IntRHOducing Trinady Banks and Esther Akande–President and Vice President, respectively, of the renewed Pi Chi chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated (SG Rho, Inc.). Originally chartered at UC in 2005, Pi Chi was inactive on campus for some time before Banks ‘23 and Akande ‘24 spearheaded its comeback this year. The reintroduction of this historically black sorority adds a much-needed fresh option to the pool of Greek organizations that students can join second semester of freshman year. The process of reinstatement has taken almost a full year, starting in the fall of 2021 when the idea first sparked interest to the girls, and now that Pi Chi is back on campus, Banks and Akande are making sure to keep it that way.
The idea was first born when an alum who was wearing her sorority jacket came to help Akande’s step team with a routine for last year’s homecoming. Prior to this, both Akande and Banks had had similar experiences of arriving at Ursinus, seeing Pi Chi listed as a sorority, and realizing that there were no active members and thus no remaining sorority. And so, upon seeing the jacket Akande took the opportunity to talk to the alum and get information on what had happened to the organization. Banks learned more information about the sorority during the fall informational for SG Rho, Inc. which she attended on her birthday. From there, Banks and Akande joined forces and together, the Pennsylvania locals–supported by alumni, faculty, UC students, and the graduate chapter of SG Rho, Inc.–began to get the ball rolling. It took lots of letter and email writing, waiver signing, approval and guidance from the national sorority, and approval from the school, but ultimately Banks and Akande achieved their goal this fall.
Although the sorority’s current membership consists solely of the two girls right now, they have solid plans for future recruitment and for the future of the entire chapter. I sat down with Banks and Akande to talk about this process, what it means to be back on campus, and what the future may hold for Pi Chi (also known as the Pi Chi Poodles, the Precocious Poodles, or SG Rho). “Being back has meant everything to me,” Akande noted. At an institution where just over 22% of the student body are people of color, it is important that minority students have various spaces in which they can feel comfortable and have a sense of community, if they do not already. Pi Chi affords these students another way to do so. Even though nationally SG Rho is a member of the Divine-Nine National Pan-Hellenic Council organization–an organization housing three other sororities and five other fraternities with historically Black roots–Pi Chi welcomes students with a wide array of racial and ethnic backgrounds. It also hosts events open to the entire school. Both Banks and Akande referenced community-building events such as their recent self care night as an important aspect of what their sorority will continue to do on campus.
When asked if it was difficult to navigate all facets of sorority organization with just two people, laughter and a small “yeah” was the unanimous response. However, being a chapter of a sorority that has existed for over 100 years comes with its perks. Akande commented, “it’s definitely just the two of us on campus but it’s never just the two of us… we joined a sisterhood that has over 85,000 people in it” and it helps that other chapters of SGRho exist as close as Cheyney and West Chester University.
So now, with plenty of support and a solid reestablished foundation, Banks and Akande can focus on spreading the word about recruitment and everything that Pi Chi stands for. The sorority’s pillars are sisterhood, scholarship, and service, and this–and more– is something that a potential new member would find out by attending informationals. Per Banks, informationals are usually held on campus once a semester, and it is a presentation event with social aspects that gives people who are interested the chance to view a powerpoint, meet sisters and alum and hear their stories, and ultimately see if the chapter is something that they would want to contribute to. The next informational will be in the fall of 2023.
The main thing that Banks and Akande want to get across is how meaningful it can be to join a sorority that has a strong purpose and inspirational individuals. Banks noted that joining does not mean a loss of identity within a group, but rather an enhancement of one’s own through the support of others, saying, “sometimes you get that stereotype that everyone looks the same, or you have to carry a certain persona, but I don’t have to be a certain way or look a certain way to fit in… the [people in my sorority] help me learn more about myself.” Akande concurred, and spoke more about the women in other chapters, adding “every time I’ve met a Sigma woman, I’ve always felt so welcome.” She also recalled her days before joining, saying “when you see people that align with your values who are presenting themselves in a way that I’d love to present myself… it’s like a no brainer [to join].”
But joining a sorority is a very intentional decision, and it is one that is a lifelong commitment. Pi Chi offers a great new space for community cultivation and personal growth within Ursinus, and its presence as the only Divine Nine sorority on campus should not be understated, but it would be a mistake to assume that the sisterhood is meant for everyone. Both Banks and Akande stressed that it is important that members have aligned values with the sorority, and that being comfortable within it is a main priority. As Fall comes around next year and Pi Chi participates in Rush Week, their next informational will most likely provide the best picture of the sisterhood for those considering membership. So keep an eye and an ear out for them, because if you haven’t heard of them already, Pi Chi’s comeback is just the first of the waves they will be making.
Isabael Wesman: firstname.lastname@example.org