The Central Jersey Alumnae Chapter History
According to written history documented by the late Soror Arneida M. Lee, it was in the late summer of 1974 that Lee, along with Sorors P. Merle Wade and Patricia Medley Garrison, called together all known Deltas living in the vicinity of Middlesex, Somerset, and Union counties, interested in forming an alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated in said area. Many Sorors were affiliated with the North Jersey chapter, but found traveling to the Newark area inconvenient. They also felt Deltas were needed in the communities in the aforementioned counties.
The first meeting was held in the Fellowship Hall of Bethel Presbyterian Church in Plainfield, New Jersey. Approximately 50 Sorors were present. Soror Lee presided at the meeting, Soror Wade acted as secretary, and Soror Patricia Medley Garrison had charge of hospitality. It was at this meeting that the mechanics for organizing Central Jersey Alumnae were set in motion. Our sister chapter, Montclair Alumnae, graciously sponsored us. Interestingly, our chapter name was Plainfield Chapter due to an error. The charter was returned with the request that the name be corrected to read “Central Jersey Alumnae Chapter”. This was done and the charter subsequently returned to us.
After many communications and several visits from then Regional Director, Soror Marilyn Holmes, the Central Jersey Alumnae (CJA) Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated was chartered on November 8,1975 in the Fellowship Hall of Calvary Baptist Church in Plainfield, New Jersey. Since that time, many women have become members of the organization through CJA. Most recently, on April 29, 2018, 51 women were initiated. It was a particularly exciting time, as the last members were initiated in 2001. Since the chapter's inception, its membership has grown from 30 to over 300 dynamic women. We are proud that our members hold positions at the national, regional, and state levels and that they chair or serve on committees at these levels as well. Most importantly, our involvement in the community has always been and continues to be vast!
The work of the Arts and Letters Committee has included co-sponsoring art shows, supporting Black theater, and highlighting the works of Black authors. We have sponsored the Delta Diversity in the Arts Festival to bring attention to the work of many local artists of all types. We have also sponsored tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King and we commissioned Alonzo Adams, a renowned local artist to paint "Priceless Moments.” CJA has hosted multiple “Red Carpet” events to promote art forms that accurately and positively display images of the African-American community. We also host an annual Poetry Cypher where spoken word artists have an opportunity to express themselves and share their talent.
CJA focuses on service to youth through mentoring and the provision of college scholarships and programs that support their educational and social development. Our Education Committee provides workshops to inform students about tools for success in high school and encourages them to further their studies by providing them with information on colleges, the admission’s process, financial aid, and navigating college as an athlete. CJA also organized a School America initiative that enlisted the efforts of volunteers who pledged to read at least one story a week to a young child and has teamed with counselors to conduct financial aid seminars for high school students and their parents. Moreover, with regard to youth, CJA has served as role models and mentors to young women in the seventh and eighth grades through the Dr. Betty Shabazz Delta Academy program. The girls have participated in technology seminars, career days, field trips to area businesses, and various community service activities. With a focus on college and career planning, Delta GEMS (Growing and Empowering Myself Successfully) allows us to support at-risk adolescent girls aged14-18. In addition, CJA addresses the plight of African American males throughout its work with EMBODI (Empowering Males to Build Opportunities for Developing Independence) that focuses on the development of adolescents.
With the awarding of scholarships to college-bound high school students in Middlesex, Somerset, and Union counties, CJA clearly supports and encourages the academic achievements of young people. This work is done through our Scholarship Committee which seeks and reads applications and essays from a multitude of students and then awards scholarships to deserving high school students who thrive academically and also serve their communities. Our Fundraising Committee works diligently throughout the year to raise monies for these awards through a variety of signature events like CJA Honors and Men Who Cook. CJA Honors is an event at which distinguished professionals and organizations are recognized for their stellar contributions. Men Who Cook features male chefs and their delectable dishes. Both events sell out every year!
Through the efforts of the Community and International Development Committee (CID), CJA adopted a school in Kenya and provided financial assistance to support the educational development of its students. In addition, CJA has sponsored a number of events that benefit senior citizens and children. For example, CJA sponsored a Kwanzaa celebration for preschool children, a tribute honoring our elders, and a fair focused on parenting. In addition, CJA has provided assistance to women transitioning between welfare and work with a Dress to Impress event. The participants received several complete, professionally appropriate work ensembles, as well as tips on hair care and makeup during the day-long event. Furthermore, each December, CJA selects a local social service agency for children to provide a holiday party that includes donations of toys and clothes. We also recognize World Aids Day each year through a variety of initiatives.
CJA makes an effort to raise awareness about physical and mental health conditions to improve the lives of members and the people in the greater community. The Physical and Mental Health Committee has provided seminars on topics such as breast cancer and diabetes awareness, stress management, and nutrition through its Sisters Together program in conjunction with St. Peter’s Hospital in New Brunswick.
They have encouraged CJA members and women in general to be more conscious of conditions and influences that directly impact us physically, mentally, and emotionally. CJA participates annually in the Sisters Network of Central Jersey Inc. 5K Breast Cancer Race/Walk. The Physical and Mental Health Committee has also organized walks through Girl Trek / DeltaSIZE, encouraging women and girls to use walking as a practical first step for healthy living with a goal of walking three to five miles each day.
Legislative advocacy, voting rights, and educating the community on social action issues continues to be a major focus for CJA. The Social Action Committee keeps the chapter informed of local, state and federal legislation that directly affects our communities. CJA participates in numerous letter writing campaigns to various legislators on issues of significance to the community. We have consistently conducted voter registration drives to encourage people to take an active role in government. The chapter also lends its support and encouragement to members who seek public office. CJA participates in two annual campaigns aimed at creating linkages with our state and federal governments: "Delta Days at the Nation's Capital" and "Delta Days at the New Jersey State House." These events are centered around meetings with our congressional representatives and the Governor of New Jersey. The Social Action Committee also plans informational sessions of its own such as Delta Days in the counties it serves. The goal is to invite local officials to engage with residents and have open dialogue in an effort to improve relations and address local concerns. In addition, this committee has planned NAACP Meet and Greets at which the presidents of local NAACP chapters share their agendas, address community concerns, and communicate a call to action.
In the area of Economic Development, CJA has sponsored free tax preparation services in the community. CJA has also promoted the patronage of local Black-owned businesses through its Adopt-a-Black Business program. In addition, CJA has offered dfree seminars, offering strategies to teach participants how to become debt free, experience financial freedom, and build wealth.
CJA works fervently and tirelessly to make an impact on the community. We have many other committees, events, and service projects that are just as impactful! Our efforts were rewarded at the 53rd National Convention in Las Vegas during the summer of 2017. Awards were as follows:
- Exemplary Economic Development Winner
- Exemplary Physical and Mental Health Winner
- Exemplary Transformative Technology Winner
- Exemplary Arts and Letters Runner-Up
Additionally, CJA was recognized at the 51st Eastern Regional Conference held in Hartford, CT in the spring of 2018 as outlined below:
- Cutting Edge Eastern Regional Technology Award for outstanding website, social media, and technical innovation
- CodeRED Day of Service for our work in exposing children of color, especially girls, to the world of code and technology
For many years to come, CJA will continue to serve and make an impact through its dynamic programs and focus on our organization’s Five-Point Programmatic Thrust: 1) Economic Development, 2) Educational Development, 3) International Awareness and Involvement, 4) Physical and Mental Health, and 5) Political Awareness and Involvement.
The Central Jersey Alumnae Chapter is in the Eastern Region of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. For more information, visit the Eastern Region’s website at www.easternregiondst.org or our National website at www.deltasigmatheta.org.