Celebrating 60 years of excellence

BY HOLLY KESTENIS Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — April 15, 1955, the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. decided it was time to branch out to St. Petersburg, and for 60 years the Zeta Gamma Zeta Chapter has been going strong. Last Saturday, members gathered at the Historic Manhattan Casino to celebrate their time together and all the successes accomplished along the way.

Members consist of women who are dedicated to the principles of Zeta Phi Beta: Service, charity, scholarship, civil and cultural endeavors, sisterhood and finer womanhood.

“This truly is a night of celebration and fun,” said President Daphne Lampley as she welcomed people to the event.

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, who partners up with Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, was founded when African Americans in the 1920s began to recognize their deep roots in America.

“African Americans began to see just how much black men and women had already done to form American history as well as traditions,” said Toni Washington Knight, the area five coordinator for the sorority.

Founded on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., Zeta Phi Beta was born at a time when African-American women did not have a voice in society. Five coeds envisioned a sorority, which would directly affect positive change, chart a course of action for the early part of the 20th century and beyond, raise consciousness of their people, encourage the highest standards of scholastic achievement and foster a greater sense of unity among its members.

It has served as a beacon of light inspiring others to continue to fight for all of humanity and to never stop fighting to achieve social stability.

“Sometimes people think they have to do big things in order to make a change,” said Knight who feels that by joining together unity can be achieved. “If each and every one of us would light a single candle, what a tremendous light we would have.”

Four loyal and dedicated Zeta women were honored for their contributions to not only the Zeta Phi Sorority, but also to their communities throughout the years.

WFLA News Channel 8 weekend anchor Rod Carter was the Master of Ceremonies, and after a delicious dinner from Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food Restaurant, he introduced the four women who have tirelessly worked toward making a difference in the St. Petersburg area.

Mary Turner received the highest recognition for over 60 years of service with Zeta Phi Beta. For more than 30 years she guided the youth and was highly engaged not only in sorority business, but also served on the board of directors with the Johnnie Ruth Clarke Health Center among other organizations in the community.

Helen Shaw, a native of St. Petersburg and graduate of Gibbs High School, earned her Masters of Education from Florida A&M. She has been an active member of the sorority for 50 years and instrumental in the inner workings of the Zeta Gamma Zeta Chapter.

Among a myriad of well-placed jokes, Patricia Stewart was introduced as an honoree. She became a member back in 1965 and continues to promote the ideals and principles of the sorority today. She too was an educator dedicating 44 years as a teacher, curriculum specialist and trainer.

The final honoree of the night was Emma Cavin. A mother of two, she earned her master’s in administration and is retired from Pinellas County Schools after 36 years as not only an educator, but as an assistant principal. Currently she is a Mary Kay consultant and a contributor to The Weekly Challenger newspaper. She joined the Zeta Gamma Zeta Chapter upon its inception in 1955 where she served as youth coordinator and held various different offices.

The Chair of the Gala, Lisa Wilson, gave closing remarks thanking committee members for helping to put on the event. “Sometimes you just think too big,” she said about the celebration and all it took to put on the 60 years of service event. “It wouldn’t be possible without the chapter sisters.”

Although the program began to wind down, the festivities were just beginning. The DJ started up the music and Wilson only had to tell the crowd once to “take off those high heels and dance.”

To find out more about Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and the Zeta Gamma Zeta Chapter, check out their website at stpetezetas.org

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