Arts & Letters Red Carpet Event – “Harriet”

On Sunday, October 20, 2019, the Arts & Letters Committee of the Central Jersey Alumnae Chapter (“CJA”) of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated hosted a red carpet event at the Reading Cinemas located in Manville, NJ. The theater was filled to capacity as approximately 200 members and guests gathered for a private screening of “Harriet,” in advance of the much anticipated nationwide release date of November 1st. This movie tells the story of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, beginning with her escape from slavery to the numerous missions she led through the Underground Railroad to free a multitude of slaves.

The post-movie discussion was as engaging as the movie and was facilitated by award-winning historian, Rutgers professor, and 2017 National Book Award finalist Erica Armstrong Dunbar. Dunbar is author of the book She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman. The book was made available prerelease and signed by Dunbar at the conclusion of the event. Among other accomplishments, she is the National Director of the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH), an organization dedicated to continuing the advancement for the study of black women’s history. The Committee awarded door prizes provided directly from the producers, Martin Chase Productions, to those who contributed to the discussion.

Attendees were amazed that there was so much about Harriet Tubman they didn’t know and disappointed in how little is taught about her in schools. One middle schooler commented that the big discussion in her class was simply “that [Harriet] looks like a man.” We discussed that Tubman dressed as she did to disguise herself, as it was uncommon for women to travel alone. This led us to identify her as a true heroine as we discussed in depth the challenges and dangers she faced during her missions and serving as a spy during the Civil War. Equally important, we saw Tubman as a complete person - a woman. We learned that she loved and lost, but loved again. We saw how deeply she loved husband John Tubman, who took another wife after her escape; and how she mourned that relationship’s demise. Dunbar shared that later in life, Tubman married a man 20 years her junior named Nelson Davis and became Harriet Tubman Davis. Given the gasps from the audience, it was evident that some present were not aware of this. Additionally, many were astounded to learn that Tubman was an activist in the struggle for women’s suffrage.

There were a few “firsts” that were discussed as well. “Harriet” is the first biopic of an African American woman produced and directed by African American women. Also, Dunbar is the first person of African descent to author a book about Harriet Tubman Davis.

Viewers were grateful for this experience to learn about the many facets of Harriet Tubman Davis which sadly are not universally known. As such, the movie “Harriet” is an important story that must be told. This was a valuable cultural learning experience for all present.

CJA Awarded at 54th National Convention

The award winning Central Jersey Alumnae (CJA) Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. was recognized at the organization’s 54th National Convention held in New Orleans, Louisiana from July 10th through 14th. The Chapter received a National award for Excellence in Social Action. The chapter’s Social Action Committee (SAC) has focused on nonpartisan voter registration, engagement, and empowerment; and topics such as black maternal health, juvenile justice, gun reform, and expungements. Its “Meet the Mayors” roundtables enabled members to visit a mayor and other key administrators on a prescheduled, mutually convenient date in one town in each of the three counties it serves. The goal of said meetings was to better understand the needs of the communities in an effort to provide continued support and service. CJA is currently preparing to help ensure a full and accurate count in hard-to-reach communities for the upcoming 2020 US Census and has been designated as a Complete Count Committee.

The Chapter also received the national Exemplary Delta Academy award for educational development. Delta Academy is a program in which the sorority members provide yearlong mentoring, leadership development, STEM based activities, and community service opportunities for girls between the ages of 11-14. Additionally, in June, the Chapter was awarded the Eastern Region Cutting-Edge Technology Award for a variety of accomplishments that included E-Attendance and E-Voting initiatives, active social media platforms, and support of the Eastern Region CodeRED initiative for introducing young girls to coding.

Click here for the press release.

Literary Cafe’ 2019

On Saturday March 30th, Central Jersey Alumnae chapter held their second Literary Cafe' at the Basking Ridge Country Club in Somerset County.  This event featured the published works of seven Delta authors, including 4 members of Central Jersey Alumnae Chapter!  Two authors featured last year returned to add reflections on their publishing journey.  The panel discussions focused on telling our stories in an authentic voice, albeit self-help, financial literacy, or the life story of our families.  Of particular note was the reflections of an adoptee, Soror Joi Fisher, as she discovered herself thru finding her birth parents and support groups for adoptive rights.  The perfect tie in was a brief social action presentation highlighting the importance of being counted.  

CodeRED Introduces Coding to Delta Academy

The second annual CodeRED event for Central Jersey Alumnae Chapter (CJA) was held on December 8, 2018 at Washington Community School in Plainfield, NJ. The event was quite a success!

The CodeRED Day of Service was part of a global initiative to introduce millions of students worldwide to Computer Science. Taking place on the "International Day of Code", CodeRED aims to expose, inspire and motivate more children of color, especially girls, to the world of code and technology.

The Central Jersey Alumnae CodeRED session used the "Hour of Code" resources provided by code.org. There were 22 girls from the Delta Academy program who participated in the session supported by over a dozen sorority members of the CJA Technology and Delta Academy committees.  The session started with several fun videos highlighting computer science and the purpose of the Hour of Code activities. This was followed by two engineers from the Sorority discussing their technical careers which depend heavily on computer science. They talked about how computers are such an integral part of our lives whether it’s the computers in our smartphones, computers in our cars, or computers being used as tools for automation.

The girls then completed a “human robot and programmer” game. In the game, the programmer directed the robot through an obstacle course by giving directional hand signals based on a map of the course, but without facing the course or the robot – like a programmer giving instructions to a computer. A bug in the program was introduced to show how programs don’t always work right the first time. The students learned that the computer (or robot in this case) only does what the programmer tells it to do!

Finally, the girls had the opportunity to play Star Wars and Minecraft games designed by code.org using block code. The Delta Academy team provided Chrome laptops for the activity.  The games quickly captured the interest of the students and in a short time they were writing code to make Star Wars' BB8 character pick up scrap metal or to find treasure in MineCraft! All with wonderful sound effects!

Each of the students received an Hour of Code certificate upon completion of their exercise. The students had a lot of fun and in the end learned quite a bit about coding.

CJA Supports Breast Cancer Survivors

According to the American Cancer Society, while White women are more likely to get breast cancer, Black women are most likely to die from it.   On Saturday, October 6, 2018, Sorors of Central Jersey Alumnae Chapter (“CJA”) of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., walked and ran in the Sister 2 Sister 5K Walk/Run 4 Life event to help change that statistic.  CJA’s participation in this event was led by its Physical/Mental Health, P-13 and Social Action committees.  Sister 2 Sister is a local non-profit organization supporting minority and underserved community breast cancer survivors in the Central Jersey area.  It provides breast health education, referral and resource information, as well as financial assistance to women facing financial challenges during chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Sister 2 Sister registered 457 people and hosted 36 teams of supporters, including Team CJA. Team CJA donated $2,470, approximately 10% of Sister 2 Sister’s total donations, and registered 45 sorors to walk/run, which accounted for $1,425 in registration fees.

The event was highlighted by CJA’s acceptance of the second place trophy for the most contributions by a non-profit team.  CJA was also awarded first place recognition for the largest participation by a Greek-letter Organization.

CJA had a strong presence at the event and even lead a portion of the 5K cool-down routine.  Sorors got a chance to strut their stuff on stage!  Sorors from age 30 to 70+ participated.  It was a great bonding experience, as well as an excellent way for Sorors to exercise with each other.  A great time was had by all and much needed funds were raised for a very worthy cause.

Huge Success for CJA’s Getting Ready for College Workshop

Even a Fall Nor’easter could not stop over 90 participants (47 parents, 43 students) and 20 Sorority members from attending Central Jersey Alumnae’s Getting Ready for College Workshop on October 27, 2018. The event was held at Franklin Middle School in Franklin Township, NJ and consisted of workshops to prepare students and parents for the college admissions process and first year.

Over the past 3 years, CJA’s Education Committee, under the leadership of Sorors Michelle Fielder and Brenda Edwards-Miller, has presented programs consisting of informative workshops focused on college preparation and career exploration. With attendance tripling each year, the committee yielded 156 registrants this year alone! Imagine the turnout had it been a sunny day. Lots of hard work and planning was required to present the following six workshops:

   Students:

  • S1 - First Year Experience - Cheryll Willis
  • S2 - Effective Essays for College Applications and Scholarships - Schuyler Van Amson
  • S3 - Online Scholarship Session (Students) - Shar-Mekka Pernell

   Parents:

  • P1 - First Year Parent Experience - LaToya Brown-Battle
  • P2 - Providing Emotional Support for Your Scholar - Jennifer Durham
  • P3 - College Finance and Financial Aid - Dana Martin

Session evaluations were filled with the following types of student comments:

  • “I learned the correct structure of college app essay.
  • “I learned about the NJ Rising Stars program where I can go to Community College for free for 2 years.”
  • “I learned a lot about scholarship websites.”

Parents were also impressed and expressed their satisfaction with comments.

  • I learned to include the scholar in the admissions process to ensure ownership.”
  • I learned a step by step application process and best ways to find aid.”
  • Finally, one parent summed it all up with “I learned how parents and students can work together for a common goal.”

Students and parents shared topics of interest for future workshops, particularly understanding college life, HBCUs and the first-year transition. The committee hopes to address these and other interests in subsequent workshops.

Many CJA members showed up to lend a hand the day of the program. The Education Committee would like to thank all the Sorors for another wonderful Educational Development event.

Divine 9 Food and Clothing Drive

On a crisp and cool morning, CJA was on the move!

Saturday, October 20 2018- Central Jersey Alumnae chapter participated in the Divine 9 Food and Clothing Drive in conjunction with the Nu Xi Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated.

This event was held at the Stop and Shop on Easton Avenue in Somerset. Each affiliate chapter of the National Panhellenic Council of Central New Jersey (NPHCCJ) donated gently used clothes, non-perishable food items, paper products and grocery store gift cards. These items help support the Cathedral Community Development Corporation/Mercy House.

Mercy House provides dry food goods, clothing and referral assistance for all who are in need regardless of race, age or income status.

The Divine 9 Coat Drive gives annual support to Somerset and Middlesex Counties in New Jersey. These counties have reported an uptick of those in need of basic services. For more information on this event or to support Mercy House, Please contact: fsanders@nuxiomega.org.

Poetry Cypher poster

CJA Poetry Cypher 2018

Poetry Cypher 2018 was appropriately dedicated to phenomenal women who lead and support the movement of women finding their voices respective to this declared year of the Woman, #MeToo, and an increasing number of women entering politics.  This signature Arts and Letters event was held on Saturday, February 24th for the first time at the spacious Union County Performing Arts Center Hamilton Stage in Rahway, NJ.  The evening began with a welcome reception catered by Soror Chef Jamie Hunt and Chef Hassan Hunt of Caché Catering. Guests were then ushered into the theater setting with a playlist of girl power anthem songs!

The performance was hosted by returning poet Tarishi “Midnight” Shuler and featured returning poets Soror Lynnette Johnson, Tracy “Mind Evolution” Caldwell; and first time Poetry Cypher Poets Latoya “Brenda’s Child” Bosworth, Soror Crystal Senter Brown, and HBO Def Poetry Jam’s Shanelle Gabriel (proud sister of Alpha Kappa Alpha).  The poets with publications were available to sign their books for purchase before and after the show.

The evening was made all the more memorable as Poet Sorors Lynette Johnson, Crystal Senter Brown, and several of their line sisters were celebrated by CJA, full of love and style (including Delta Red velvet cake from Delightful Cake Kreations of Springfield, NJ), as they were just initiated into membership at Springfield Alumnae Chapter (MA) hours before the performance!

Enjoy the pictures of love, talent, and Girl Power on display at Poetry Cypher 2018 as captured by Jason Martin Photography.

Book cover collage for literary cafe

Delta Authors on Tour: Literary Café

Readers, writers, literary supports and book club enthusiasts gathered as Central Jersey Alumnae Chapter hosted their first Literary Café on Saturday, March 17th at the Basking Ridge Country Club in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.  In alignment with the National Arts and Letters Commission’s “Delta Authors on Tour” effort, publications of 10 authors were featured and available for sale.  Over 100 attended this opportunity for open discussions with authors which exposed their works to a broader community.

There were three featured panels:

  • Children books, moderated by Natasha Hemmings, featured the works of Kinya Shakur Travis, Joy Lindsay, Sonya Burnham Collins, Shyquira Williams, and Debra Reynolds.
  • Self Help books, moderated by Joi Fischer, featured the works of Val Day, Dr. Joy Ohavia, and Dr. Lisa Herbert.
  • The non-fiction posthumous release of “Soar: A Memoir by Soror Gail Campbell Woolley” was presented by her devoted widower Howard Woolley.

Additionally, the book “#mami: An Experience in Motherhood, Sisterhood, and Daughterhood” by Angie Ford was highlighted.

The CJA Arts and Letters committee thanks all of the authors and all supporting the event and look forward to the next opportunity to showcase the literary works of Delta Authors.

Education committee team members with Delta

Use Sports to Change Your Life

Many students of color perceive the pursuit of sports as a means of attaining success in life.  Because of the short lifespan of professional sports careers and the extremely competitive environment, the CJA Education committee conceived of this workshop to provide a view of career opportunities off the field but still related to sports and the business of sports.

On December 16, 2017 60  HS student athletes (both boys and girls) from schools in the central NJ area gathered at New Brunswick High School.

The goals of the session were to

  • Motivate students to aim high, excel and use their interest in sports to change their lives.
  • Inform students about alternative career paths in the sports industry beyond the playing field.
  • Inform students about what they need to do to prepare for college

This was the second offering of the Use Sports Workshop which was held at Sharon Baptist Church last December. The new format kept the panel discussion and added a wonderfully engaging set of breakout sessions that provided more opportunity for the students to speak individually with the panelists.

The day began with refreshments and an introduction to the workshop.  The students were given the group rules and expectations for the day.

The panelists had 5 minutes to set the stage, introduce themselves and their career and share words to motivate and inspire the students.

  • Bill Daughtry - Retired ESPN Sports Broadcasters/WBGO DJ
  • Allan Boomer - Sports Manager
  • Jim Hunt - Financial Investment Advisor
  • Rebekah Solomon - Physical Education/Administrator, Franklin Township
  • Shaaliyah Lyons - Seton Hall University, Director of Basketball Operations
  • Nathaniel Harris - Academic Coach - “Play It Smart” New Brunswick High School
  • Taylor Culp - Student Athlete - Psychology Major, Montclair State University

Soror Brenda Edwards-Miller followed up the panel with engaging questions for the students about what they had heard. After the Panel Share, students were divided into small groups in order to conduct “Career Talks” with the panelists. During the “Career Talks”, panelist facilitated a more i- depth discussion about their careers; shared career related handouts; and engaged students in a dialogue about next steps in life. Rotations were conducted, in effort for students to interact with each panelist. Overall, students learned about different careers, NCAA rules and eligibility, and what it means to be a student athlete. The program conclude with the students completing a “Reflection Form” of the day over lunch.

A delicious lunch was enjoyed by the attendees and the participants were encouraged to share their reflections with evaluations.

The students reactions were illuminating as many began to understand how to use lessons learned on the field and apply them for success in life, how to use their competitive spirit to excel in the classroom , and how to balance school work,  sports and other responsibilities and most importantly, how to be coachable, believe in themselves and stay confident -  they shared

  • ❖ I liked the presenters, and how they talked about their lives.
  • ❖ I think the workshop was excellent and very motivational.
  • ❖ I enjoyed the day. It was fun and interesting
  • ❖ Develop skills that take you beyond sports
  • ❖ I learned through the discussions to have discipline and focus, determination and perseverance, good grades, be coachable, to get the priorities done first before fun

The students were also asked which new topics were of interest and they shared areas that would bring them back to another workshop.

  • “Out of state” student: How to Adjust to Life Away From Home
  • Being a First Generation College Student
  • Being a Minority in a Predominantly White Institution
  • Life at Historically Black Colleges and Universities
  • How To Get Recruited?
  • Sports Management Careers.
  • Finding Out What You Want To Do In Life, Career Exploration.
  • How to Communicate With Others.
  • Social Media Safety.
  • Extracurricular Activities

The committee was fortunate to have Delta husbands and visiting Sorors to help with the event and we than Nathaniel Harris for his excellent planning and collaboration in helping to present the program. Sorors Brenda Edwards-Miller, Michelle Fielder and Myra Mitchell facilitated the workshop. Visiting Sorors were Brett Savage-Simon and Stacia Neals.