The Alpha Alpha Zeta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® was chartered in Southaven, Ms. as the 108th chapter of the South Eastern Region on June 9, 2018. One year prior to chartering, Bettye Wade McBride convened general members around the DeSoto County area to form an interest group known as the Cultured Pearls of DeSoto County. “On a timeless mission to serve,” the journey of a lifetime commenced with 33 trailblazing members: Tonya Amos-Griffin, Sandra Barnes, Antoinette Crawford-Willis, Shatamara Davis, Alice Deransburg, Carmen Echols, Ashley Gordon, Vanese Long Griffin, Tracy Harmon, Donnika Hunter, Catresa Jackson, Dr. Daphne Jones, Terri Jones, Dikettie Jordan, Merracle Jordan, Violet “Olivia” Leggette, Robin LongCarter, Shelley Lyles Madison, Bettye Wade McBride, Latrica McCool, Dana Mister, Taisha Nelson, Minnie Parker-Blackmon, Patreece L. Sanders, Luvenia Saulsberry, Dr. Tamala Boyd Shaw, Monica Shaw, Dr. Michelle Shelton, Siedah Stringer, Vera Janice Terrell-Alexander, Lori Ward, Mary Wilson, and Taralyn Lewis Young. On June 21, 2017, South Eastern Regional Director Mary B. Connor informed the members that their official interest group application was approved by the Directorate.

As the Cultured Pearls, the members actively engaged in the community through their program targets. Examples include partnering with the local Head Start to foster early childhood literacy and family strengthening by conducting homeownership and financial awareness workshops. They also participated in the Rise Against Hunger meal packing project and a college fair, assisting with financial aid applications. Backpacks were collected in support of the sorority’s “One Million Backpacks” campaign. Members traveled to Jackson, Ms. to participate in AKA Day at the Capitol and supported “Pink Goes Red” by partaking in heart-healthy activities. In addition, the Cultured Pearls provided winter coats for children within foster care and demonstrated environmental responsibility by assisting in a local Earth Day celebration. These activities, amongst others, exemplify the members’ commitment to “service to all mankind.”

With Mary B. Conner presiding and delivering the keynote address, more than 450 guests gathered to celebrate the historic chartering of Alpha Alpha Zeta Omega, the first four-letter chapter in the state of Mississippi. Notable guests in attendance were 13th South Eastern Regional Director, Dr. Velma Lois Jones; 19th South Eastern Regional Director, Ida K. Martin; International Membership Chairman/20th South Eastern Regional Director, Dr. Vanessa Rogers Long; International Parliamentarian, Martha Perine Beard; and South Eastern Regional Director-elect, Mitzi Dease Paige, Esq. The chapter elected Vanese Long Griffin to serve as its first president, and officers were installed by the International Parliamentarian.

With a spirit of “excellence,” the chapter remains committed to its mission. To commemorate chartering, Alpha Alpha Zeta Omega pledged $10,000 in scholarships to high school students attending HBCUs. The International President, Dr. Glenda Glover, invited the chapter to “Walk with the Supreme” to encourage women’s health during the Southern Heritage Classic Parade, celebrating one of the biggest Historically Black Colleges and Universities rivalry games between Tennessee State University and Jackson State University. The chapter also adopted a highway to mark its green footprint. Several members serve on regional committees. Last, but certainly not least, membership has doubled in less than six months. “There are enough of us to make a difference,” once said charter member Bettye Wade McBride. With this mindset, the Alpha Alpha Zeta Omega Chapter is making an impact in the community its members call home. The mission has not changed, and the journey remains clear – for there are “greater laurels to win and greater tasks to begin.”