It’s the most important journey of all!
On November 12, 1922, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated was founded in Indianapolis, Indiana. Seven young educators, Mary Lou Allison Gardner Little, Dorothy Hanley Whiteside, Vivian Irene White Marbury, Nannie Mae Gahn Johnson, Hattie Mae Annette Dulin Redford, Bessie May Downey Rhoades Martin, and Cubena McClure, all came together in service of sisterhood, the group officially becoming a national collegiate sorority on December 30, 1929.
In the near century since its founding, the sorority has become a model of service, living up to its motto of “Greater Service, Greater Progress.” Today, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated, is more than 100,000 strong, boasting over 500 chapters across the United States, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, South Korea, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the United Arab Emirates. Recently, we partnered with Hyundai to sit down with Sigma Gamma Rho member Deshauna Barber to explore how her commitment to service and sisterhood is driving women forward.
Army veteran, author, and former Miss USA Deshauna Barber is a proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho. During her formative years, Barber said she didn’t always feel connected to her inner Blackness, something she set out to change when she decided she would be going to an HBCU. In college, she was drawn to Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated, not just because of the community but because of their rich legacy of creating brave new spaces.
“This organization was founded by seven educators within a predominantly white institution. So having seven educators that were brave enough to be able to found an organization that was created for sisterhood, but not only for sisterhood but also for the safety of them as Black women within that community, I thought it was very brave,” Barber explained.
It was a history that immediately resonated with her, and joining the organization provided Barber with a necessary foundation. With that foundation, she launched into the world, determined to make her mark and pay it forward by helping other young women. Barber noted that a pivotal moment for her was when she became Miss USA. As she claimed the title, she also considered what she wanted to represent with the crown.
“My divine journey has been a very bumpy road, and also, I consider it to be a road that’s very against the grain. I knew that I wanted to be in some sort of leadership position. I wanted to be in a position in which I’m able to inspire young women to be able to go after the dreams that they desire. My turning point was when I had the privilege and honor of winning the prestigious title of Miss USA 2016…It required me to really be able to dig deep and decide, what am I supposed to represent when I put this crown on my head?” said Barber.
While the journey hasn’t been easy for Barber, it’s one she proudly walked as she navigated her way to become an accomplished author and motivational speaker. It’s that level of service that still drives her work and the sisterhood of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated, and her esteemed community members that keeps her inspired.
“I love being a role model for younger women, so for me, greater service, greater progress is about being that community leader. It’s about being that person that’s committed to impact…There are so many influential members of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated that have inspired me throughout my life,” Barber added.
As she reflects on those members, women like Hattie McDaniel, the first Black woman to win an Oscar, MC Lyte, a hip hop pioneer, and soul singers Kelly Price and Fantasia, she’s reminded of her own impact and legacy within the Divine 9 community. As Barber works to drive other women forward, she is reminded of her late mother, who passed away from lung cancer in 2016. Even from the other side of heaven, Barber said her mom continues to be a driving force in her life, in the ultimate bond of sisterhood that can never be broken.
“What drives me each day is always going to be my mother…It is because of her that I wake up each and every day committed to accomplishing my goals and to give back,” she explained.
For Barber, service is a badge of honor that is inextricably connected to her role as a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated. It’s one she’ll never put down in service of women, one that is an integral and necessary part of her journey.
“I believe that my sorority really represents love. It represents empowerment. It represents community. It represents sisterhood. It represents commitment to women and to giving back.”
Check out Because of Them We Can’s “Divine Journeys” presented by Hyundai below:
Cover photo: Divine Journey: How Sigma Gamma Rho Member Deshauna Barber Is Driving Women Forward/Photo Courtesy of Culture Brands