Zeta Phi Beta Sorority’s Xi Delta Chapter celebrates 50 years at Pitt

A BIG DONATION—As part of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.’s 50th anniversary of its Xi Delta chapter at Pitt, the organization gave a $2,500 donation in gift cards to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. Pictured are Tijuani Phelps Jackson, left, who joined the chapter in 1973, and Janice Goldsborough, medical advocacy coordinator at the Women’s Center and Shelter. (Photo by Rob Taylor Jr.)


Just like any loving son would do, Cheryl Sessoms Manning rode shotgun while her son drove 366 miles, from Roanoke, Va., to Pittsburgh.

After all, her presence at the Courtyard by Marriott at the Waterfront in Homestead was requested and heartfelt by all her fellow members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Xi Delta Chapter.

As about 50 members of the chapter congregated at the hotel that Saturday morning, Sept. 25, to present $2,500 in gift cards to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh as part of the chapter’s 50th anniversary celebration, Manning watched with excitement, as other chapter members secretly watched her in awe.

They knew that there would be no 50 years of Zetas at the University of Pittsburgh, if it weren’t for Manning and 12 others, known as the “Tantalizing 13,” who in 1971 decided that there would be a third Black sorority on Pitt’s then-super-White campus.

“When I got to campus, there were so very few of us Black folk on this campus in 1969,” Manning told the New Pittsburgh Courier. “So it was important for us to expand who we are and that we as Black people do great things, wonderful things, and (show) how much we can make a contribution to this campus life and to the community.”

THE ORIGINAL MEMBER WITH SOME OF THE NEWEST MEMBERS — Cheryl Sessoms Manning is an original member of the Xi Delta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., which became official on Dec. 3, 1971, at Pitt. She is pictured with Rayshell Brown, left, a spring 2019 initiate, and Christiana Dillard, a spring 2017 initiate. (Photos by Rob Taylor Jr.)

In the beginning, Manning said, it was just a few of her friends who had the idea of creating a Zeta Phi Beta chapter on Pitt’s campus. That number ended up being 13: Manning (known then as Cheryl Sessoms); Diana Badger; Patricia Baker; Ella Carson; Jacqueline Claiborne; Victoria Gooch; Barbara Johnson; Eleanor Brown; Bonnie Lewis; Eva Gooble; Joan Poelnitz; Janet Johnson; and Marjorie Overton.

It’s unclear how many of the original 13, the “Tantalizing 13,” are still alive today, but Manning told the Courier that “there’s only a few of us left.” Manning was the only member of the original 13 to attend the Sept. 25 event in Pittsburgh.

Jacqueline Wilson, right, a Spring 1979 initiate of the Xi Delta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

The official date that the charter became recognized was Dec. 3, 1971. Manning remembers heading to Washington, D.C., the headquarters of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, and filing a petition, then filling out the paperwork…“we were pledged and we created the chapter,” she told the Courier.

A few years later, on April 7, 1973, Tijuani Phelps Jackson officially joined the Xi Delta Chapter while a student at Pitt. Since then, Jackson estimates 150-200 women have joined the Xi Delta Chapter, or as members call it, the “eXhilarating” Xi Delta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

It was Jackson who presented a box to Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh medical advocacy coordinator Janice Goldsborough with $2,500 worth of gift cards inside at the hotel.

THE “TANTALIZING 13,” the 13 charter members of the Xi Delta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. 

“We’re always about service, that’s one of the tenets that we were founded on,” Jackson told the Courier. “Scholarship, service, sisterhood and finer womanhood. We selected the Women’s Center and Shelter because with COVID, a lot of organizations aren’t getting the funding that they previously have received, so we wanted to do something for the women.”

Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh bills itself as more than an emergency shelter for adults experiencing domestic violence and their children. “We are a safe harbor that provides specialized care and support for survivors who have experienced all types of intimate partner violence from physical to emotional” through support groups, legal advocacy, hotline services, and a children’s advocacy program, among other services.

Data from the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh showed that more than 1 in 3 women have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in the U.S., and more than three women are killed every day by a spouse in the U.S. Its data also showed that children who experience domestic violence are six times more likely to commit suicide, 74 times more likely to commit violent crimes against one another, and 50 times more likely to use drugs and alcohol.

“Sometimes you need to do something that just makes somebody’s life a little bit easier,” said a grateful Goldsborough to the Zetas in the audience. Goldsborough, the medical advocacy coordinator, said the gift cards would immediately go to the Women’s Center and Shelter’s clients.

“Whatever (gift cards) we give them, whether it’s Target, Giant Eagle…that’s money that is not coming out of their wallet,” Goldsborough said. “They can pay their bills…just at a time when you need to keep your credit up so that you can keep your apartment.”

Following the presentation, Goldsborough told the Courier that the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh now serves men and those who identify as transgender. She added that the Women’s Center and Shelter was thankful for the Zetas’ “thoughtfulness, and these gifts will go directly into the hands of the people who need them.”

As the noon hour approached, laughter and lightheartedness filled the Courtyard by Marriott hotel air, as the Xi Delta Chapter members went outside to take a large group photo. The most seasoned members were seated in the middle, while the newer members congregated around them. Women like Manning (‘71) and Jackson (‘73) were surrounded by those like Rayshell Brown and Christiana Dillard, who pledged in spring 2019 and spring 2017, respectively. It’s women like Brown and Dillard who seek to push the Xi Delta Chapter forward another 50 years.

“It’s just a beautiful sight seeing all these ladies come together and to make this wonderful donation,” Manning told the Courier at the event. “So rewarding and such a blessing for me to see what we created 50 years ago is still going on.”









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