Alpha Kappa Alpha sisters on lookout for siblings at Yokosuka
Stars and Stripes August 8, 2006
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Sherri Thomas was walking through the Navy’s Ikego Housing Area when she saw three familiar pink-and-green letters written across a T-shirt: AKA.
The transformation was instant: The two strangers passing on the street now were “sorors” or sisters — members of Alpha Kappa Alpha social sorority.
“We greeted each other with a hug,” said Peggye Wilson, the other Ikego walker.
It’s not the first such instant bond. Over the past three years, about 20 women who’d been AKA members during their university days found each other and formed graduate chapters of the group at Yokosuka Naval Base and Yokota Air Base.
“This is like a family away from home,” Thomas said. “When the women come off the ships, they may feel disconnected to the community. Or the women may have wanted to join in college but never did. Or they want to be more involved in community service or they have family members who were involved.”
The Yokosuka AKA group was chartered by the sorority after a July visit from a regional AKA representative. It’s the second predominantly black sorority active between Yokota and Yokosuka, with Delta Sigma Theta being the first.
There is a traditional rivalry between them, but it’s good-natured, Wilson said. “They kid us about the Navy Exchange carrying more pink and green (AKA colors) than red and purple (Delta’s colors),” she said.
Three chapters of predominantly black fraternities are listed as active at Yokosuka: Phi Delta Kappa, Phi Beta Sigma and Omega Psi Phi. The legal listing of on-base organizations includes no other Greek groups.
Thomas offered up a possible explanation for that.
“I know other women in different groups who left the sorority after they left college,” she said. But “in the African-American groups, there’s emphasis that this is a bond that you carry through your whole life.”
However, Wilson said, AKA doesn’t restrict membership in terms of race. Any woman can join, she said, as long as she has “AKA in the heart.”
Now that AKA is chartered on Yokosuka, the group can recruit new members. All AKA graduate members need a college degree to join. The group does service programs that emphasize health, community and family. Working with youth on education and etiquette is a high priority, AKA members said.
“We watch some of these high-school girls under all that makeup and say, ‘Oh my God,’” Wilson said.
Once AKA hosts its first official meeting in September, “the doors are wide open” for what the group will do, Thomas said.