Alpha Kappa Alpha reignites on campus, members hope to spur more involvement

MaKayla Lorick, ‘19, says she hopes AKA’s legacy at the university doesn’t stop with her


Sasha Edwards, ‘20, (left) and MaKayla Lorick, ‘19, (right) are both members of the Tau Zeta chapter of AKA and lead the way for their Walk Out event on Oct. 20. Photo by Laura Calhoun, ‘20.

Laura Calhoun

Dressed in green and masked to the world, MaKayla Lorick, ‘19, and Sasha Edwards, ‘20, “spit their information” as new members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated (AKA) in April.

On the stage in Stackhouse, Lorick and Edwards sang, recited poems, shared the history of AKA and gave tributes to those who helped them through the process during their community presentation, or “probate.”

“It’s one of the proudest moments that you can have,” Lorick said. “Everything you can give to the organization is presented in that step show.”

Alpha Kappa Alpha is a historically black sorority founded at Howard University in 1908, with the mission of remaining “consistently at the forefront of effective advocacy and social change,” according to its website.

Washington and Lee’s Tau Zeta chapter was originally founded in 2011 by sisters Devin Cooper, ‘11, and Amber Cooper, ‘12. Amber Cooper still works on campus as assistant director of admissions.

“Our mom was a member of the sorority as well, so it was kind of a no-brainer that we would join,” Amber Cooper said. “It’s family history.”

Tamara Futrell, the dean for diversity, inclusion and student engagement, is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. She helped Devin and Amber Cooper navigate the process of bringing the sorority to campus. Amber Cooper recalls Futrell jumping up from their table in the dining hall to hug her after getting the go-ahead from nationals.

Amber Cooper was most drawn to the community service and racial uplift that AKA touts as key parts of its mission.

Lorick said her primary inspiration for reigniting the dormant chapter was providing a space for black women on a campus where black students often feel uncomfortable. She felt that focusing on black women had potential for the greatest impact.

“I’ve talked to a lot of black women on campus,” Lorick said. “They need somewhere to feel comfortable.”

Students gather on the porch of Hillel House prior to AKA’s Walk Out event on Oct. 20. Photo by Laura Calhoun, ‘20.

As a first-year, Lorick remembers the Tau Zeta chapter had one official member. She said she had always wanted to be a member of AKA, but felt empowered to join after seeing her high school friends join black Greek organizations and learning about their experiences.

“Black culture is really important to me, especially black Greek culture. I wanted to find that here,” she said.

Amber Cooper encouraged both Lorick and Edwards to consider

AKA, and said she fought back tears when Lorick decided to take the leap and join.

“I remember MaKayla came up to me and said ‘the kind of women you [and Futrell] are – that’s the kind of woman I want to be,” Cooper said. “It’s been really fun to watch them bring it back to life and to witness their public presentation to the world.”

Besides AKA, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. is the only other active black Greek organization at Washington and Lee. Lorick said the two organizations intend to collaborate on future events. She also said she appreciates the understanding and community they share.

Otherwise, though, she said she does not feel supported as an organization on campus. AKA events typically have low attendance.

“It’s been difficult garnering interest,” Lorick said. “I’ve learned that people just don’t show up.”

Lorick believes this is due to the recent dormancy of the Tau Zeta chapter and Washington and Lee’s status as a PWI (primarily white institution).

“People don’t know what AKA is or what it means and how important it is in black culture,” Lorick said. “If I go to another campus, people automatically understand.”

Lorick said AKA’s wide recognition comes from the distinct leadership and confidence of its members—two skills AKA has instilled and expanded within her.

“It’s kind of like a second birth,” Lorick said. “When people walk up to you, they have to know what you’re about.”

Amber Cooper said she enjoys the lifelong, immediate connections she feels with other members of AKA even after graduation. She makes sure to wear something related to Alpha Kappa Alpha when- ever she visits an airport because she loves meeting fellow sisters.

“It’s a worldwide sisterhood of women,” she said. “You can find AKA women wherever you go and you’re never a stranger.”

Futrell said she has connected the Tau Zeta chapter with her chapter in Roanoke and provided personal guidance for Lorick.

“When I first started thinking about AKA, that was the first person that I went to,” Lorick said. “She was phenomenal throughout my entire process.”

Moving forward, Lorick hopes to expand AKA’s reach across Washington and Lee’s campus by recruiting more members and bridging the existing gap between black Greek organizations, the Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council.

“I hope that people finally start to recognize the culture and that it consistently keeps up what I’m trying to leave behind,” Lorick said. “I think that it’s important that it doesn’t end with me.”