BY: JENNA CALDWELL
The night is still, the dark of the sky blanketing the campus to sleep. From a distance, you can hear taps. No, not taps. Footsteps, marching in unison. "Z E T A," they chant. Their silhouettes enlarge and as they grow closer, you notice their blue and white outfits. The street lights illuminate their chrome masks. You're mesmerized. "P H I." Their blue boots hit the ground thunderously, the way their pearls swish are like a lightning boltâ€”its singe leaving you wondering how they move so fast, so confidently, so unbothered. "Zeta Phi Beta until the day that I die!"
Front and center. is Elizabeth Ogunsuyi, aka Liz, the president of the Sigma Pi chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sigma Sorority, Inc. At just 20-years-old, Liz has taken American University by storm. Tearing down whatever stands in her way, the Sacremento-native teaches us what it means to embody "AU Excellence."
"Two things stuck out to me about Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.â€”finer womanhood and a community-conscious, action-oriented organization," Liz explains. "Setting the bar as women and addressing community needs are both important to me. I stopped by the Zetas' table at the involvement fair fall 2015, and became a Zeta the next semester."
While being a member of a sorority can take a lot of dedication, hard work and commitment, being chapter president is an entirely new level of pressure. Nonetheless, Liz continues to find the positives in her role. "Zeta has completely refined my leadership skills, of which I'm thankful. Delegation is a breeze and if you ask me to do an impromptu speech, I got you," she insists.
Often, Greek life can be confused with being a social club, simply an "in" to parties, "darties" and the exclusive rights to a letter jacket. However, Liz sets the record straight. "Divine Nine [historically Black sorority and fraternity] organizations are lifelong commitments. They're not clubs that you are a part of only for a given time, then forget about later. It's great to have something permanent that will always be there to support you. My organization has networked me with so many great people, given me unforgettable experiences and much more. I can't imagine life without it, and becoming Greek was one of my best decisions."
While Liz may have courageously approached the Zeta Phi Beta table as a freshman, climbed the ranks and make a name for herself, she recognizes that this is not the reality of all young women interested in sorority life. Whenever given the chance, she reminds them not to "feel so out of place, or think that just because you're new that puts you at a disadvantage. Rather, embrace it, walk across campus confidently, speak to upperclassmen, and immerse yourself."
So, what exactly does Liz do when she's not planning and executing events, creating agendas, giving advice or living up to the #BlackGirlMagic that comes with being the president of the Sigma Pi chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.? Well, a lot. Between majoring in political science and minoring in Spanish, Liz is also a member of the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, African Students' Organization, Intercultural Greek Collective, Chi Alpha Campus Ministries and the Gospel Choir. Whew. You may have also seen Liz around campus, not just walking to and from classes and meetings in Olivia Pope-esque fashion (trench coat included), but she also serves as an ambassador for the School of Public Affairs and as a desk receptionist for Housing and Residence Life.
A champion (and vessel) of Black excellence, Liz personally defines it simply as, "changing the narrative one milestone at a time." As for excellence and strength within the Black community at American University, Liz explains that while there may be "small cliques here and there, I believe we are strong. However [we] do allow student organizational rifts, assumptions and gossip to get between us, which doesn't help anyone when reminded of the racial climate on campus through various incidents."
With Founder's Day Ball being another rift within the community, Liz says the annual celebration is what she's looking forward to most this semester. "Despite the controversy concerning the location this year, I always look forward to it, and anyone who knows me well knows that I love to dress up."