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 Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.’s Alpha Iota Sigma Chapter in Savannah, GA and did an interview with Shenequa Gresham 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. Shenequa Gresham, who works as a Vice President of Developmental Disabilities for a local non-profit in Savannah, Georgia that prepares adults with developmental disabilities for employment and community integration, has been in the position of Basileus since 2022.
We interviewed Gresham, who is a April 2005- Savannah State University- Alpha Iota Chapter- Savannah, GA initiate of Sigma Gamma Rho 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?
I was motivated to take on the role of President for the Alpha Iota Sigma Chapter because I wanted to uphold the legacy and fulfill the promise of our seven illustrious Founders. Becoming a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. at 19 years old was an eye-opening experience. I grew up in this organization and I was fortunate to have mentors and sisters that helped mold me early in my Sigma journey. After graduating from Savannah State University and joining the graduate chapter, I wanted to do a little more. I, along with 6 other Sorors, chartered a graduate chapter in Statesboro, GA in 2012 because we saw a need to continue to grow Sigma. In 2017, this same graduate chapter in Statesboro, GA re-chartered the undergraduate chapter (Tau Xi) at Georgia Southern University – Statesboro campus. I returned to my home graduate chapter, (the chapter that advised my undergraduate chapter at Savannah State University (Alpha Iota), Alpha Iota Sigma in 2020 and continued my work and became President in 2022. As President my vision was simple, “Dedicated to Sigma. Dedicated to You.” I am committed to serving my Sisters, the Sorority and the Savannah-Chatham area citizens with a spirit of unconditional sisterly love, compassion over criticism, and a lifetime commitment to public service. At the heart of the Savannah Alumnae Chapter, are its members. They are the foundation that makes this organization a pillar in the community that we serve. It is because of them that I am able to lead and the reason why we have been successful in our many endeavors. It has been an absolute pleasure leading this group of dynamic women. They can depend on me to continue to lead the chapter with humility, accountability and transparency.
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?
The Alpha Iota Sigma Chapter has several initiatives that will align with our programmatic thrusts that allows us to do our part to improve the local and broader Black community. They include Swim 1922, the Youth Symposium, our Women’s Wellness Initiative and Project Cradle Care. These projects address, educate and bring awareness to concerns such as health issues that impact women and babies; water safety among youth as well as connect residents with resources to close the learning gap in our local school system.
What made you want to pledge Sigma Gamma Rho?
When I became a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. at Savannah State University (Shout Out to the Alluring Alpha Iota Chapter) our chapter was small but mighty. I gravitated toward Sigma Gamma Rho because of how my sisters presented themselves on the campus. These ladies were always doing the work of the sorority, being friendly, and were in leadership roles on campus. When I became a member, these ladies accepted me with open arms and allowed me to still be who I was. Sigma Gamma Rho has done nothing but continued to push me to be the very best person and Soror to my sisters I can be. Sigma Gamma Rho has contributed to the person that I am today.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
My hashtag for the Alpha Iota Sigma Chapter during my leadership has been #yourfavsgrhos. My chapter is unique based off of that hashtag. We are #yourfavsgrhos! We have women all different ages, professional backgrounds, cultural experiences, and years in Sigma. We are mothers, wives, daughters, and leaders in our community. We utilize our skills to give back to our community and to grow our chapter. We are sisters first. Blood doesn’t make us family! True sisterhood resides in Alpha Iota Sigma.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Alpha Iota Sigma has two undergraduate chapters (Alpha Iota at Savannah State University and Upsilon Theta at Georgia Southern University-Armstrong) who are equipped with an advisor and a committee to ensure that the vision of the organization stays at the forefront. Through our Membership Committee headed by the Chapter Anti Basileus (Vice president) we host events/activities throughout the sorority year to help foster relationships to encourage a smooth transition from college to an alumnae chapter. We also offer a discount on local dues if they immediately transition into our graduate chapter as well.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
Camaraderie and unity are critical to any chapter. The sense of friendship and trust are the secret ingredients enabling groups of people to collaborate, innovate, communicate respectfully, share new or risky ideas freely, disagree amicably, and continuously learn together. The benefits of camaraderie are higher levels of engagement, retention of members, and the interest from others in your organization/chapter. Locally we host Sorors in the City events monthly which allows us to fellowship with our chapter sorors, sorors that are new to our area, and those interested in reactivating and looking for a chapter home. We meet monthly for our chapter meetings and after chapter meetings we plan to go out to lunch for additional bonding time. The chapter is a family and it’s important for family to get to know each other and bond.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
Leadership is about making others better because of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence. For anyone that is aspiring to be a leader, I would advise them to look carefully at the position they are in and ask questions. It is important to keep an open mind and remember to use any mishap as an opportunity for growth. Being in leadership professionally and personally I have learned to listen and communicate effectively, have a positive attitude, and not be afraid of corrective criticism. It is okay if someone disagrees with you, but it is important to be able to keep your vision at the forefront.
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?
My Sigma mentors have been instrumental and a driving force in my Sigma journey. It’s Sorors like Bonita Bradley (who was my class advisor when I first came to Savannah State University then sorority advisor once I became a member of Sigma Gamma Rho), Debra Pace Benjamin, Michelle Allen, Donna Ross, LaTasha Brown, and Priscilla Williams that have always motivated me and pushed me in Sigma. Soror Rosbel Dixon and Francie Benyard are two, more ‘seasoned’ Sorors I met when I became I member and the first thing they told me was, “You make these letters, don’t make the letters make you”. From that point, I have been pouring my all into Sigma. I have three daughters, two of them are already active members of our affiliate youth groups. They chose to participate not because I am a member of the organization; but because they see the sisterhood and my love for the organization. They know that they have ‘aunties’ that will look after them just because we are all bonded for life.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch the Yard displays the Unity within the Black Greek Community and gives the exposure needed for the black college culture. It’s a platform which showcases black Greeks in its pure unadulterated form and allows us to be seen and heard. As we now live in a digital world, Watch the Yard has and continues to lead the torch by highligting and sharing the accomplishments of organizations across the nation and this platform allows for us to have a digitial keepsake of our achievements.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I love everything Sigma represents. Sigma embodies QUALITY OVER QUANTITY! We may not be the biggest, but we are definitely the loudest and that speaks volumes.
Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood is a bond that women have built on mutual respect, support, and love for one another. It’s the glue that holds this select group from different walks of life together. It unites us through a common purpose and interest. Sisterhood is letting go of the notion of competition as Black women. It empowers each of us to become an endless source of support for one another. When you join a sisterhood, this isn’t for a short time, it’s a lifetime commitment.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Shenequa Gresham for her work as the Basileus of the Alpha Iota Sigma Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1941.
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