Sigma Gamma Rho Creates Space for Women of Color

Taylor Nicole Rogers, Editor-at-Large

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  • At an event co-hosted by the Tau Epsilon chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. on Tuesday, an instructor from Tiger Schulmann’s Martial Arts teaches women how to defend themselves should they ever be attacked

  • Members of the Tau Epsilon chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. pose with their Sigma hand sign after co-hosting an event in Kimmel on Tuesday.

  • Members of the Tau Epsilon chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc discuss rape culture with members of other NYU clubs during an event on Tuesday in the Kimmel Center for Student Life.

  • Sorors CAS Junior Sobrel Okpo (left) and College of Nursing Junior Gabrielle Babson in chapter president Wendy Koranteng’s dorm room in Lafayette, which serves as the chapter’s informal headquarters until they move into their penthouse suite in the fall

  • An instructor from Tiger Schulmann’s Martial Arts demonstrates front jabs during an event co-hosted by the Tau Epsilon chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. on Tuesday.

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During her sophomore year at NYU, Gallatin senior Wendy Koranteng had every intention of transferring. For Koranteng, the transition from her underserved Bronx high school to NYU was jarring and lonely.

“For the most part, at the [high] school I went to, everyone was black and brown, so I was very comfortable,” Koranteng said. “Coming to NYU was like a huge culture shock, and I definitely wanted to transfer.”

Koranteng is one of countless students of color who feel disillusioned by NYU’s predominantly white community despite the university’s reputation for diversity. Unlike many of these students, Koranteng eventually managed to find a community on campus: the Tau Epsilon chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., the only one of the four historically black sororities chartered on campus.

Despite having once been both the chapter’s president and only member, Koranteng helped the organization grow to include 14 female undergraduate students, one graduate student and seven alumni. In the fall, they will move into one of the penthouse suites reserved for fraternities and sororities in Lafayette Residence Hall.

In the meantime, the chapter is focusing on increasing its presence on campus to help other black women find community, according to College of Nursing junior Gabrielle Babson, who will serve as the chapter’s president next year.

“Our priority and what we try to facilitate is depicting what black women are capable of at a [predominately white institution] and so all the work that we do in terms of events — it’s really just us trying to get the word out in that sense,” Babson said. “Whether it’s community service or we’re co-sponsoring with other organizations on campus, it’s just us trying to kind of give other black women an idea of what could be.”

For CAS junior Sobrel Okpo, her sorority sisters in Sigma Gamma Rho are more than just her support system — they’re her career coaches, too.

“Prior to joining, I knew the women that were involved, but to see them as leaders in Sigma Gamma Rho and how they were able to perpetuate sisterhood and the scholarship was a great experience,” Okpo said. “It’s priceless for me, and I will definitely say that the girls that I joined with this year are my motivation … I’m taking on leadership positions myself and I feel like if I had not joined Sigma, I would have never taken the initiative.”

While the chapter plans to continue its philanthropy work and to begin working with underprivileged high school students, Koranteng is sure that it will not stray from its original purpose at NYU: providing community for women of color who are otherwise overlooked.

“Sigma Gamma Rho was my home and is my home, and on a predominately white campus, students like us really needed things like this,” Koranteng said. “I personally really needed Sigma Gamma Rho, and I know that a lot of members in this chapter really feel the same way.”

Email Taylor Rogers at [email protected]