This story originally appeared in The Philadelphia Tribune.
The Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., 2022 Grand Boulé will kick off in the city of Philadelphia on Monday morning.
More than 6,000 members are expected to attend. The city of Philadelphia is also anticipating an estimated economic impact of more than $6,566,677.
“I’m so happy that we’re coming down to Philadelphia, because it’s been a long time and almost like coming home. So we’re happy to be there,” said Valerie Hollingsworth Baker, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., international president.
It’s been 22 years since the Zeta’s hosted the event in Philadelphia and the ladies are gearing up for an influx of sisterly affection.
“This is going to be a return to the city. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority had our Grand Boulé in 2000 in Philadelphia,” said Hollingsworth Baker. “We utilized the Marriott and the convention center and we had a marvelous time.”
Hollingsworth Baker explained that one of the reasons that it’s been 22 years since the organization has come back to the region is because the organization is divided in eight regions.
“The Atlantic Region is where Philadelphia resides for us. So it’s been 22 years since the Grand Boulé has returned back to the Atlantic Rregion.
“I wanted to come back number one because our region has not had a Grand Boulé since 2000. I just thought it would be only right that we come back to the Atlantic Region and of course, this is my home. This is where I live. I live in New York and I wanted to be able to celebrate the boulé in my region, and they would have that opportunity to do that,” said Hollingsworth Baker.
Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At-Large) will welcome her Sorors to Philadelphia during the opening ceremony scheduled for Thursday.
Gilmore Richardson is the first member of the sorority to serve on Philadelphia City Council. She is also a proud Life Member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., where she has previously served as a local Graduate Chapter President, former elected Regional Officer and former National Appointee.
“I am so pleased and proud to welcome my Sorors, the finer women of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, to the great City of Philadelphia, the City of Sisterly Love,” Gilmore Richardson said.
During the last session of City Council on June 23, City Council unanimously passed Resolution 220585, introduced by Gilmore Richardson recognizing, honoring and welcoming Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., on the occasion of its 2022 Grand Boulé being held July 18-24.
Just as this isn’t the first time the Zeta’s convened in Philadelphia, it also isn’t the first time that the city of Philadelphia has paid homage to the women of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. In 2019 the 1900 block of Federal Street was co-named after Zeta Founder Arizona Cleaver Stemons.
Together the Zetas and local groups will be partnering to provide community resources and aid during the convention.
“The Philadelphia health department gave us 12,000 COVID vaccine testing kits. So we are just really happy to be able to bring these things to the community and have the community members be able to really partake in the things that we can do and leave a footprint that will be remembered for when we leave Philadelphia,” said Hollingsworth Baker.
The international president shared that it is the service initiatives that she looks forward to the most.
“That’s why I joined this organization because of the belief, the service, and the scholarship and education,” said Hollingsworth Baker.
According to Hollingsworth Baker those are part of the pillars of the organization since its inception 102 years ago, and that is something that she has promoted during her time as the organization’s international president.
“We will be donating funds to Jefferson Hospital for their NICU unit. We’re going to be putting together a COVID testing and vaccine [clinic]. That is going to be something that we have been really working with the NCNW and Good Health Wins and it is all coming to fruition with the Black Doctors Consortium and the Philadelphia health department.
“I look forward to opportunities in fellowshipping with each other because it’s been four years since we have been together like this,” said Hollingsworth Baker.
The last time was in 2018 in New Orleans.
“That’s when I was elected as the president of this organization and then we were supposed to have our centennial celebration because we turned 100 in 2020. But of course COVID came and we were never able to celebrate in June. We had to close out everything and that has been very disappointing to my members. That they were never able to enjoy time together. So it’s so important that this week we come together, not as just an organization and sisterhood.
“We’re coming together because we will be as one as we hoped we would have been in 2020,” said Hollingsworth Baker.
“We’re so excited to see each other and we’re so excited to fellowship with each other. And my members in the Atlantic Region are so excited that the Grand Boulé is in their home region where they’ll be able to shine and show everyone how we do it here in the Atlantic Region. So there are many, many opportunities for not only the fellowship and being together, but the service initiatives and of course our philanthropic initiatives besides just Jefferson Hospital. In the downtown area, we do a lot for the March of Dimes, St. Jude Hospital, the American Cancer Society, Women Veterans Rock.
“And there’s many of our partners and sponsors that are coming and we have so many surprises for them that they don’t even know that it’s going to happen until they get here and see it for themselves,” said Hollingsworth Baker.
The organization is also slated to donate over $640,000 including a $125,00 scholarship to a deserving student. Mary J. Blige is scheduled to perform a private concert. Other special guests and entertainers include Hezekiah Walker, Vivica Fox and Debbie Smith.
The Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. was founded on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 16, 1920, by Arizona Cleaver Stemons, Pearl Anna Neal, Myrtle Tyler Faithful, Viola Tyler Goings and Fannie Pettie Watts.