Some Delta Sigma Theta chants have nearly a century of tradition behind them. Whether they are singing the praise and pride of their members or urging them on to greatness, these chants are inspiring.
A Tradition Founded in Service
Twenty-two women attending Howard University in 1913 founded this sorority, at the same time as several other historically black sororities and fraternities. One of the major differences with this sorority was the priority it placed on service - in fact, three months after its founding (a controversial act in those segregated times) the members unflinchingly marched with other women on Washington in support of the Suffragette Movement.
This tradition of activism and service continued through the years, commemorated in chants and cheers such as A Delta Woman. This spoken-word piece commemorates many Deltas and their accomplishments, including:
- Gabrielle Pelham, Nannie H. Burroughs, and Mary Church Terrell, founding members and pioneer Suffragettes
- Mary McLeod- Bethune, founder of a university in Florida
- Clara Hale, health care worker for children with AIDS
- Nancy Wilson, Shirley Ceasar, and Roberta Flack, all talented hit singers
At the end of the chant, the question is asked: Now that you know what a Delta woman is ... Can you handle the responsibility? Like many cheers and chants, this one is designed not just to celebrate the history but to encourage the members to make some.
Other Delta Sigma Theta Chants
Of course, not all the chants are about the past members and their accomplishments. Within the Greek sororities and fraternities there is intense competition, trying to push each other and themselves to greatness. This leads to many chants that are not so complimentary to the other sororities. On a website dedicated to Nassau, Bahamas alumni, there are some examples of some of the not-so-subtle jabs at other sororities.
For instance, in one the chorus is all about ducks waddling and wiggling their tail - a normal kind of lyric for chants that are associated with choreography. However, in the same chant, the verses do things like compare the Alpha Kappa Alpha girls to "paper" trash, and a Zeta Phi Beta woman to "Frankenstein's momma." The verses are done in a military cadence style - with the entire group singing the chorus, and one or more "leaders" singing all or most of the individual verses. While they may seem a bit mean spirited, they are no better or worse than many other sororities and fraternities.
Learning the Chants
You can find examples of the chants online at the sites listed above or on other websites dedicated to preserving the culture of historically black Greek organizations. They also provide MP3 files so that you can actually listen to to the chants and songs, sung by authentic "Delta Divas". You can also find video examples of Delta Sigma Theta Chants, highlighting their characteristic "Oooo-ooooop!" war cry.
However, while their spirit and enthusiasm are definitely to be emulated, it should be remembered that these are women who are joining a very important tradition, and their songs and chants are meant only for their group. For a non-Delta to sing one of these chants, or steal all the moves from one of their choreographed "steppin'" routines would be unethical and disrespectful - in fact, movies like Bring It On and Stomp the Yard dramatize exactly how uncool that would be.
Delta Sigma Theta is open to any female student currently enrolled at a college, and even alumnae can become eligible to join retroactively. If the chants and songs speak to you, perhaps you too can become part of this tradition and carry on the work of those pioneering women of 1913.