Meet Rho Delta Zeta Chapter
Updated: Jun 10
Rho Delta Zeta Chapter of Washtenaw County, Mich. was chartered on April 25, 1998 during the Great Lakes Regional Lakes Leadership Conference at the Westin Hotel in Detroit, Mich. Sorors S. Joy Gaines, Lauri D. Gause, Teresa K. Myers, A. Jean Reed, Chinissa Sumpter-White, and Margrette Ann Taylor were our six charter members. In addition to Rho Delta Zeta, five other Zeta chapters were chartered with us. International President Dr. Barbara West Carpenter performed the ceremonies.
The chartering of a chapter was inspired by Triumphant Soror Margrette Taylor who wanted a local chapter for Zetas living in the Washtenaw County, Mich. area to serve the people in the cities, villages and townships of Ann Arbor, Dexter, Chelsea, Lodi Township, Manchester, Milan, Pittsfield Township, Saline, Scio Township, Superior Township, Whitmore Lake, Willis, Whitaker, York Township and Ypsilanti.
Soror Taylor was our first president. She was an outstanding National Labor Relations attorney for the federal government. Under her leadership, RDZ began the work actively engaged with the community in an impactful way. The chapter created partnerships and launched into collaborations that would prove to be fruitful for the Washtenaw community. The chapter flourished with the commitment to fostering and promoting the Sorority’s ideals of Scholarship, Service, Sisterhood and Finer Womanhood. Because of the diligent work, RDZ added members to serve the community.
On Sept. 6, 2000, Soror Margrette Ann Taylor sadly passed away. The chapter established the Margrette Ann Taylor (MAT) scholarship fund in her honor. It assists deserving African-American female high school students in furthering their education so that they can ultimately make a difference in their respective communities. Each year, we award a scholarship to a female student from Ypsilanti and Benton Harbor. To date, over $25,000 in scholarships have been awarded in her honor. Soror Taylor was an alumnus of Benton Harbor High School in Benton Harbor, Mich. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.) and her Juris doctorate from Wayne State University (Detroit, Mich.). She was an advocate for social justice, and a leader in both the Washtenaw County Bar Association and the National Bar Association.
Throughout its first 10 years, RDZ worked hard to build relationships and partnerships throughout the community. Over the years, Rho Delta Zeta has proudly participated in the community Easter Egg Hunt at the historical Perry Early Learning Center located on the southside of Ypsilanti, Mich. This event was created over 30 years ago by African-American organizations and government agencies in the community.
RDZ passionately participates in our National Z-HOPE (Zetas Helping Other People Excel) program and serves through various projects in the community. We’ve established partnerships with Gilbert Nursing Home and Clark East Towers, a local nurse care facility and senior high-rise to engage in activities with the elderly under the national Elder Care initiative. We’ve also participated in Walk to End Alzheimer’s in efforts of showing our support for research and raising awareness.
Additionally, we’ve also worked in collaboration with other agencies such as Dawn Farms, American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Society, Food Gatherers, Foster Closet of Washtenaw County, Habitat for Humanity, Safe House, Hope Clinic, Growing Hope, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) - Adopt A Highway Program, Avalon House, Ozone House, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Ypsilanti Area Jaycees, The Education Project, SOS Community Services, Villa of Parkridge Nursing Home, Ypsi Local Food Pantry and Alpha House to provide assistance when needed.
One of our most popular community events is the “Challenge for Change Expo.” It provides information to help people develop, implement and sustain their own solutions to problems in a way that enables them to shape and exercise control over their physical, social, economic and cultural environments.
This event was so successful that Rho Delta Zeta Chapter partnered with Ypsilanti Community Schools to produce "A Challenge to Change Expo - Youth Edition." The objective of the expo is to reset, restore and re-energize the youth in our community by putting a host of resources in one room that can help the mind, body, spirit, academics and much more.
Rho Delta Zeta has a newly established partnership with Michigan Medicine - Rogel Cancer Center in celebration of Finer Womanhood observance. These “Focus on Women Series” provides information that uplifts women for the mind, body and spirit. Women leave the breakfast feeling empowered and ready to conquer the world.
On May 5, 2018 Rho Delta Zeta celebrated our 20-year anniversary. Platinum & Pearls Gala was a highly successful event attended by over 250 guests. We honored four members of the community that exemplified the founding principles, including a Pastor, published physician, community organizer and a public official. During the event, we celebrated the MAT scholarship award recipients. See the above “Scholarship” subsection for more.
In January 2009, RDZ had the privilege of hosting the Michigan State Organization’s 89th Founders’ Day Celebration on the campus of Eastern Michigan University. Over 300 sorors from all over the state attended.
To further advance the ideals of the sorority RDZ desired to involve more women and girls. It launched a chapter of the Amicae, Zeta’s adult women’s auxiliary, as well as chapters of the Sorority’s three youth groups. All four auxiliary groups held induction ceremonies on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010 at Dawn Farm located in Ypsilanti, Mich. They were officially chartered on April 9, 2010. The first to join our auxiliaries were the children, relatives and friends who were already assisting our chapter with service projects.
The charter members of the Zeta Amicae of Washtenaw County are Amerish Billhymer, Mable Comer, Tamika Fisher, Evelyn Gregory and Patrina Gregory. The Pearlettes’ charter members: Amari Robinson, Lakiya Vaughn, Kiarra Townsend, and Nykeya Vaughn. The Amicettes’ charter members: Jasmyne Townsend, Hannah Terrell, Gabrielle Harden, Camille Harden, Briana Terrell and Mariah Terrell. The Archonettes’ charter members: Vonie Bradshaw, Markeia Charles, Ashley Podczervinski, and DeJanae Byers.
As trailblazers in the community, RDZ thought about the power of the collective. With this thought, the inception of chartering a local National Pan-Hellenic Council Graduate Chapter was crystalized. After numerous meetings, the NPHCAA (Ann Arbor) was chartered at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation located in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011.
The chartering organizations included: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (Theta Zeta Lambda), Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (Delta Psi Omega), Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. (Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti / Inkster), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Ann Arbor Alumnae), and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. (Rho Delta Zeta). Dr. Portia Hemphill, Zeta 100, of RDZ, Inc. led the charge as the first NPHCAA President.
Undergraduate Chapter – Pi Delta
Rho Delta Zeta is the sponsoring chapter for Pi Delta Chapter at Eastern Michigan University. This is a role that the graduate women take very seriously. We mentor the younger sorority members as guiding lights for life, career and the work of Zeta. Our goal is to achieve 100 percent graduation and to see them transfer their talent to a graduate chapter.
The chapter purchased a memorial brick, donated to the $100,000 scholarship endowment, bought a memorial ad for the centennial journal, and participated in the Michigan State Organization Centennial Gala. Soror M. Jeanice Townsend was the Mistress of Ceremony.
Our legacies are: Sorors Margrette Taylor, Linda Edwards-Brown, Veronica Fox, S. Joy Gaines, Lori Gripper-Williams, Jacqueline Nelson, Ebony Robinson, Charita Roman, M. Jeanice Townsend, Melanise Vaughn and Brittney Williams.
Our members have been honored with these awards: 2005 Breakthrough Soror (M. Jeanice Townsend); 2005 Zeta of the Year (Katrina Owens); 2006 Zeta of the Year (Teneisha Podczervinsk)i; 2008 - Zeta of the Year (M. Jeanice Townsend); 2009-2010 - EMU Advisor of the Year, Greek Life ( N. Vanessa Vaughn); 2010-2011 - EMU Advisor of the Year, Greek Life (NaQuaina Moore); 2011-2012 - EMU Advisor of the Year, Greek Life (NaQuaina Moore); 2012 - Zeta of the Year (Amber Taylor); 2012 Basileus Emeritus for Rho Delta Zeta (M. Jeanice Townsend); 2017-2018 - EMU Advisor of the Year, Greek Life (M. Jeanice Townsend); and 2018 - Zeta of the Year (Walita Randle).
Our Centennial leadership team: Basileus Rhonda Jones-Duke; First Anti-Basileus Julia Wartley; Second Anti-Basileus Charita Roman; Third Anti-Basileus Walita Randle; Tamias Stephanie Nishioka; Tamias Grammateus Katherine Allen; Grammateus Keisha Toole; Phylacter Vanessa Vaughn-Jackson; and Epistoleus TaLasha Moore
Zeta Leaders and Trailblazers
Rho Delta Zeta Chapter intends to leave a lasting legacy in Washtenaw County by being ground-breaking leaders. Charter member Chinissa Sumpter-White is a marketing executive. M. Jeanice Townsend is the Michigan State Organization (Regional) Graduate Member At-Large, Basileus Emeritus and a community leader. Dr. Portia Hemphill is the charter President for NPHC-Ann Arbor. Dr. Jessica Wilburn, Past RDZ Basileus, is a published author and professor. Linda Edwards-Brown, LMSW, is a Pittsfield Charter Township trustee and retired Washtenaw County Administrator. Vanessa Vaughn-Jackson, LMSW, is a published author. Minister Ebony Robinson, Past RDZ Basileus, is a published author and speaker. Charter member S. Joy Gaines, Esq., is a community leader.
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.