By Emmi Frankum, Staff Writer
Armstrong has a brand new club, unlike any other in the state or the southeastern United States. The first chapter of the Student African American Sisterhood was officially recognized as active on April 6.
The national CEO and founder of the Sisterhood, Khalilah Shabazz, visited Armstrong over the weekend to offer a training seminar and bond with the new members.
In their first meeting on April 7, the ladies recognized Shabazz in their “Shero” moment. Shabazz founded SAAS at her alma mater, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, in 2005.
Shabazz felt that support for African American female students was lacking on campus. After working with several other female groups on and off of her campus, Shabazz decided to create an organization of her own that would offer support for African American female students as well as guidance and advice on success strategies for making it through college.
Maxine Bryant is the faculty advisor for this new SAAS chapter. She is overjoyed to be a part of this organization.
“The potential impact for me, personally as an African American professor, as well as for this group of girls that are starting [this chapter of SAAS] will be long lasting; it is going to be felt for many, many years,” she said.
Like Shabazz, Bryant feels as though SAAS is an incredibly valuable resource for students, especially here at Armstrong.
“Studies have shown that without some type of support, many times [African American female students] are one of the first groups to drop out of college and we’re hoping to change that trend. We are very focused here at Armstrong on retention in general, so any time we can take any group and begin to work on providing what is needed to improve and increase the rate of retention, we are doing a wonderful thing,” Bryant said.
Monday’s meeting of SAAS had a remarkable turnout of 49 students. After socializing with each other over pizza and soda, the meeting began with all 49 voices proudly reciting the SAAS motto in unison. Kimaya Walker, a freshman nursing major and a corresponding secretary of the Armstrong SAAS chapter, gave a presentation defining what it means to be a member of SAAS. She deemed respecting, understanding, communicating, accepting one another and uniting as a family of sisters to be the primary goal all members should strive to achieve.
“We are a sisterhood of distinction and we will rise,” Walker concluded.
In addition to the organization’s defined goal to support, unite and uplift women of color as they pursue a higher education, the group plans to incorporate a mentoring program.
Nandi Marshall, another SAAS faculty advisor, considers this to be one of the most valuable aspects of the organization.
“I see it as an opportunity for support. We have brought in an advisory counsel, as opposed to just one faculty advisor so that the ladies may have more than one person they can go to on campus,” she said.
The organization’s leaders plan to also invite guest speakers, with whom the members can relate, to offer advice for coping with and overcoming issues and challenges they may share.
Though the name may be misleading, the Student African American Sisterhood is an organization open to faculty, staff and students of all races and genders. Their next meeting will be held at 4 p.m. on April 21 in room 110 of Solms Hall. If you were unable to attend the first meeting but plan to catch the next one, be sure to complete Director of Multicultural Affairs and faculty advisor of SAAS Nashia Whittenburg’s homework assignment: “In the spirit of sisterhood, give just one woman that you see and don’t know a compliment; you never know how much it may mean to her.”