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 Omicron Sigma Alumnae Chapter in West Columbia, SC and did an interview with Charlene Slaughter 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. Charlene Slaughter, who works as a Director of Communications at Experience Columbia SC, has been in the position of Basileus for one year.
We interviewed Slaughter, who is a Fall 1994 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?
Any time I have the opportunity to serve my sorority, I am very eager to do so. The Iota Omicron Sigma Chapter was already doing some trailblazing things in the community and through sisterhood. When the need arose for someone to step up after our Basileus needed to devote more time to her role as South Carolina Area Coordinator, I decided to answer the call.
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?
I’m so proud of how we have amplified our community service efforts to reach more people and have greater impact. Our local Swim1922 event and partnership with the Greenview Dolphins coaches and swim team continues to grow and flourish. The Iota Omicron Sigma Alumnae Chapter was the first chapter in South Carolina and is continuously the only chapter that has held an event every year, even during the pandemic. As a chapter, we have reached out to other chapters across the state to help them get started with hosting their own Swim1922. Other programs of note include our Youth Symposium which was held in-person for the first time since the pandemic this year. Attendees were divided into groups and attended workshops on subjects ranging from goal setting to exploring Social Emotional Learning (SEL), STEAM leadership and social activism.
This year, we were also able to provide twice as many students with school supplies through our Operation BigBookBag initiative, mentored a group of young ladies at Forest Heights Elementary School, provided supplies to mothers of premature babies through our Project Cradle Care initiative and turned our chapter holiday event into a Period Packing Party to collect menstrual hygiene products to support The Period Project and donate to those in need. We want our community service efforts to be effective and to make a difference in people’s lives.
What made you want to pledge Sigma Gamma Rho?
For me, Sigma was a calling. I wasn’t really familiar with BGLOs when I went to college, so it wasn’t on my radar. But there was a group of ladies at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, that embodied everything I was then and am today. Joining Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., wasn’t just something I wanted to do, it was something I had to do. The sisterhood, service, sense of place and belonging, and the women who were a true reflection of me led me to membership.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
IOS is smart and savvy, intellectual and approachable, service oriented and always our sisters’ keeper. There’s a fresh perspective and innovative ideas are always flowing. Yet we are rooted in the foundation of what makes us Sigma Women. Our moniker is Iconic IOS. My favorite definition of that term is “widely known and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence.” That’s us.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
We proudly advise the Beta Iota Chapter at Allen University in Columbia, S.C. Our undergraduates mean so much to us. They are truly our future. We love partnering with our undergrads on community service activities, supporting them on campus, acting as mentors and encouraging them through their growth in Sigma. The ultimate goal is to have them continue on in our graduate chapters and make an impact on the future of this sorority.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
Our membership has grown and with that comes the need to stay connected and unified with each other. It’s easy to drift off into silos and focus on committees you are involved with and miss out on interacting with members. I have found that it is important to maintain a routine with chapter retreats, meetings, social and community service activities. We try to give all members a voice and reach them where they are. We find ways to merge different generations and encourage newer Sorors to take leadership roles. It takes all of us to achieve success.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
Don’t be afraid to take on leadership roles in your chapter. And if you are afraid, do it anyway. Answer the call. There’s so much support from those who have served in those positions before you locally to those in your position on the regional and national level. Our region leadership (Southeastern Region) offers phenomenal officer training that makes the transition to new roles so much easier. There are so many touchpoints and opportunities for information sharing, be it a GroupMe with other officers across the region, webinars or just an email or phone call. Take the initiative and be a leader.
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?
Through my nearly 29 years in Sigma, I have always had women in this sorority who I’ve looked up to. From the women who chartered and sustained the Lambda Kappa Chapter at Winthrop University and taught me to own who I am and not to be afraid to step up and lead, to countless other Sorors who have mentored and encouraged me. I will shine a light on the late Soror Thomasina Snell. I met Soror Snell when I younger and a part of the alumnae chapter in Orangeburg, S.C. She was what we call a seasoned Soror, but was always encouraging the “young people” to step up and share our ideas. She was an educator and able to interact with us in a way that truly made us love being around her. She taught us things – how to behave, Sigma etiquette, the proper way to sing the sorority hymn and represent the sorority. She gave me my Sigma foundation and I will forever be grateful.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
It shows our organizations as their true selves. There are so many myths and assumptions made about who we are and what we stand for. Watch The Yard is an information source that gets it right, shines a light on who we really are and helps keep our legacies alive.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I love being a member of Sigma Gamma Rho because we are unapologetically ourselves. We dare to be different in action and service. We are innovative, creative, and centered on community service. We believe in mentoring youth, uplifting our sisters, and making an impact in our communities. I love to say that a Sigma Woman is every woman, but every woman is not a Sigma woman. There’s a certain amount of bravery and boldness you must possess and a determination to always be greater. I love where we came from, how we have sustained over the years and what we are destined for in the future.
Lastly, what does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood is far more than a relationship between sisters. It’s honoring and caring for each other while committing to be truthful and fair. Sisterhood is protective yet honest, encouraging yet candid. It’s supportive and uplifting, gentle and kind. It’s knowing that we never exist in this world alone because we have our sisters’ love.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Charlene Slaughter for her work as the Basileus of the Iota Omicron Sigma Alumnae Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 2003.
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