In the social environment spanning from 1992 to 1994, Dr. Mae Carol Jemison became the first African-American woman in space. Riots broke out in L.A. over Rodney Kingís arrest and brutal televised beating. The first World Trade Center bombing occurred and South African Blacks got to vote for the first time in history. The civil war in Rwanda was sparked by the Hutu troops and 500,000 people were killed. It is this same environment that tilled the fertile ground upon which the seed of Rho Theta Chapter was planted, grown and chartered at the New York City Campus of Pace University. With a spurt of ethnic female attendance at Pace during these times, the need for the galvanization of minorities to work towards common unified goals of education, social awareness and political involvement became evident.
In 1993, with the assistance of Soror Kim Daniel Robinson, an educational administrator at Pace University, and the Sorors of Pi Kappa Omega, Manhattan Chapter, the interest group ìPearl Visionsî was established as a colony at the University. Eighteen women banded together to prove their worth to the university and the need to establish a chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. on this campus. The interest group participated in numerous programs and projects and received a variety of awards. Their campus activity was clearly visible and appreciated.
On December 4, 1994, Soror Wilma Holmes Tootle, North Atlantic Regional Director presided over the chartering of Rho Theta Chapter by 15 women from the original interest group: Monique Brown, Valerie Deus, Victoria Cantave, Shonette Harrison, Anisha Huffman, Teresa Lester, Cassandra Miller, Dorothy Pierrot, Jennifer Robinson, Tiffany Roy, Chanda Smart, Mariessa Terrell, Lavern Walsh, Albertha White and Nicole Wilson.
Through several initiatives established by this charter line, Rho Theta chapter broke new ground at the university. They piqued the Pace community’s interest by putting on events the likes of which they’d not yet seen; the first of them being Umoja – a variety show that mingled socio-political themes with music, poetry and dance. This widely attended event was heralded by the school newspaper as one of the best events held at Pace by a student organization
In an effort to heighten the Pace community’s awareness of contributions made by African Americans, Rho Theta coordinated “An Evening of Appreciation,” an elegant dinner held for said members of the Pace Community. Awards were presented to members who had gone above and beyond their duties as well as proclaimed a resounding, unified ìthank youî to those faculty and staff being honored. The chapter invited the late Soror Rita Webb Smith to the school as their first lecturer. Author of the book “The Woman Who Took Back Her Streets,” she spoke to the community about the work she did to reclaim her block on 145th street in Harlem from the drug trafficking that ultimately took the life of one of her sons. She brought home an important point for the lecture attendees: truly ONE person CAN make a difference.
During the year two fashion shows were organized as fundraisers to support community efforts. “A Touch of Class” and “CRAZYSEXYCOOL” were attended by the campus community and celebrities alike, showcasing elegant, sophisticated and cutting-edge couture to the college community. Both shows boasted record-breaking attendance and response.
Service was woven into the fabric of the ladies of Rho Theta early on as they regularly participated in projects with Coalition for the Homeless collecting canned food around the university to donate for distribution to the less fortunate. Harlem Hospital welcomed these members every year as they worked with the Children’s ward during the holidays to spread cheer and hope. In an ongoing partnership with The Greater Harlem Nursing Home members visited the elderly and offered companionship and friendship. Other organizations that stayed in Rho Theta’s cache of partnerships to call upon were the Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation, the NAACP, Hale House, New York City Parks Organization, New York Cares, The Food Bank and the Photographic Center of Harlem. These charter members laid down the foundation for the ladies to come across Rho Thetaís threshold for years to come.
Charging into the turn of the century, the ladies of Rho Theta held fast to the chapter’s traditions. The members of the new millennium took part in co-sponsoring various events such as “Scare-O-Ween – The Castle of Terror” where sixth graders of a local elementary school were invited to Pace University to experience a haunted house built by the ladies of Rho Theta and other student organizations. Chapter members performed in costume for the 6th graders and provided food, snacks and face painting for the children.
Continuing with previously established service projects and events new members added participation in various charity walks and worked with Body Positive, an organization dedicated to fighting against HIV & AIDS. They distributed information and utilities to encourage the message of safe sex and educate the Pace community about HIV/AIDS.
Black History month celebrations spawned events such as the “Black THEATRAKAL Showcase” emblazoning the African American contribution to the film industry and “Black from the Past” where students performed as Black musicians from previous time periods in history. Women’s History Month brought the inception of the ìProfessional Women in Traditional Rolesî series with speakers such as Dr. Ann Arthur (ophthalmologist), Soror Wilma Holmes Tootle (educator and past International Regional Director), Soror Karen Myrie (medicine) and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Valarie Hollingsworth (law).
During December of 2001, Rho Theta held a coat drive on the Pace campus and donated over 40 coats to the New York Cares annual coat drive. The chapter also sponsored “Feel Pretty Day,” where a local spa performed massages, mini-manicures, facials and makeovers to Pace students during finals week, and books were collected to be provided to children for the “Help Children Read” book drive. At the 2002 Student Activities Awards Dinner, Rho Theta Chapter was awarded the Campus Activities Award for Best Fraternity/Sorority of the Year 2001/2002.
With the initiates of 2003 and on, the sorority has remained relevant on the campus. In keeping with the tradition of bringing insightful authors and screenwriters to the forefront, the chapter sponsored Cora Daniels, author of Black Power, Inc. to hold a book signing at Pace and bring awareness about self-empowerment. David Lamb was invited to Pace to perform “From Auction Block to Hip Hop,” a comedy/drama that addresses stereotypes, prejudices and urban myths within the context of hip-hop, humor & satire. In conjunction with the play, the ladies helped raise money for Africares, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in Africa.
As a chapter, Rho Theta also has worked very closely with other student organizations at Pace to put on events such as ìOne,î a fashion/talent show that donated a portion of the proceeds to the Make a Wish Foundation; “Diva Diction,” a poetry slam headlined by female Def Jam poets and open to the Pace community; and the Day of Silence/Rally, a day where you protested in silence against any issue of your choosing or joined the rally after the period of silence concluded.
Rho Theta chapter has been the recipient of several accolades from the national Sorority body. In July 2000 the chapter was awarded the Ivy AKAdemy Certificate of Excellence at the 59th Boule in recognition of exemplary programs. The following year a Certificate of Merit in Appreciation of “Blazing New Trails” in programs was awarded by Soror C. Edith Booker, North Atlantic Regional Director and in 2005, they were recognized by National Membership Committee with the Ivy Vine Honor Roll for facilitating the transition from undergrad to graduate status.
Rho Theta Chapter’s dedication to “Service to all Mankind” has remained a staple of life at Pace University for members and students alike. They currently endure as the sole member of the National Pan Hellenic Council on Pace’s New York City campus, holding high the light for students of diverse ethnic backgrounds to join or support. Maintaining the essence of political awareness and community involvement with a touch of ravishing sophistication, Rho Theta is a force with which to be reckoned.