In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the sorority sisters of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.’s Alpha Alpha Omicron Zeta Chapter in Northeast Philadelphia and all of Bucks County, PA and did an interview with Nikki Farrior the Basileus of the chapter.
The position of Basileus/president of a Black sorority chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Nikki Farrior, who works as an Impact Services Manager at United Way of Bucks County, has been in the position of Basileus for one year.
We interviewed Nikki Farrior, who is a April 21, 1994, Xi Delta Chapter at the University of Pittsburgh initiate of Zeta Phi Beta and talked to her about her position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in the digital age.
Read the full interview below.
What motivated you to take on the role of alumni chapter president?
What motivated me to take on the role as chapter president centered around a quote from our triumphant founder of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, Arizona Cleaver Stemons which states, “give to the world the best you have.” I believed that the best I had to give, for the advancement of my chapter, was my time, my talent, and my temperament. I informed my chapter members that I was committed to dedicating my time to continue our journey towards excellence together, knowing that time is valuable and not promised to any of us. I shared that my past experiences as a Basileus during my undergraduate years and other recent elected and appointed offices has positioned me well to use my strengths as well as my community connections to elevate our chapter’s initiatives, in addition to using my term to highlight the natural talent of other chapter members. Lastly, I reminded my chapter members that I am an effective communicator who actively listens and endeavors to understand others point of view, compromising when necessary. All of this, coupled with my chapter member’s unwavering love, support, and desire to allow me to lead at such a time as this, contributed to my motivation to take on the role as chapter president.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the local community or the broader Black community?
This year, the awesomely amazing women of Alpha Alpha Omicron Zeta (AAOZ) will continue to provide our brand of community-conscious, action-oriented service, through many stellar initiatives but I want to highlight a few. Stuff the Bus – we partnered with the United Way of Bucks County in their annual Stuff the Bus Back to School Backpack Drive, which provided over 3,300+ backpacks to students across Bucks County, PA., ensuring they transition from summer into a successful school year. We know this initiative improves students’ odds of being successful in the classroom and we also know the financial stress associated with back-to-school cost is greatly alleviated due to this program, impacting the broader community, especially our students of color. H.E.R. College Fair – we are hosting our first Higher Education Resource College Fair to provide local students from Philadelphia and surrounding areas with the opportunity to meet college admission reps, ask questions, gain insight into the essay writing process and so much more. We know early exposure can increase the chances of students of color successfully applying to and gaining college admission, but we also know college is not everyone’s next choice after high school, so we are also providing workshops that will cover topics such as Trade vs. Non-Trade Industries, Careers and more. The Year of the International Woman – our entire sorority has headed the call to serve and advocate, on behalf of health justice for women at home and abroad. Our chapter is participating in our annual Zeta Day on the Hill, and meeting with local senators and congress members to advocate for the passage of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, “ which puts action behind and investment in addressing every driver of maternal mortality, morbidity, and disparities in the United States”, said Dr. Stacie NC Grant, International President & CEO of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated. AAOZ will also host a local panel discussion with the March of Dimes and other community representatives, focusing on the importance of women’s reproductive rights and Black maternal health and wellness.
What made you want to pledge Zeta Phi Beta?
I pledged Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated because this organization represented what I held deep inside of me, a community conscious approach to service, an action-oriented approach to delivering transformational community change and a boldness to dare to be different. I come from a family of givers. My husband and I raised our children with the motto, “If you see a need, you fill a need”, so it is only fitting that I joined an organization that not only represents high scholastic aptitude but has a true heart for service. Zetas are known for our ability to quickly organize around a cause, provide immediate boots on the ground in response to a community need, partner with other stakeholders and deliver impactful results. Lastly, as our current International President & CEO, Dr. Stacie N.C. Grant so beautifully stated, “A bold and courageous spirit lives inside members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated. It took boldness and courage to create something where others already existed.” These are the reasons I chose to become a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
My AAOZ chapter is unique in that we pride ourselves on being one chapter that serves two communities (Northeast Philadelphia and all of Bucks County, Pennsylvania). We are committed to service, and we enjoy the ability to collaborate with several local chapters of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated because we are positioned between multiple service areas. We are also a historic chapter in that we were the first four-letter chapter chartered in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in 2015. We are a diverse group of women, which makes us stronger because we recognize the value of sharing unique perspectives. We represent several professional affiliations and when we come together, using our time and talent, to deliver impactful community change to our fellow neighbors, we truly are Awesomely Amazing AAOZ!
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
I approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among my chapter members by being my authentic self and I found that leaning in with my core strengths of development, connectedness, positivity, input, and learner is an effective way of showing my chapter members that I am genuine and that I can be a trusted sister and friend. To further foster a sense of unity and camaraderie, I encouraged my chapter members to utilize the principles found in The Four Agreements, written by Don Miguel Ruiz, as a guiding light for our sorority relationships and interactions. The Four Agreements are: Be Impeccable with Your Word; Don’t Take Anything Personally; Don’t Make Assumptions; and Always Do Your Best. I shared with them that some of the benefits of us following The Four Agreements are: reduced stress and anxiety – because when you’re not taking things personally, making assumptions, or using your words in a harmful way, you’ll experience less stress and anxiety in your life; improved relationships – because when we are communicating more effectively with one another we can build stronger, more fulfilling interactions which should ultimately lead to greater peace of mind; and reduction of drama – because when you’re not caught up in the drama of everyday sorority issues and life, we should experience a deeper sense of peace and tranquility. In addition to utilizing these principles, I issued a series of challenges to my chapter members, to further drive home a sense of unity and camaraderie. First, I stated that I will be responsible for the energy I bring into our space, and I challenged each of them to do the same. Next, I shared that I see AAOZ as a chapter where we recognize we all make mistakes, but that we can all learn how to separate the mistake from the sister. I challenged them to lean into this theory recognizing that this may be difficult but that I will gracefully model this behavior and I challenged each of them to do the same.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
My advice to any aspiring leader within my sorority, would be the following: Create a Growth-Oriented Environment – it is important to understand that as a leader, you have the power to create an environment where people feel safe to grow and take risks. Be mindful of the language you use, the feedback you give, and the way you respond to mistakes because you have the power to change the trajectory of someone’s entire experience. Remember, failure does not have to be fatal! In fact, acknowledging yesterday’s error is a prerequisite to correcting it today and preventing more errors tomorrow. Understand your Leadership Style – it is vitally important to be aware of your own leadership style, your strengths, and your growth areas. Recognize the blind-spots that may exist within your strengths and work to avoid them. This will help you to become more effective in supporting the growth of others and inspiring others to lead. Build your Conflict Resolution Muscles – focus on solutions over problems, apologize without condition when it’s your fault, and as my soror Gigi Gilliard shared, “offer radical candor (respectful confrontation which builds trust) over ruinous empathy (silence to avoid hurting the feelings of others which leads to no change).” Remember, you may never feel you are ready to lead but I encourage you to do it anyway, lean into the discomfort, and use it as fuel for growth.
How has mentorship helped you get to where you are today? Are there any specific people in your org who have made a significant impact on your life as mentors?
Mentorship has helped me grow and stretch in many ways, impacting where I am today and where I want to go in the future. A few examples include access, feedback, networking, and goal setting. Access – mentorship has given me access to knowledge and experience that I would not have otherwise had. My mentors have shared their insights and advice on a wide range of topics, from leadership and management to personal development. This knowledge has been invaluable in helping me to grow as a leader and make better decisions, positioning me to obtain more leadership roles. Feedback – mentorship has provided me with a sounding board for my ideas. I can always count on my mentors to give me honest feedback and advice on my leadership style and decisions, and this has helped me to become more confident in my own decision-making. Networking – mentorship has helped me build relationships with other leaders and I am grateful that my mentors have introduced me to others in their networks, which helps me grow my network allowing me to collaborate across organizations. Goal setting – my mentors have helped me set goals for myself which motivates me to keep growing and learning. I am blessed to have had peer mentors outside of my organization like my husband Booker Farrior of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. But within Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, I am particularly blessed and grateful for the peer mentor relationships I’ve developed with my line sisters especially Tanita Harris-Ligons, Chrystal Walker-Grimes, Teja Smith, and Karlyn Cummings my AAOZ sisters especially Dr. Aliya Browne, Dr. Tamika Thomas, Tanetha Ross-Johnson and Ellen Reaves, and the ones who encouraged me to take the biggest leap of faith in Zeta, Sandra Casimir, and Dr. Mary Breaux-Wright, our 24th International Grand Basileus.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch the Yard is important to Black greekdom because it showcases black excellence personified, while highlighting the amazing members that represent and carry the mantle of service in these amazing organizations. In our social media driven world, where the negative highlight reel of the lives of people of color remains on rinse and repeat, Watch the Yard offers a positive perspective and a breath of fresh air. It works to combat this negative vortex by providing informative, uplifting, positive, and inspiring stories of excellence, service, community impact, collaboration, and fellowship. I am thankful I made the choice to become a member of a historic Black-Greek letter organization and I am thankful that my husband Booker, my two sons Book and Jared and my daughter Kennedy, also chose to join Black-Greek letter organizations and give of their time and talent, in service to our community.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I love being a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated because it aligns with who I am as a person, a leader, and a member of my community. It allows me to serve on a greater level and impact change far and wide. It has delivered lifelong sisters to me and provided some of the best memories of my life. I dare to lead, and I dare to be different, so I just love my ZPhiB and all that she stands for. We are 103 years old, and the best is still yet to come!
Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?
To me, sisterhood is powerful. It is the bond between women who support each other, lift each other up, and empower each other to be the best versions of themselves. Sisterhood is strength. It is the power of women coming together to make a difference in the world. Sisterhood is joy. It is the laughter and tears shared between women who know each other’s hearts and hold space for each other’s struggles. Lastly, sisterhood is magic. It is the power of women, coming together to create something beautiful.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Nikki Farrior for her work as the Basileus of the Alpha Alpha Omicron Zeta Chapter.
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