me off like I NEVER existed! They have shut me out like I'm dead. It seems like I'm a memory that they would rather not have, like I was the worst thing that ever happened to Delta and maybe for some I am.
Understand, as an Honorary member I was held in high esteem. The collegiate's loved me because I showed them love. They had never had an Honorary member that was willing to come to the Delta House on campus to hang out or to go out to lunch/dinner with them, while speaking in the area. I gave love and I felt loved.
|at convention 2008|
I was told by girls on college campuses that they had never considered pledging until they learned that I was a Delta and saw the high esteem with which I regarded my sorority. Coping with this abandonment and lost has been hard for sure.
As I reflect today, I could have never imaged that my truth telling tweets on February 16, 2011, would have ended in my expulsion from Delta.
May 1, 2012, the day that I received the call from the national president, Cynthia Butler McIntrye I felt like life had been kicked out of me. I felt like a hollow shell and I wasn't quite sure how I was going to restore myself. The sorrow that I felt around Delta's decision was so fucking overwhelming and all consuming.
|Me and Soror's at FAMU|
Shit, if cursing defined me, then I was dome from the beginning. Delta should have just passed me up. I think I came out of my mother's womb cursing and if I didn't, I should have and first off asked my mother, "What the fuck was on her mind shooting heroin with a baby growing inside her womb?
These pictures were on my business website in a page dedicated to Delta. I wanted to show my Delta pride and did every chance I got. Who would have thought this would cause me to no longer be a Delta. To think I'm not hanging out with my partner in love Sheryl Lee Ralph this weekend. She was inducted into Delta as an Honorary member after me, but we had worked together around HIV years prior. We hung tight at convention and it was a special bond of our work in HIV and Sisterhood.
When Rose Mckinney informed me that "Delta reserves the right to publish all pictures in ceremony robes" then asked if I could I take them down. I said, "Absolutely Soror." That in my opinion should have been the end of the conversation.
Rose had a couple of opportunities to say, Ok Soror, I understand that you are on the road, will you take them down as soon as possible and let me know that they are down.
That was all it really took to bring closure to that conversation. But she kept hollering at me, "They need to come down now." After I hung up on her, she continued to call me back to back to back... then she text me. Delta has sent a message loud and clear, that it is O.K. to be treated any kind of way by the national headquarters, by women who call you Sister.
I find it distressing that I was left powerless by an event that did not originate from me. What message does it send to undergraduates pledging, that they cannot tell of infractions? Does my expulsion send a message that you must hurt or vent in private? I'm really trying to understand Sisterhood. And while some would say that my problem in understanding is because I didn't pledge, I will say to you, I went through the same induction ritual and my heart felt the same joy as yours the day you were inducted.
I look at this picture of these three very accomplished African-American women and I can't do nothing but hurt. On the far left is Bishop Vashti McKenzie the national chaplain of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Her grandmother was also a founding member of Delta. She carries a rich legacy of the organization.
She is also the first female Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. As an Honorary member of Delta, I was in close quarters with Bishop McKenzine often at convention. She often showed concern about my health and extended herself to me as our chaplain and a woman of God.
I look at her and I wonder why she never picked up the phone to offer me some pastoral care in the midst of my world collapsing. Was Delta more important to her than offering a woman you called Soror, Sister for 12 years, a fellow clergy and most importantly, a child of God in pain, some comfort? Not even a call to pray with me as I hurt.
My hurt was obvious. The pain was visible to anyone who saw it.
When she was national president, her agenda for both terms was HIV/AIDS. This is probably the reason I was asked to be a member of Delta; so that the President's agenda could be furthered by use of me. As I explained in my book, The Politics of Respectability, it is a long standing practice of Delta Sigma Theta to bring in honorary members around their national agenda.
Inducting me was a big move. It gave the appearance that Delta was doing something about HIV/AIDS. Those four years of Rev. Boyd's term, Delta used me across this country. I spoke at International Day of Service year after year, chapter after chapter, sometimes two cities in one day, as well as, Founder's Day. I was a highly sought after speaker in Delta, doing what I do, raw, uncut, transparent, honest, candid and cursing like a sailor.
Bringing me into the Sisterhood was a win win for Rev. Gwendolyn Boyd, with her focus being HIV/AIDS, but now I think about her, I ask was it all for show? I mean, she has not reached out to me in anyway. I mean, did her concern for me as a black woman living with AIDS, her pride in my work cease when my membership in the organization ceased?
I'm wondering is there any love afforded me now that I don't belong to your Sisterhood? Does, who I stand for or my contributions mean anything? I was called Sister, Soror for 12 years, was it all a lie? Most importantly, I still have AIDS. I still do the work of HIV. Does that mean anything? Is there any concern for the my work in HIV and my health in HIV?
The first conversation I had with Cynthia Butler McIntrye was the day, February 16, 2011, I made those tweets. We aired out the drama that passed between me and Rose McKinney, the director of the national office. Cynthia and I ended the conversation on what I thought was a conclusion to the matter.
In spite of the fact that I felt like I was being dealt with, I believed Cynthia to be fair. I was expecting the President of my sorority to call me back, maybe bring me and Rose together in someway to call and make-up, to equally apologize for her nasty ass attitude and approach to me and my nasty ass tweets, a respond to her nasty approach.
Cynthia, replied, "No Soror, no one is putting you out of Delta over this. I'm going to ask that you don't talk about it publicly anymore. I just need time to smooth things over." I kept my Word and that was the last conversation I had with her.
Now a year and two months later, nothing has changed, no one in the leadership has called me. I still haven't received anything in writing. I'm so trying to understand Sisterhood. How can these same women stand for 12 years when I enter a room and then drop me like I'm a plague?
This second time around, I could see no reason to be quiet. To save who's face? As it stood, my face was the one bloody and bowed. The damage was already done!
How, Delta has dealt with me leaves a painful bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that I have not heard from ANYONE in the leadership is painful and it makes me question Sisterhood at its core. In fairness, I have had countless Soror's reach out to me to offer words of encouragement and support. Maybe the leadership can learn something from the masses. And of course Sheryl Lee Ralph and I continue our friendship.
In those 12 years of membership my methodology, nor did my personality, change. At the end of the day, Delta rescinding my membership was some small, petty shit. I don't know who lead the fight to get me out, but I hope they are happy.
It's all good, at the end of the day, this kind of venom makes me question Sisterhood. A Sisterhood that can throw you away like trash over some tweets. A Sisterhood who does not give you voice, instead meet behind your back in the name of Sisterhood.
I continue to go back to this quote in my book, from past national president Lillian P. Benbow-1971-1975
I address this issue in my book, Just like David couldn't fight the giants in Sauls Armour, nor do I operate in the decorum of what others deemed "respectable." God gifted David with a sling shot and David was at his best when he operated in his gifts.
That's what I do everyday, I operate in my gifts crafted out of my journey. At the end of the day, that's all we should strive to be, one crafted out of our journey for the task, just for your design. God told Jeremiah, "Before I made you in your mothers womb, I choose you. Before you were born I set you apart for a special work. "(Jeremiah 1:5)
I may never be "respectable" by your standards, by Delta's standard and I'm good with that, because all I really need to please is God and me.
God's plan for my life didn't change because Delta changed their mind. So, I don't get invited to speak by any Delta chapters anymore, but God will make room for my gift. As has been obvious this year. I've even been told Delta's who are in authority at a couple of colleges I spoke at this year questioned the organizers about bringing me and were told by the organizers that my work transcended my issue with Delta. Thank God for that!
I have more perspective than I even had. This issue with Delta, made me soul search! I have become even more comfortable in my skin. My entrance into this world has defined me. I spent my first 6 months of life, sucking an umbilical cord laced in heroine. I was born a stray dog, dressed myself up in designer clothes and got 27 years of education, but at my very core, I'm still a stray dog. The goodness in this is that God can use a stray dog, even if Delta can't.
You can get an autographed copy of my book, The Politics of Respectability! Link Here! It is also on Amazon, paper back and Kindle HERE