Sigma Gamma Rho’s four new members on stage: Jaime Jones, Raeghan Jefferson, Solee Dinio and Jayla Cromwell. Photo by Katerina Anderson.
EVAN MICKEL | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Reilly Room’s curtains were drawn shut, the lights dimmed, substituted by blue and gold floodlights at the perimeter of the room. To the left, a row of tables numbered one through four were piled high with gifts, envelopes and balloons. Chairs in perfect lines made two columns with a split in the middle. Families, friends and Sorors milled about, meeting and greeting in their Blue and Gold. Lots of laughter, hugs, love and joy in the air. This was a celebration.
The ALMIGHTY Sigma Gamma Rho, not long after commemorating the founding of its Alpha chapter 100 years ago at Butler, was celebrating again. The rainy night of April 5, their four new members were made official. The room filled up until doors closed at 7:20 p.m.; the event was set for 7:22, representing the seven founding members in 1922. The crowd slowly got louder and louder in conversation up until the minute before when the crowd fell dead silent. Gradually, the four new members — in blue raincoats, jet black rectangular sunglasses and golden scarves wrapping their hair and chins — marched forward. They were led by the two active members at the time, dressed in all black and bright pearls. They chanted, softly at first:
“I got a feeling, I got a feeling, Sorors,
Somebody trying to wear my Blue and Gold,
But it takes a real woman to be a Sigma Gamma Rho.”
Once on stage, their voices carried through the room.
The first order of business in the ceremony was history. The new members gave the crowd a walkthrough of Sigma Gamma Rho’s history, its founding members and the sorority’s goals — all in perfect time with the music and dance accompanying it. The crowd hooted and hollered; alumni let out their call. The women on stage were more than confident; they were in charge.
Naomi Baker, a sophomore accounting major, is responsible for financials at the Alpha chapter and attended Wednesday’s event.
“I was so proud to be able to be on that stage with all of my sisters and to see them give such a beautiful performance,” Baker said in an email to The Butler Collegian. “[It] meant a lot because I saw how much time and effort they put into this, and they did a wonderful job.”
Each of the four members were revealed. They each had their own hype song that came on as they introduced themselves, with their scarf removed, glasses off and chin up. Jayla Cromwell, Solee Dinio, Raeghan Jefferson and Jaime Jones all introduced themselves, danced, posed and upon the final reveal: they were officially Sigma Gamma Rho sisters — Sorors — at last. The crowd erupted.
The entire room stood up, and it was electric. Beyonce’s “Cuff It” played; all six Alpha sisters embraced together on stage and relished the moment. Then, alumni and current members joined together and led a stroll throughout the room: a powerful parade of dance intended to empower and inspire the community.
Giavanna Yowell, a first-year biochemistry major, celebrated with the chapter on Wednesday night.
“I think it’s amazing how people from varying backgrounds came together to support and watch the Sigma Gamma Rhos be able to cross four very successful women into their sorority,” Yowell said in an email to The Butler Collegian. “Especially during their centennial year; I loved the energy within the room throughout the show!”
Before this year, Sigma Gamma Rho only had two active members in the Alpha chapter. With this year’s four new members, they have essentially tripled their size.
Laila McClimon, a sophomore youth and community development major and president of the Sigma Gamma Rho Alpha chapter, reflected on the event and the future of the sorority on campus.
“I was surprised,” McClimon said. “We had some [undergraduate] Sorors [who visited] from Wisconsin and Xavier. Our [ceremony] did not look like that. Naomi [Baker] and I — that’s my line sister — we took pictures, and we had a small, very small reception. It was nice to disrupt the status quo and do something big and bold for the girls we brought in.”
Baker reflected on the evening’s turnout from Sorors, students and faculty.
“I felt extremely supported and loved by all of our Sorors who came out to see us even with the bad weather,” Baker said in her email. “I also appreciated all of the Butler students/faculty who came out to celebrate with us.”
However, while the scale of this celebration and growth of the Alpha chapter is absolutely something to be celebrated and recognized. McClimon thinks the chapter still lacks critical pieces of support from the student body and administration, like space and recognition.
McClimon hopes that the chapter’s growing presence on campus brings more consistent attendance from the student body.
“Our [new] members organized and held their first event,” McClimon said. “It was a women’s self-defense workshop, and nobody came at all. We expected more with the number of reposts that we had.”
McClimon hopes that in the future the student body will go farther than just reposting and actually attend their events.
“Our events,” McClimon said. “That’s the hard part. People are on our social media, which is great, but we need you there. We need you to show up and show that you are interested.”
While the construction of the Founders’ Plaza is a step forward in recognition for historically Black sororities, especially in the Midwest, the university has an opportunity to further support and uplift the Alpha chapter here on campus.
“We don’t have a building,” McClimon said. “We don’t have a set space to do our teas and inductions, which are very private … We have to book classrooms for our sacred events. [We] booked the Ford Salon for our New Members Tea, [and] we had people walking through from [Jordan College of the Arts] auditions. [Faculty] were telling [students] to come down to the bathrooms, and we were like, ‘This is a private event.’ It was stated as a private event, and they just kept coming. That was very frustrating.”
McClimon said their lack of a permanent chapter space on campus goes beyond just chapter activities; she lives with all the archives, artifacts, documents, trophies — anything that the ALMIGHTY Alpha chapter owns.
“Like chapter necessities, for events, it’s all in our dorm,” McClimon said. “That’s the first thing you see when you walk in — the boxes everywhere.”
There is energy, there is passion, and there is power behind these women. They held command of the room and refused to let go.
“That’s my hope, all of us together using our voices to let people know how much a dedicated space would mean to the chapter and allow us to grow,” McClimon said.
The women of the Alpha chapter prove without a shadow of a doubt that it truly does take a real woman to be a Sigma Gamma Rho.
The chapter can be found on Instagram @ButlerSGRhos.