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 Iota Beta Sigma Chapter in Bay Area/Silicon Valley and did an interview with Tracey Newman Jones 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. Tracey Newman Jones, who works as a Executive Partner Marketing Professional and business owner, has been in the position of Basileus for 1 year.
We interviewed Newman Jones, who is a Spring 1990 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 wholeheartedly stepped into the role of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., Iota Beta Sigma Chapter Basileus in 2022 to leverage my leadership skills in the growth and development of my chapter. The mission and vision set forth by our national and regional leadership is near and dear to my heart and as Chapter Basileus, I wanted to ensure our chapter aligned with the mission on all levels, and executed programs accordingly. I am confident in my abilities to highlight our message of sisterhood and service to all communities of the greater Silicon Valley.
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?
Our chapter leads several annual initiatives that have a large impact on the black community. (1) The Back Pack Drive, in conjunction with AACSA and the Silicon Valley NPHC, is an effort that our chapter leads every year to provide fully stocked back packs to school age children of underserved areas of San Jose. (2) We provide new coats to children attending East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC) via our “One Warm Coat Drive” in partnership with 2nd Chance for Kids (3) We take great joy in providing on going scholarships and other financial and mental support to local students that we mentor.
What made you want to pledge Sigma Gamma Rho?
I pledged Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. at San Jose State University crossing with 3 amazing women I will forever call my Sands. The black Greek population at SJSU was a very cohesive network and the other sororities were all doing wonderful things in the community, but the ladies of Sigma stood out among the sororities, with their innovative community service programs, collaborative engagements with other organizations and the leadership qualities I was seeking as a young undergraduate. I was introduced to Sigma by my best friend who pledged the semester before me, and loved everything about the organization and could not wait to be a part of such a world class group of women.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
We chartered Iota Beta Sigma, now the largest chapter in the western region, to execute community programs in the Silicon Valley area of Northern California. As a charter member, I am most proud of our chapter’s tenacity, valuable partnerships, and investment in our community. · We are a tenacious group of professional women, who face challenges and pursue goals with unrelenting desire for success. Each Soror possesses unique characteristics in which we eloquently leverage to ensure Sigma shines in every situation. · We have wonderful community partnerships with organizations like Stanford Cancer Center to support our Women’s Wellness Initiative with ongoing breast cancer awareness programs. We have held annual Breast Cancer Awareness fashion shows at Bloomingdales in Palo Alto, CA where we celebrate breast cancer survivors in the most elegant way possible. Another cherished community partner is the African American Community Service Agency (AACSA) of the Silicon Valley. Each year we execute programs in partnership with AACSA to ensure the underserved are heard, helped and appreciated. Ongoing annual programs include a Valentine’s Day Program and brunch for Senior Citizens, Mother’s Day Program including brunch and loaded gift baskets for expecting mothers in need, Backpack and school supply distribution event for Silicon Valley low income students, and our wonderful Toy Drive where hundreds of local students and their families are treated to brand new wrapped toys and holiday meals. · Lastly, I am extremely proud of the investments we make in the name of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. and continue to make in our community. You can find Sorors at Emmanuel Baptist Church alongside other members of the D9, distributing food to families in need, you’ll find us at Habitat for Humanity, constructing outdoor playhouses to brighten a struggling child’s life, you can also find us at centers like the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC) distributing warm new coats to keep the little ones cozy during the winter. While service is a great part of the life of a Sigma, we also know that financial support is necessary, especially in these difficult times. Since we were founded by 7 school teachers in 1922, education is always at the forefront of our thoughts, thus we provide financial assistance to students in need via ongoing scholarships and informal personal grants provided by members. Our annual chapter scholarship is named after one of our illustrious Founders and is known as the Dorothy Hanley Whiteside Scholarship Award. We appreciate all of the hard work our scholarship committee does to help provide some financial relief for black and brown students of the Silicon Valley. Wherever you find us, you will know that Sorors of the Blue and Gold are there to serve and to spread love and support to our community. Our local programs, are in alignment with our national programs that include: Operation Big Book Bag, Womens’ Wellness Initiative, Swim 1922, Project Cradle Care and our Annual Youth Symposium. You can learn more about our national programs and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. in general at: SGRho1922.org
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
We are well aware of just how important our undergrads are to the future of Sigma, and we cherish these ladies and provide them with ongoing love, support and guidance. Alumnae Sorors show up to campus events, and provide direction to our undergrads as needed. We are here to serve as sounding boards and support systems as our Sorors navigate their young adult lives and college experiences. As our undergrads secure their college degrees, we want to make their transition to the graduate chapter smooth and enjoyable as they continue their Sigma-4-Life Journey! We have some really terrific personal relationships with our Undergraduates, making coaching and transitioning effortless.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
We are always looking at fun ways to engage with Sorors above and beyond the community service we perform. This year we incorporated “Mocha Meet ups” once a month where Sorors can get together at a local coffee house (typically a black owned location) to enjoy coffee and conversation. This gives us a chance to come together just to enjoy and love on one another in a relaxed social setting. We also have events like “Poodles and Pins” (our bowling social event open to the D9) and “Charcuterie and Chill”, another fun way to engage with Sorors. Our membership team has been great at thinking outside of the box to ensure we meet Sorors where they are in life and provide them with an atmosphere to keep them encouraged and engaged with Sigma.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
I would advise anyone interested in a leadership role to evaluate the role and themselves to determine if the role is something they are confident they can fulfill. Leadership positions should always be taken very seriously, and I would advise a Soror interested in leadership to know herself well and be true to her personal and professional commitments as she plans to add leadership to her plate. I would suggest she listens, observes and ask questions to existing leaders as it is important to get a wide perspective of not only roles and responsibilities, but also to understand the expectations of the leader, the challenges previous leaders have faced, the social climate changes that may make leadership particularly challenging (like COVID), and to gather data to make an informed decision on pursuing a leadership role. Lastly, I would advise the Soror to surround herself with a committed and supportive team who will help her be successful, tell her when she is wrong and lift her up when she falls.
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?
I pull upon characteristics learned as a member of Sigma all the time! Membership has made me a tolerant and flexible individual who tries to look for the positive in all situations. It’s very helpful to have these traits as a part of a large organization with so many different personalities. In my young Sigma life, seasoned Sorors were pivotal to my growth and maturity. I appreciated the love and instruction and even the two finger taps at times when needed. Sorors who came through the SJSU chapter before me, set wonderful standards for new Sorors to uphold.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
I appreciate Watch The Yard and the depiction of the past, present and future view it provides to Black Greeks. With a vast reach of information, events and updates, it is a great way for Black Greeks worldwide to stay informed on things that impact us. I appreciate the fact that Watch The Yard is even taking the time to highlight D9 Chapter Presidents, giving us a platform to share all of the wonderful attributes of our terrific chapters and organizations as a whole.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I absolutely love being a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. and cannot imagine myself not being a part of another organization. Sigma is truly a beacon of light to women seeking a platform to serve our community and to be positive role models for women around the world. We even share our Sigma light with young girls, providing them a safe space to grow and develop as members of our Youth affiliate clubs-Rhoers and Rhosebuds. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. seeks to play a role in helping to cultivate girls as they grow into young ladies who are well-rounded and will embody the qualities needed to be good students and productive citizens.
Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood means family and unity and it represents a safe place where I can be myself. We are not always going to agree, but as sisters, we should be able to have differences of opinion, agree to disagree and move forward. I love my sisters dearly and appreciate each one of them for their individualism and uniqueness. The ladies of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. represents sisterhood at its finest!
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Tracey Newman Jones for her work as the Basileus of the Iota Beta Sigma Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 2000.
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