By Gabriela Flores
Reporting Assistance By Michela Arlia
Women leaders and their efforts can oftentimes be overlooked. But for the brothers of Phi Sigma Chi fraternity, recognizing women leaders through their annual Women’s Appreciation Dinner is one of the many ways that they aim to continue supporting campus diversity and inclusion among their peers. This year’s event also marked the tradition’s return to campus after the pandemic shutdown.
“We try to make sure we’re encompassing every community within our campus body, and making sure that they’re honored and respected,” said Mohammad Tusar, the fraternity’s vice president. “It’s a necessity for us to do this because we see this as a way to honor the women that help us out the most on campus.”
During the dinner last Wednesday, Mar. 22, guests celebrated 20 recipients who were awarded for their commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as their leadership in civic engagement. The night saw students enjoy poetry, beats from Brooklyn College alum DJ Beko, and performances from Phinasty, the fraternity’s national stroll team that performs to a mix of musical genres. Among those honored were administrators from the Student Activities, Involvement, and Leadership Center, including Renée Straker and Da’Nashja Davis, who helped organize the evening. Women leaders from the Caribbean Student Union, Black History Month Committee, Desi Club, and other organizations, were also applauded for their contributions. For several honorees, getting the chance to be visibly appreciated for their efforts became one of their most meaningful accomplishments as student leaders.
“I think it’s beautiful to see fraternities and male groups acknowledge and respect women for who they are and what they do, especially the women who surround them on campus,” said Women of Color President Ariscelys Turay, who was awarded at the event. “I have a good relationship with the brothers of Phi Sigma Chi, so this felt extra special.”
On the note of women empowerment, the fraternity’s president, Zyeem Nazir, gave a keynote address recognizing historic women freedom fighters. Nazir commended women’s immense contributions throughout his speech while discussing the inequities they face. He highlighted the importance of giving women the seats they deserve at every table. For Tusar, not only were Nazir’s words impactful, but so too was his ability to stand before an audience to deliver his thoughts as a graduating senior, who initially was an introverted freshman.
“Four years later now, at our senior event, he’s the one giving the keynote and having the courage to deliver such a profound message about women’s empowerment and the inequities that women have faced. Him being my brother, that was one of my favorite moments of the night,” said Tusar.
One of the night’s most memorable components was undoubtedly the food, according to many who attended. From chicken parmesan to salmon teriyaki, students feasted and heard poems about women empowerment by Myraklez Foster, a poet and member of the fraternity’s sister sorority Delta Sigma Chi. For the awardees, appreciating women is especially important given the odds they defy.
“It makes me happy that women who are working hard are finally getting recognized,” said Ziria Gaither, vice president of BC’s Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority. “We’re a CUNY campus, we’re small, but we still have some type of support and recognition.”
Being the leaders they are, those awarded will continue their work for the community. For Gaither’s sorority specifically, members aim to keep expanding diversity and inclusion on campus. Being founded by seven Jewish women who were excluded from other sororities due to their religion, the chapter’s sisters today hope to continue growing a rich cohort of members that hail from different backgrounds. To Belia Rodriguez, AEPHI’s president, leading such a mission as a Queer, immigrant, Latina student has taught her valuable insights.
“Like I said, I’m an immigrant, so I was born and raised in a place where everyone pretty much believed in the same thing and they acted the same way, so coming to New York City and being able to lead an organization like that has really made a difference on me because I’m learned from them as well,” said Rodriguez, who was awarded at the dinner.
As for Women of Color, keeping the momentum built from their graduating president, who’ll be passing the torch this May, will remain one of their active responsibilities moving forward as women student leaders.
“I think my biggest accomplishment this year was being on the e-board for WOC, and I’m so glad I did it,” said Rhema Mills, the club’s treasurer and secretary. “[…] Just being able to help plan these events and see the turnout has not only helped my own organization but it’s really improved my teamwork. At the end of the day, Ari and I are a team and I’m honored to work with her.”
Before closing out this spring, Phi Sigma Chi is set to carry on its traditional collaboration with WOC in Battle of the Sexes, where students can have discourse on relationships and other buzzing topics.