Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first black sorority in the United States, celebrated its 100th anniversary recently. It began in a time when students had to worry about lynchings as well as grades. Today, AKA has more than 200,000 members, and, says AKA spokeswoman Melody M. McDowell: "We remain true to our core mission, which is sisterhood and service. We've given away millions in scholarships, we're into voter registration, voter education, we're into leadership." And now there is an AKA Barbie doll, who wears a gown of pink and green, the sorority's colors. Barbara A. McKinzie, the sorority's international president, says: "What a wonderful idea to take a known icon in our society and have the doll look like us." [Washington Post, Washington Post]
@PilgrimSoul: Well, with Panhellenic rush, every girl saw every house and had an opportunity to choose from her end, while the houses were choosing her, too. A girl in my dorm hall was trying to join Delta. At that time at least (it may have changed) there was no real organized "rush" system. If you wanted to be an AKA (or any other group) you had to just show up at their events, start volunteering and working with them, etc. Then they could decide that they wanted you or that they didn't. There wasn't really anyone looking out for the rushee, so they could be "encouraged" to do anything that they felt would increase their chance of getting in (hence the reputation for hazing that someone mentioned above). Plus, the kicker was that if you tried to get into AKA and for whatever reason they just didn't want you , you couldn't then go and try to get into Delta or whatever, because they had already seen you rushing AKA.
My friend (who ended up getting into Delta) just said it was very arbitrary. They did look into a girl's looks and background who their parents are and family money and such, things that the panhellenics would never be allowed to go into a rush. They way she explained it was that it really was an organization for life, they are much more active as alums than panhellenics are, so they were interested in who they were getting and making sure it was the "image" they wanted to project.
But don't think that I'm saying they're negative organizations. They were definitely looked up to on campus and now int he community. I just remember thinking that we could never have gotten away with a lot of what they did.