During any history or recognition month, it’s common for people to talk about the household names. We focus on those whose stories are well known, easy to research and thus easy to tell. Black History Month is the same; while we are proud of the notable Delta Gammas who have years of achievements, for this month, we’re honored to tell the story of a younger sister whose name may not be known yet, but whose impact on our organization and the history of sorority is already great.
Taylor Johnson, Alpha Omega-Arkansas, became Alpha Omega’s chapter president in January 2018. At that time, she unknowingly became the first African-American to become president of a Panhellenic sorority at the University of Arkansas – a school with nearly 125 years of sorority history.
Originally from Oklahoma, Taylor did not know many people at the U of A when she first arrived.
“I really got excited about Greek life, but I got nervous with the whole recruitment process as it was a week long,” she said. “And just being an African-American woman, I wasn’t comfortable necessarily because I didn’t know any others who were going through it as well.”
However, when we were re-establishing our Alpha Omega chapter during her sophomore year, she was encouraged to learn more about Delta Gamma by Allyson Braggs, now a fellow Alpha Omega chapter senior. Taylor remembers Allyson saying, “Hey, DG is coming back, and they’re really different.”
How did Taylor go from reluctant to join a sorority to chapter president? At first, she was admittedly reserved about being in the Panhellenic community at all. But now she’s first to admit, “Yeah, I’m a Delta Gamma!” Her first chapter leadership role was as vice president: social standards and she intended to run for that position for a second year. Then she got the opportunity to attend our Lewis Institute.
“Thanks to my small group, I grew the confidence and courage to try going out for president even though I was nervous,” Taylor shared.
Her confidence in her leadership ability has also grown thanks to incredible support from mentors and peers on campus. Since re-establishing, Taylor said that Alpha Omega has had a good connection with the other chapters on campus. She also felt supported by the other fraternity/sorority leaders at the U of A upon becoming president: “I don’t think people knew about me being the first African American Panhellenic [organization] president until recently.”
When asked what surprised her most about leading her chapter, she mentioned not realizing the impact she would have as president, “I realized how much influence I had, I guess you could say.” Those meet her agree that she handled that influence with grace and humility. Sisters like Taylor are proof that who we are, and our actions, can have a historical impact and reach outside of our immediate community.
During our 2018 Delta Gamma Convention, Taylor was asked to present an Inspiration, or brief remarks, before one of the sessions. She chose to share the poem “Human Family” by Maya Angelou. After describing the similarities and differences of people from all walks of life, Angelou concludes with the resounding phrase that, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” Looking into this poem further, Taylor remembers thinking, “This is the perfect poem for the perfect time.” For her, Angelou’s message exactly described the thousands of individuals who make up the Delta Gamma sisterhood, “Even though we’re all completely different, within DG we’re all still family.”
As for the future of Alpha Omega chapter, “I’ve been thinking about this all semester,” Taylor reminisces.
“I think as we continue on, our leaders will still grow stronger as we pass down the influence to younger members to help lead our chapter. We have a strong alumnae base here, and everywhere; the Alpha Omegas and the other alumnae who help us have been amazing. So I think we have a strong future ahead of us.”
Taylor is set to graduate from the University of Arkansas in May 2019 with degrees in criminology and sociology, and a minor in legal studies. In addition to her Delta Gamma involvement, she serves on Arkansas’ Student Advisory Board, which is the Board of Directors for the Student Alumni Association. Taylor was recently named one of 71 Seniors of Significance for the University’s class of 2019.