African Sorors

Kathleen Easmon Simango was a British-educated African artist. In the early ’20s she and her aunt Adelaide Casely-Hayford toured the United States to raise money for a girls’ school in Sierra Leone. They met with a variety of who’s who of both black and white America, and gave lectures on African life at several HBCUs including Tuskegee, Hampton and Howard.

They exhibited African sculptures and textiles, and staged theatrical performances in that hope that such demonstrations would help to dispel the common belief that Africa was a land of savages. Audiences around the country were enraptured by them, and Zeta’s Alpha Chapter invited them to become honorary members. 

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Kathleen Easmon Simango

A few weeks ago I posted “Arizona C. Stemons speaks,” in which the Founder and 1st Grand Basileus recounted the sorority’s history. In her overview she stated that “…the members of the organization may be found not only in the United States but in Africa.” She was referring to Simango and Casely-Hayford.

The day I discovered Simango I couldn’t help but be Zeta-Proud for three reasons:

  1. Zeta Phi Beta may have been the first black greek organization to have African honorary members.
  2. It’s highly possible that these African women were Zeta’s first honorary members, and as the daughter of Kenyan parents there’s nothing cooler than that. #TeamAfrica J
  3. The icing on the so-sweet cake is that Alpha Chapter showcased their African sorors in the Howard yearbook wearing their traditional African garb. (Simango appears in the “Z”—top row, third from left; Casely-Hayford appears in the “B”—top row, first from left).

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Some of Simango’s poetry has been reprinted in Part 5 of Finer Women. Her poem “The Stars” was set to music by a close friend—also of Sierra Leonean heritage— Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Take a listen.


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