Some advice you never forget. Even moreso if the quality of the person giving is extraordinary.
I love my chapter. I’m grateful to have found it and be a part of it since 2001. Early on I noticed a constantly moving earth beneath my feet when it came to being a longstanding member of a chapter that had both older and younger members in it. Change. The older members would move on or die off. The younger members may or may not stay, transient with their moves for work or passion, taking time off to raise families or nurse health (their loved ones or their own…) What I couldn’t count on was it being static. The warm wings of the older members who welcomed me without prejudice into their home – virtually a stranger, but the bond of our Sisterhood made us all fast friends – wouldn’t always be around me. I’d have to watch them grow older, get sick… leave us behind. So many names flash before my mind’s eye as I think of those fond years where I found a chapter full of women willing to help mold me into the woman I’d soon become. Juliet. Wynolia. Sylvia. Delores. Queenabelle. Muriel. Spent time in all their homes, getting to know them, hearing their stories, eventually loving them. All for them to end up gone. And while i cherish the memory and the love and the nurturing they lavished on me, I cringe when I think of losing anyone else.
Today, I add another to my list.
She looked like Wonder Woman to me. Tall. Slender. Long, flowing black hair. Flawless skin. A smile that could light up a room. Dyanne B. Baldwin. She was a force of nature in Epsilon Pi Omega Chapter. She spoke with conviction and authority. She carried herself with the grace and the manner of a pageant queen. Then to add to all that? She had a singing voice and performance presence to knock you off of your feet. All her undertakings in the chapter no matter how seemingly “small” (no such thing really) she took extremely seriously – she made it HER BUSINESS to carry them out to the fullest extent possible. One of the first people I remember stepping to the microphone to give her committee report and announce that the next meeting of the Community Charter Day Committee will be held at my home…. ” then cite the address. My home. She said it and you instantly felt the love. It wasn’t just an apartment. Or someplace where she hung her hat. It was A HOME. And boy was it ever. The kind you would see in movies. Warm, lived in and inviting. And she was the hostess with the mostess. Always making sure you felt that it was your home as much as it was hers. I had NO issue traveling from the depths of North Queens by public transport into Hillside, Jamaica to be a part of committee meetings at her home.
One day, just a few years into being a member of the chapter, some pettiness had taken place – as it happens in EVERY ORGANIZATION. Thinking back it was such a minor issue in the grand scheme of things but youth makes hot blood boil and I’d decided I had enough. “Soror Dyanne,” I announced, “I’m leaving Epsilon Pi Omega. I can’t believe they’ve treated me this way. I deserve better.” Without skipping a beat or taking a pause from the small snack she’d decided to indulge in at that moment she shrugged and uttered, “You’ll be back.” I was completely taken aback. “What?” I stammered, sure she hadn’t really heard what I’d said. Now she turned and locked eyes with me, “I said you’ll be back.” Trying to stifle my youthful indignation and resume my conversation from a place of humility I asked, “What makes you say that?” And she said, “Because you’ll never find US again.” I listened. “Everywhere you go, you’re going to be looking for EPiO because you know it’s here you love for all the good and even the bad. And the bad times are so few and far between… you’re going to be looking for ‘All Good EPiO’ but that doesn’t exist. You take the whole package if you can because the good that comes from it is SO good. Every chapter has their strangeness. Their weirdness. Even their downfalls. But you belong to EPiO. And YOU know that, in your heart. Leaving won’t fix it. Stay and be the change you want to see.” With that, she discarded the remains of her fruit snack, gave me a hug and walked away.
Thankfully heeding her advice and staying right where I was afforded me many more years of working by her side on countless committees – chapter and regional, singing with her, stepping with her, watching her in all of her glowing glory when she turned Silver Star, regularly patronizing her when she’d set up shop with para at chapter meeting. And now adding her to that list of my Sorors who had warm wings that wrapped around me, saved me from making bad decisions and learn how to be discerning in making even better ones.
Soror Dyanne… you will be sorely, dearly and constantly missed. Thank you for being that light in the room.