Meet Beta Omicron Zeta Chapter
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, Beta Omicron Zeta Chapter was organized in spring 1945 in Detroit, Mich., making it the first graduate chapter of Zeta in the state of Michigan. Organized by Soror Mary Watson Stewart, the chapter set out to be the best representation of women in the Metropolitan Detroit area.
Through an advertisement in a Black newspaper (The Pittsburgh Courier), a small group of college-educated women responded. The charter members are: Sorors Mary Watson Stewart, Thelma Shelby Downs, Dorothy Blackwell, Zenobia Irvin and Edna Moore Osborne.
At the time, Soror Stewart, an AME minister, had been appointed the Regional Director for the West Central Region (known as the Great Lakes Region as of 1947) by Grand Basileus Lullelia W. Harrison. Stewart served from 1943 to 1953.
Beta Omicron Zeta counts among our accomplishments starting the Detroit Amicae in 1961, a chapter of Zeta’s auxiliary for non-degreed women. Another proud moment was when BOZ became incorporated in 1983.
The euphoria was topped off the following year with the honor of our chapter hosting the 1984 Boulé in Detroit at the Westin Hotel.
Embracing our Sorority’s commitment to fighting premature births through helping expectant mothers, the chapter opened Stork's Nests in Detroit (1976 and 1980). Among our signature programs are annual participation in Detroit Noel Night at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the March of Dimes Walk and Relay for Life.
Throughout the years of service, Beta Omicron Zeta has held an annual Finer Womanhood Celebration. The first Woman of the Year recipient was Soror Mary Watson Stewart in 1946. Honorees have been women of color who broke down barriers, including those who were in positions previously not held by women of color. The honorees have included the first woman state representative, the first woman who served on the Detroit City Council and the first woman to serve as the Wayne County Clerk.
Beta Omicron Zeta has been instrumental in chartering several undergraduate chapters in the Detroit area, including the citywide Xi Chapter in 1965, Theta Delta Chapter at Wayne State University in 1970, and Theta Xi Chapter at the University of Detroit in 1989.
In 2001, the Detroit 300 recognized Beta Omicron Zeta Chapter for over 50 years of service to the community. Then, in 2013, the chapter was named "Power Partner of the Year" by the Southeast Michigan affiliate of the American Heart Association.
Beta Omicron Zeta has been led by: Sorors Mary Watson Stewart, Thelma Downs, Bernice Griggs, Viola Arnold, Annetta Wolfe, Ione Gibson, Ethel Nelson, Larnie R. Williams, Mary R. Gray,* Beatrix Varner, Lavinia Hendricks, Loma R. Pointer, Doris H. Harris, Dorothy Bridget, Theressa Dixon,* Daisy L. Davis,* Regina Baker, Jeffrey P. King,* Taniqua M. Carter-Brown,* and Rhonda Grant-Calloway.* *Denotes sorors who have served more than one term
Note: This is part of the Michigan State Organization’s online series "The MSO Great History Countdown! Our Centennial Journey to State Meeting" to leave a lasting gift to the state in honor of Zeta’s 100th anniversary. Histories from every graduate and undergraduate chapter in Michigan is being published in the month of September 2020 in the days leading up to the centennial state meeting. The project was approved under State Director Lynese Thomas’ administration, and overseen by MSO Epistoleus Earlene McMichael in partnership with MSO Historian Trudy Hale and Great Lakes Region Historian Norma Dartis.