Epsilon Omega’s 5th Fabulous AKA Day at the Races

— On Sunday, May 28, 2017, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Epsilon Omega chapter and the Epsilon Omega Foundation hosted the 5th Annual AKA Day at the Races at Pimlico Race Course. The event boasted over 300 guests and included a lavish buffet brunch, a silent auction, a raffle, and live horse racing all in the name of charity.

This year, WBAL’s news anchor, Jason Newton, served as the guest emcee of the very popular “Hat-itude” contest where attendees donned beautiful hats and fascinators with gloves to complete the winning look.

“The Epsilon Omega chapter just celebrated its 95th Anniversary, and one of the first ways in which the charter members began giving back to the Baltimore City community was to establish a college scholarship fund. This event puts the fun in fundraising and supports the vision of our charter members by continuing to help students from our city go on to pursue their dreams of higher education. We are very proud that for 95 years our chapter has assisted students from our city in achieving their professional goals by awarding a four-year college scholarship to students who have gone on to become attorneys, doctors, professors, nurses and even a marine biologist,” said event Chairman Cylia Lowe-Smith, Esq. who created the event five years ago.

The event has grown every year and is a very popular component is the Epsilon Omega Scholarship Fund Raffle, which gives guests an opportunity to win great prizes for a great cause.

This year’s co-chair Shante Jones along with Erinn Gross and Tiffany Wallace added a silent auction that was very well received, and all the proceeds from the raffle and silent auction went to Scholarship Fund.

The success of this fundraiser is due in large part to the wonderful partnerships that have been established with local businesses such as Mano Swartz Furs, Charles “Chizel It” Harris, Basignani Winery, and Margie Hicks Custom Made Unique Hats; all have supported the Day at the Races with generous donations every year since its inception.

With the popularity of the event steadily increasing, growing year-after-year, this year’s affair again included guests from the Maryland, District of Columbia and Virginia area along with guests from as far as New York, Pennsylvania and even Atlanta, making the 5th Annual event so popular it sold out weeks in advance!

There were also a number of very special guests such as the International Secretary of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Mrs. Charletta Wilson Jacks who served as the guest judge for the Hat-itude contest!

“Now more than ever is the time for a laser focus on increasing opportunities for excellence in education. The Epsilon Omega Foundation is to be applauded for accomplishing this task and hitting the bull’s-eye,” Jacks said.

In addition to hosting a current International Directorate member, several other former board members were in attendance to show support for this great cause, including: 27th North Atlantic Regional Director Regional Director, Erma Barron; the 29th North Atlantic Regional Director, C. Edith Booker; former International Secretary and current International Risk Management Chairman, Susan Simms Marsh; and former Undergraduate Member at Large and current North Atlantic Representative to the International Standards committee, Jacquie Jones.

“It was truly an honor to have so many current and former leaders in attendance.” Lowe-Smith remarked. “Alpha Kappa Alpha has grown to over 75,000 active members in 1,006 chapters throughout the world and to have the support of our leadership time and time again in our city is truly appreciated.”

Other noteworthy guests included: North Atlantic Representative to the International Membership Committee, Wanda King; North Atlantic Representative to the International Protocol Committee, April Hamilton; and the presidents of nine local AKA chapters.

The Epsilon Omega Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit and tax exempt, 501 (c) (3), corporation established to acquire resources to support and promote programs and services to meet the changing needs of citizens of the Baltimore metropolitan community.The Foundation was created and incorporated in 1991 with the mission to assist the Epsilon Omega chapter to meet the challenges of the community through service, education, and cultural development. For more information visit:


Cancer survivors host 2nd annual 5K Warrior Walk

During a November 2014 interview, Marlene King, told The Baltimore Times, “I thank God every day for waking me up. It’s something you think about and are really grateful for when you don’t have that much longer to live. I am not a cancer survivor, but a cancer warrior. I will continue to fight. Either way it will be alright.”

In November 2015, King’s valiant breast cancer fight came to a courageous end when she passed away. King, who was diagnosed at 48, was passionate about the importance of breast cancer research, supporting men and women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and other efforts. Her wish was to have a 5K walk in Baltimore City with a focus on all cancers.

King’s wish came true through the 5K Warrior Walk Against All Cancers. The event, which is in its second year, will be held Saturday, June 24, 2017, at 3001 East Drive located in Baltimore City’s Druid Hill Park.

The event is being presented by The Journey Continues (TJC) Breast Cancer Survivorship Organization, a non-for-profit, charitable organization. King served as the inaugural president and co-founder of TJC, which she and other breast cancer survivors was founded in November 2013.

“Marlene was a beautiful woman with a beautiful spirit and a heart of gold,” said Le’Vonia M. Gourgue, co-founder and vice president of TJC.

“She had a sparkle that could light up a room. Her heart was so big, and was filled with so much love. We really miss her, but we find peace in knowing that she is in a better place now.

“The purpose of this walk is to honor Marlene, and to focus on all cancers – not just breast cancer. We are all on this journey together, and we want to empower and encourage people. We also want to get the message out there for people to be active. Being active is vital to a person’s survival rate. Through this walk, we also want to bring the community together.”

TJC stresses the importance of early detection, and holds symposiums and other events to discuss the topic.

“Early detection is critical,” said Gourgue. “I am a two-time breast cancer survivor with no family history of breast cancer. I found out I had breast cancer after initially doing a self-breast exam. A lot of people don’t want to talk about it, but a lot of woman have found out they had breast cancer after their significant other felt something in their breast that should not have been there. We need to check ourselves, and follow through and go to see a doctor.”

Gourgue, 46, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 33.

“When I was initially diagnosed, I had one option, and that was to fight, and that’s what I did,” she said. “However, my second bout with breast cancer was more challenging. I know we are not supposed to question God, but I did. I asked, ‘Why am I going through this again?’ However, God told me I was going through it for a reason – and that reason was to be active in the community, and to empower and encourage other women.”

She added, “Yolanda Adams has a song entitled, ‘The Battle is The Lord’s’. I leaned on that song every day. Once I realized and surrendered to the fact that He was using me as a vessel, I was able to make it through. I am happy God chose me and not another one of my family members. At the end of the storm, there is a rainbow. I am that rainbow.”

TJC is comprised of Gourgue, and approximately 25 other breast cancer survivors. Other members include Dr. Ruth Travis, who recently retired as Senior. Pastor of Ebenezer African American Methodist (A.M.E.) in south Baltimore. Gourgue also noted that TJC’s mission is to increase the survival rate of those diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly among African American women through its C.A.R.E. (Comfort, Advocacy, Resources and Education) program.

“There is a huge disparity when it comes to breast cancer among women in the black community,” she said. “Through our efforts, we want to help change that disparity. We are encouraging everyone to come out and support this event.”

The 5K Warrior Walk Against All Cancers begins at 9:00 a.m. The registration fee is $30.

First African American JLB President Ends Historic Term on High Note

— Cylia E. Lowe-Smith, Esq. recently finished her 2015-2016 term as president of the Junior League of Baltimore, making her the first African American woman in the 104 year history of the Junior League of Baltimore (JLB) to serve in that capacity.

Lowe joined the JLB in 2008 and found the Junior League’s approach to leadership development for women very unique. She remembers being asked as a part of her new member class “Where do you see yourself in the League in five to 10 years?” I asked the Chair ‘Do you

REALLY want to know this answer?’ and she said ‘YES! We do! If you want to be president one day; we want to make sure you are as prepared as possible. We already know it will be a hard job but we want to give you everything you need in terms of trainings, experiences and mentors to feel ready to take it on!’

“I really liked that,” recalled Lowe. “So I checked off the box for president in 5-10 years, and eight years later here I am! The Junior League gave me everything it promised and I will forever be grateful for that. The Junior League provides a safe place for women to learn and grow as leaders. The membership structure is set up in such a way that young women are Actives and they are the ones who are the members that serve on the board of directors, chair committees, create service projects and do most of the work of the League. The expectation is that you are ‘learning on the job,’ which is very different from many other organizations that expect you to step up only when you are 110 percent ready. That is not to say there were not significant challenges along the way, but I truly valued that unique opportunity; it increased my creativity, self-confidence and taught me that it was ok to ask for help. I know whatever other leadership opportunities I am blessed to experience in the years to come; the League played a significant role in preparing me for them.”

In fact, Lowe-Smith was recently elected as the vice president of the 95-year-old Epsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., (AKA) located in Baltimore city. The Epsilon Omega chapter was the first graduate chapter of AKA established in the North Atlantic Region, which spans from Maine to Washington, D.C. In that role, Lowe-Smith is responsible for the chapter’s implementation of the International Programs of Service. With a chapter membership of almost 300 strong, that is a tall order to say the least, but her experience as the JLB President laid a strong foundation for her work in the community now.

During her term as JLB president, Lowe said she wanted to “…focus on leadership development and expanding the Junior League’s outreach to the city in order to fine-tune the organization’s community service efforts.” This included hearing from key stakeholders in the Baltimore community and beyond to ascertain how the JLB can best serve the community today. Guest speakers included: Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City State’s Attorney; Stephanie Rawlings Blake, former Baltimore City Mayor; Heather Harvison, founder, Sisters Circle; Bob Paff, communications expert and author; Janine le Sueur, Association of Junior League’s International Senior Staff/ Director of Programs; and Vicki Clark, renowned leadership development trainer.

In addition to hosting speakers for her own League, Lowe was highly sought after as a guest speaker throughout the country as well discussing the value of diversity and inclusion in membership organizations.

When asked what was next, Lowe-Smith says that although she applied for an International Junior League Board position, she was not slated (selected by the Nominating Committee to run). So as far as Junior League is concerned, she is enjoying being a Sustainer and Past President. She was recently tapped to serve as the Workshops Chairman for the 86th AKA North Atlantic Regional Conference held in Baltimore in April. In that role she is charged with organizing and coordinating over 20 leadership development workshops for the more than 5,000 registered attendees.

“While I was disappointed that I was not selected to serve at the next level of the Junior League, I am a newlywed, actively engaged in the community, working full time as an attorney, and managing my own small business, so my hands are full, and I truly believe the saying: God makes no mistakes!” said Lowe-Smith.

For more information about Cylia Lowe-Smith, visit her website: www.CyliaLowe.com

Life in Baltimore: Polishing Our Pearls in Charm City

— By the end of next week, the city will be colored in pink and green, as more than 5,000 members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. convene for the 86th North Atlantic Regional Conference (NARC) April 26-30, 2017. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority is the nation’s oldest service organization for college-trained African American women.

Under the theme, “Polishing Our Pearls in Charm City,” the conference will feature opportunities for members to render services, experience the enchantedness of the Inner Harbor, conduct the business of the region, and build leadership skills.

NARC chairman, Tracey Barbour-Gillett states,” It’s been fourteen years since the conference has been held in Baltimore. We are excited to highlight the great things happening here in Baltimore, and we have several Baltimore-specific experiences planned for attendees. The level of support of members in the metro area has been outstanding throughout the planning process.”

According to North Atlantic regional director Meredith L. Henderson, this is the largest regional conference ever.

Meredith L. Henderson, North Atlantic Regional Director, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. will roll out the

Courtesy Photo/AKA

Meredith L. Henderson, North Atlantic Regional Director, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. will roll out the “Pink Carpet” for more than 5,000 conference attendees.

“It is only fitting to return to Baltimore boosting the economy and including a community forum to discuss violence in Baltimore which mirrors many of our communities across the nation,” she said.

Panel discussions will provide our members with take-aways to implement in their communities.The community at-large is invited to attend a rousing and provocative forum that will focus on the unlawful police killings of black people, the discrimination in the criminal justice system, the disparities in employment, education and health services in black communities on Saturday, April 29, 2017 from 9 a.m. to noon at Carter Memorial Church of God in Christ, the topic: featuring and Former Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and a member of the sorority, will moderate a panel discussion on the topic: “Ending the Violence and Building Healthy Communities.” The panel will feature elected officials, policy makers, U.S. Representative Anthony Brown, who is the keynote speaker.

“Generally our regional conference is all business however, this conference is different in that our NARC will feature a number of programs open to the public and designed to provide opportunities for our young people,” said Henderson, referring to the Diversity Career Fair scheduled for Thursday, April 27, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

That evening, from 7:30 to 9:30 pm, the public meeting will welcome dignitaries from Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia regions and members of the PanHellenic Council to honor community leaders who exemplify the sorority ‘s five International Program Targets: Educational Enrichment, Health Promotions, Family Strengthening, Environmental Ownership and Global Impact.

Grammy-nominated R&B artist, Eric Benet will perform in concert Friday evening April 28, 9:00 pm. Area high school students will have the opportunity to meet with representatives from Historically Black Colleges and Universities at the HBCU Expo at the Baltimore Convention Center on Saturday, April 29th at 9:00 am. Many students cannot visit the campuses of these colleges therefore information on their admissions processes, and financial aid will be available at the expo.

Katherine Johnson goes from ‘Hidden Figure’ to Public Treasure

— At 98, Katherine Johnson insists she has lived an ordinary life. However to others, she has proven to be nothing short of extraordinary.

Johnson is the recipient of the 2015 National Medal of Freedom and last year, was named to People magazine’s list of 25 Women Changing the World.

Now, a movie based on her brilliant 33-year career at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has opened the eyes of millions to this legendary hidden figure.

Based on the book, the movie Hidden Figures is the story of Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, who were among the first African-American women to work for NASA during the space race in the 1950s and 1960s.

Their jobs were segregated in computer divisions that undermined their abilities and capabilities of achievement, but their intelligence and poise shined through anyway.

“I miss working,” Johnson said. “I’d go back now.”

After leaving her teaching job in 1953, Johnson began working for NASA and was able to calculate the trajectory for numerous space missions, including the space flight of Alan Shephard, the first American in space, and the trajectory for the famed 1968 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon.

“I’d do them over if I had to. I’d do anything for anyone,” she said.

At an early age, Johnson developed enviable math skills so much so that even NASA officials wrote a story about her titled, “The Girl Who Loved to Count.”

“I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed … anything that could be counted, I did,” Johnson said. “I entered college, I was 15. I was going to be a math teacher because that was it. You could be a math teacher or a nurse but I was told I would make a good research mathematician and they had me take all of the courses in the catalogue.”

When Astronaut John Glenn went to the moon, Johnson said her Hidden Figures crew acted as the computer for the mission. She said calculating everything involved in the flight was like a geometry problem.

“I felt most proud of the success of the Apollo mission. We had to determine so much. Where you were, where the moon would be and how fast the astronauts were going,” Johnson said. “We were really concerned but the astronaut had to do it just as we laid it out. I was looking at the television and hoping that we were right.”

Born in 1918 in West Virginia, Johnson was a research mathematician, who by her own admission, was simply fascinated by numbers, according to her biography posted by NASA.

By the age of 10, Johnson was a high school freshman, an amazing feat in an era when school for African-Americans normally stopped at eighth grade. Her father was determined that Johnson would have a chance to meet her potential.

“He drove the family 120 miles to Institute, West Virginia, where I could continue my education through high school,” she said.

An achiever at the highest level, Johnson graduated from high school at 14 and from college at 18.

By 1953, the growing demands of early space research meant there were openings for African-American computers at Langley Research Center’s Guidance and Navigation Department, and Johnson found the perfect place to put her extraordinary mathematical skills to work.

Glenn requested that she personally recheck the calculations made by the new electronic computers before his flight aboard Friendship 7— the mission where he became the first American to orbit the Earth. She continued to work at NASA until 1986.

Her calculations proved as critical to the success of the Apollo Moon landing program and the start of the Space Shuttle program, as they did to those first steps on the country’s journey into space, according to NASA.

Still, Johnson said the book, the Academy Award nominated movie, and her celebrated work with NASA aren’t her greatest accomplishments.

“I’m 98. Just staying alive is the greatest accomplishment,” she said.

When accepting People Mlmagazine’s honor, she offered sage advice to others.

“Find out what your dream is and work at it because if you like what you’re doing, you will do well,” Johnson said.

Celebrating a PG County trailblazer during Women’s History Month

At age 86, Julia Clark is still working hard as an advocate with a stern resolve to see any task through.

Only these days, Clark, a former Department of Housing and Urban Development employee who has arguably done more for African Americans in Prince George’s County than anyone, advocates from the Arbor Terrace Greenbelt Senior Living Community in Lanham. Clark is the head of the senior living’s resident council as well as the Ambassador’s Committee there.

“Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, I’m available, I keep my button on,” Clark said. “When people come in, whether it’s with Alzheimer’s or whatever it is, I work with them to help them adjust to the new community.”

While Clark is beloved at Arbor Terrace, she has long cemented a legacy of helping to shape Prince George’s County.

She arrived in Prince George’s County in 1939 and she went on to play a key role in the economic development of the county, now the wealthiest African-American majority county in America.

Clark helped to start the first child care center at HUD and served as president of the South County Economic Development Corporation, a civic association that endorsed a “shop at home” campaign in the late 1990s.

“Everybody would go and shop elsewhere and I said why not shop at home. So we got a campaign started and we were telling everyone to shop at home,” Clark said.

The county was already considered one of the wealthiest suburbs in the country, with a median household income exceeding the national median by about 25 percent but was underserved by upscale retailers.

“They [county residents] were traveling to places like Virginia and Annapolis to shop at stores like Nordstrom or Neiman-Marcus, which had no locations in Prince George’s County. I said that had to change and we were able to get malls and shopping plazas here,” she said. “Now, we got National Harbor, Shoppes at Brandywine and other places. We’re doing good.”

Among her biggest accomplishments, Clark said, was helping to fundraise and campaign for Wayne Curry, who became the first black county executive in 1994.

“We believed in Wayne Curry and we were able to bring big business back and he was instrumental in getting National Harbor in here because there were too many people who didn’t want big business, they were afraid,” Clark said.

Clark was also a driving force behind the stadium in Landover and she served as a member of the committee tasked with building the Wayne Curry Learning Center. The contributions that she has made in shaping African American life in the county are rarely lost on those who know her. However, while many often clamor for low-income housing, she once led a group that sought high-

income housing.

“That was important. I said we need million dollar homes and we got them and now look, Prince George’s County happens to be the richest majority African American county in the country,” Clark said.

Clark was influenced by Gladys Noon Spellman, the late former Congresswoman, who successfully spearheaded many efforts to effect social and political reform in all facets of life for her Prince George’s County.

Clark led successful efforts to get the Baltimore-Washington Parkway dedicated in Spellman’s honor.

“She got me interested in working in the country and she got me interested in working beyond the county and inside our communities,” Clark said.

Born in Wilson, North Carolina, Clark grew up with seven brothers and sisters, two of whom are still alive. She attended college in El Paso, Texas and married a career military man. She began volunteering in West Germany working for the Red Cross. She has five children, 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Clark still wants to help young African Americans.

“I think our black young males have been forgotten about. The parents paid all the attention to the daughters, but our males need us and I’ve always pushed for help for our men,” Clark said.

“Another problem we face is many have parents with limited education where the mom and dad have to work two or three jobs and the television is raising our kids. We have to do something,” she said, noting she’s still active and still reaching out to the community at-large. “I want people to remember me for making important deposits— contributions everywhere I go. I want them to know about the positive deposits that others can build on.”

Michelle Howard becomes Navy’s first female four-star admiral

The U.S. Navy has promoted Vice Adm. Michelle Howard to admiral, making her the first female four-star officer in the Navy’s 236-year-history, the White House said Tuesday.

Howard, who was the first African-American woman to command a Navy ship, will become vice chief of naval operations, according to her online Navy biography.

“Her historic career is taking a next step today,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Howard’s promotion comes nearly six years after Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody became the U.S. military’s first female four-star officer.

Howard, a 1982 graduate of the Naval Academy, made history when she commanded the amphibious dock landing ship Rushmore in 1999, Earnest said.


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She’s An Icon: Top 10 Black Women Who Are Making Black History Today

We all (hopefully) know the stellar history of our fore-mothers like Sojourner Truth, Phyllis Wheatley, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hammer, Dorothy Height and Lena Horne. But there are black women making moves today who are likely to join those names in our history books and become legends in their own right.

Here are ten black women who are making “history” today.

Kamala Harris, Attorney General in the state of California

Kamala Harris, Attorney General in the state of California

Kamala Harris

Born in Oakland, Calif. of an Indian mother and a Jamaican American father, Kamala Harris made history in four years ago when she became the first person of both Asian-American and African-American decent to become attorney general in the state of California.

Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States of America

Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States of America

Michelle Obama

There’s no way you could make a list like this and not put the first ever African American First Lady of the United States on it. A transcendent figure already, Obama quickly rose to the status of role model, healthy living advocate and fashion icon after her husband, Barack Obama’s win for the presidency in 2008.

Susan Rice

Currently the National Security Advisor for the United States, Susan Rice was former the ambassador for the United Nations for the Obama Administration. While in her position at the U.N. she was the second-youngest person and the first African American to serve in the position.

Serena Williams

She’s won four Olympic gold medals, is the current no. 1 woman ranked in tennis and has a total of 17 Grand Slam titles. But at 32, Serena Williams shows no signs of stopping. She seems to be ascending at a point in her career when other tennis players have long since peaked. She didn’t just make it into history, she served up an “ace” and slammed into it.

Joan Morgan

A leading voice on black women, feminism and Hip Hop, Joan Morgan coined the term “Hip Hop Feminism” in her well-regarded 1999 book “When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost.” Today, Morgan continues to speak out on issues regarding popular culture and gender, misogyny and homophobia.


bell hooks, American author, feminist, and social activist

bell hooks

A “post-modern” feminist and social activist, author bell hooks is known for her provocative tomes and essays that work to subvert oppressive structures that thrive in the intersection of racism, sexism and capitalism. She’s published more than 30 books and is a sought after public speaker, tackling how race, gender and class affect our media, history, sexuality and art.

Beverly Bond, Founder of the nonprofit Black Girls Rock

Beverly Bond, Founder of the nonprofit Black Girls Rock

Beverly Bond

The founder of the nonprofit “Black Girls Rock,” Beverly Bond started out as a fashion model for New York agency Wilhelmina when she was 17, but later branched out into the world of music, becoming a DJ. Today, along with the organization she founded, Bond focuses on enriching the lives of young black women through mentoring, music, education and analysis of how black women are portrayed in the media.

Donna Edwards

Congresswoman Donna Edwards is a lawyer and community activist who became the first African American woman to represent the state of Maryland in 2008. Edwards has a background in advocating against domestic violence, including helping get the 1994 Violence Against Women Act passed. Since joining Congress she has worked to improve our environmental health and was arrested in 2009 while protesting against genocide in Darfur.

Cathy Hughes,  Founder and chairperson of Radio One, Inc.

Cathy Hughes, Founder and chairperson of Radio One, Inc.

Cathy Hughes

A media mogul, Cathy Hughes is the founder and chairperson of Radio One, Inc., a multimedia company that owns online venture Interactive One. Radio One is one of the largest radio broadcast networks in the U.S. with 69 stations. Hughes was also behind the launch of cable TV network TVOne, which is currently broadcast in 57 million American households.

Shonda Rhimes, American screenwriter, director and producer

Shonda Rhimes, American screenwriter, director and producer

Shonda Rhimes

The reason why millions crave insane love triangles and high stakes drama every Thursday night, Shonda Rhimes is the thrice Emmy Award-nominated creator of the addictively popular ABC Network drama “Scandal.” The writer and show-runner is also the mind behind equally habit-inducing shows “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice.” In a TV Land dominated by white male voices, Rhimes is the rare black woman who gets to have her say and get all the ratings too.