NEW ORLEANS — The University Ballroom at Xavier University was filled with red and white uniforms Jan. 5 as members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. welcomed a symbolic torch touring the nation to celebrate the sorority’s 100th anniversary.
“This is very exciting for Delta Sigma Theta and Louisiana,” said Edwina Mallory, a member of the Delta chapter in Lafayette, who traveled to be a part of the festivities.
The torch, one of the sorority’s symbols, made an appearance in the 2013 Rose Bowl Parade in Los Angeles, then made its second stop in New Orleans.
The Delta Sigma Theta tour is scheduled to visit 22 cities before making its final stop in Washington, D.C., for the organization’s 51st National Convention July 11-17.
The sorority was formed in 1913 by 22 students at Howard University. Since then, it has grown to more than 200,000 members worldwide.
The group is active in local communities in areas such as economic development, education, mental health and political awareness.
There are 38 chapters of the group across the state.
The program at Xavier began with a selection and performance by N’Fungola Sibo West African Dance and Drum Inc. Behind a group of six dancers, four members from the New Orleans Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta brought in their own torch so it could share the national flame.
“Delta Sigma Theta is an organization very close to me,” said Dr. Norman C. Francis, president of Xavier, who welcomed the audience of 300 people who gathered for the event.
“Deltas, you have been here for us,” he said, referring to the state’s historically black colleges and universities.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Delta Sigma Theta has approximately 300,000 members with more than 900 chapters throughout the world. The New Orleans Chapter was founded in 1936.
In addition to Los Angeles and New Orleans, the torch will also visit other cities, including Atlanta, Detroit and Chicago. Its next stop is Tokyo.
Part of the program at Xavier included a discussion about one of the sorority’s national initiatives, EMBODI.
Nineteen young men represented EMBODI —Empowering Males to Build Opportunities for Developing Independence — at Xavier.
The men gave testimonials about how the program had changed their lives and pointed them in a positive direction.
“This program has given me the tools I need to acquire a better quality of life, including conflict resolution and financial responsibility,” Fred Turner, 14, of New Orleans, said.
Cynthia Butler-McIntyre, national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and a New Orleans native, launched the EMBODI initiative during her first term in office and spoke of how the brief presentation by the participants inspired her.
“I had no idea EMBODI would impact brothers like you,” she said. “We appreciate you for who you are.”
The EMBODI participants also presented light-switch plates to the dignitaries to promote responsible energy use and reducing carbon footprints.
While in New Orleans, the tour also visited Southern University at New Orleans and Dillard University.
At SUNO, the Warren Easton Charter High School marching band preforming a Saints fight song, and Butler-McIntyre and other SUNO and sorority dignitaries shared how the sorority contributed to the Women’s Suffrage and the Civil Rights movements.
Georges Auditorium at Dillard was the final site of the day on the tour. It was at maximum capacity as Butler-McIntyre entered through a side door into her alma mater’s new facility.
The celebration included presentations by the Beta Gamma chapter of DST and the introduction of a Dillard scholarship named in Butler-McIntyre’s honor.
As part of the tour, the torch motorcade passed by Flint-Goodridge Senior Citizens Facility, the site of the first African-American nursing degree program in Louisiana and, during segregation, the only hospital where African-American physicians could practice; New Zion Baptist Church, the birthplace of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. monument.