Delta Sigma Theta leaves mark on city

The Commercial Appeal - - Local News - By Scott Car­roll

On any given week­end in Down­town Mem­phis, Mid-South­ern­ers are likely to see a prover­bial “lady in red” or two.

But dur­ing July Fourth week­end, they saw thou­sands of them.

From Thurs­day to Sun­day, about 4,000 sis­ters of Delta Sigma Theta soror­ity, the largest African-Amer­i­can women’s or­ga­ni­za­tion in the coun­try, at­tended the group’s 43rd South­ern Re­gional Con­fer­ence at the Mem­phis Cook Con­ven­tion Cen­ter.

Its mem­bers, clad in red shirts with the soror­ity’s Greek let­ters printed on them, buoyed Down­town busi­ness with their pa­tron­age and gave time and re­sources to lo­cal chil­dren’s agen­cies dur­ing their stay.

The soror­ity do­nated more than 5,000 books to fam­ily and chil­dren’s groups in­clud­ing Red Robin’s Academy of Learn­ing in Mid­town, Hope House day care in Mid­town, St. Andrew AME Church and Child Care in Mem­phis, the Nat Bur­ing Learn­ing Cen­ter in Orange Mound and the Agape Child and Fam­ily Cen­ter.

On Thurs­day, the women read books to chil­dren at lo­ca­tions across Mem­phis, in­clud­ing the Le Bon­heur Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal re­source cen­ter and the FedEx Le Bon­heur House.

Ter­ica Lamb, so­cial ac­tion chair of DST Mem­phis’ alum­nae chap­ter, said fos­ter­ing ed­u­ca­tion is a maxim of the soror­ity.

“We just know the im­por­tance of read­ing to chil­dren early on ... it just adds to a life­long learn­ing process when chil­dren are read to at an early age,” she said. “We felt like that was a wor­thy cause to get in­volved in.”

Buses trans­ported DST mem­bers — who came from Ten­nessee, Ge­or­gia, Mis­sis­sippi, Florida and the Ba­hamas — around the city, where the sis­ters got in­volved in some­thing else — Mem­phis cul­ture and cui­sine.

“Of course with Mem­phis be­ing the bar­be­cue city, we tried to find ev­ery restau­rant in town,” said Lois Gilder, in­terim South­ern re­gional

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di­rec­tor.

With con­ven­tions con­tribut­ing about $100 mil­lion to Mem­phis’ econ­omy each year and book­ings for con­ven­tions up 12 per­cent from 2010, ac­cord­ing to the Mem­phis Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Bu­reau, busi­nesses can feel the im­pact.

Tara Hut­selle of Westy’s, a South­ern-style restau­rant at Jack­son Av­enue and North Main Street Down­town, said the eatery’s busi­ness dou­bled on Thurs­day, the soror­ity’s first day in town. The women flocked to the restau­rant and oth­ers in the area af­ter a col­le­giate step show at the Can­non Cen­ter, Hut­selle said.

A party of about 100 DST sis­ters dined at B.B. King’s Restau­rant and Blues Club on Beale Street the next day, Gilder said, while oth­ers toured the Na­tional Civil Rights Mu­seum.

Mike Zupa, owner of Fer­raro’s Pizza on Jack­son Av­enue, said that al­though his busi­ness saw only a small in­crease in rev­enue dur­ing the week­end, he was glad the con­ven­tion was in town.

“They were su­per nice peo­ple,” he said. “They tipped well.”

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